Backpacking Essentials


Is the Appalachian Trail or Pacific Crest Trail calling your name? Do you want to try out backpacking but don’t know where to start? Do you have experience backpacking, but are looking to lighten your load? Either way, this overnight backpacking course is designed to meet your needs.

With 100-acres of secluded wilderness to explore, you will spend two days and one night, learning all the basics of backpacking, with the 7 Survival Priorities in mind.  Topics include how to properly select, fit, and pack a backpack, campsite selection, camp cooking, water treatment systems, and how to stay safe and comfortable while you hike, all the while keeping an ultralight focus.

You’ll also learn about Leave No Trace guidelines the importance of minimum-impact camping. Our instructor has personally completed a thru hike of the Appalachian Trail (and several other trails!), so this is a great course for those considering and overnight trip or a long-distance hike!

What to Expect

We will hike approximately 5-7 miles over the course of the weekend, exploring the Mountain Shepherd property’s streams, mountains, and viewpoints, learning all about backpacking along the way. At the end of day 1, you’ll have the opportunity to test out a new sleep system by borrowing one of Mountain Shepherds tents, hammocks, or tarps while you spend the night at one of our campsites. Or feel free to bring your own gear to try out!

Throughout the adventure, we’ll help you get your hiking gear in order–whether you’ve already got your system dialed in and are ready for a few pro tips, or are just starting to figure out what to carry. Mountain Shepherd has a wide array of loaner gear you can try out, plus expert guidance on planning your own safe and successful adventures.

Students can choose to overnight in a tent, hammock, or improvised survival shelter. Loaner gear such as tents, hammocks, and sleeping bags are available, so this is a great opportunity to try something new or test out your own sleep system.


Adventure Highlights

  •        2 days/1 night 
  •       Survival training
  •       Backpacking prep
  •       All meals included
  •       Memories to last a lifetime
  •       Small group (10 maximum)
  •       Hands-on learning
Who chooses this adventure?

This adventure is for adventurers who are ready to challenge themselves in a supportive, small-group environment. Whether you’re an experienced hiker looking to take your skills to the next level, a novice hiker just getting your bearings, or somewhere in between – you’re sure to learn a lot and enjoy the journey.

Solo participants must be at least 18 years of age. Mature 16 & 17 year olds may come with a responsible partner over the age of 18.

What's Included?


Have your own? Bring it! Don’t have your own, or want to try something new before you buy it? Use ours! From shelter systems to stoves to sleeping bags, we’ve got everything you need aside from clothing and well-broken-in footwear. Find details on the packing list below, and reach out with any questions. Never fear, we’ve got the gear!


All meals and snacks are provided, with plenty of options and dietary accommodations available. Fuel up with hearty home cooking while at the Mountain Shepherd lodge, and let us help you pick out the best lightweight snacks and meals to carry as we hike around the property. 

Overnight accommodations

This is your adventure! You may choose to fully embrace the experience by spending the night in your own tent, or you can borrow a tent, tarp, or hammock from us. It’s also totally fine to sleep in a bunk in the lodge. The choice is yours.

Travel Arrangements

Your adventure begins and ends at the Mountain Shepherd Lodge in Catawba, VA.The nearest airport is Roanoke (ROA), which is approximately a 30 minute drive time.

Arrival time is by 9:30 Saturday morning. The course concludes by 1:00 on Sunday. If you prefer to travel on Friday, you can stay at the lodge. $50 includes a bunk and breakfast. $25 for each additional person in your group. Group, semi-private and private rooms are available. Contact us for reservations. Payment due before you leave.

Activity Level

Easy to Moderate

After meeting at the Mountain Shepherd Lodge on Saturday morning, we’ll do some introductions and pack our packs for a day in the woods. We will learn as we travel around the Mountain Shepherd property, with some short, steep climbs along they way. Plan to hike around 5-7 miles over the course of the weekend.

What to Pack
  • Seasonally appropriate clothes:
    • Good fitting and broken-in hiking boots/shoes
    • 2 pairs hiking socks (wool or synthetic recommended)
    • 1-2 sets of undergarments (wool or synthetic recommended)
    • Active T-shirt (synthetic or merino wool recommended–avoid cotton)
    • Lightweight insulating top layer (a light, long-sleeve synthetic fleece or wool shirt, sweater, or jacket)
    • Second insulating top layer (an additional synthetic, wool, or fleece shirt, jacket, or vest)
    • Consider a third, heavier insulating layer such as a puffy jacket or thicker fleece (not needed in summer)
    • Rain jacket (hood and ventilating zippers recommended)
    • Hiking pants (durable, quick drying synthetic pants are ideal)
    • Bottom base layer, e.g. midweight synthetic or merino wool long john pants (not needed in summer)
    • Warm winter hat and gloves or mittens (not needed in summer)
  • Your favorite trail snacks.
  • Personal toiletries and medications.
  • Water bottles/hydration bladder (2-3 Liters)
  • Any gear you already own that you’d like to use. No need to buy anything for the adventure, we’ve got you covered. Could include things like:
    • Backpack
    • Sleeping Bag
    • Sleeping Pad
    • Pillow
    • Flashlight or headlamp
    • Knife – fixed and/or folding blade
    • Whistle
    • Signal Mirror
    • Cooking pot and utensils
    • Notepad/pen
    • One luxury item like slim book, sketchpad, or deck of cards.



NOTE: Once you purchase your course, you should automatically receive our registration form in your email. If you don’t see it right away, please check your junk folder.