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NOLS Sees the Light

Backpacking Light Magazine Partners with GoLite, NOLS, to Bring Lightweight Backpacking Courses to NOLS Curriculum

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by Backpacking Light Staff | 2005-11-30 03:00:00-07

Click here to view the full press release (PDF)

National Outdoor Leadership School, GoLite, and Backpacking Light Magazine Team Up to Take Ultralight Backpacking Education Mainstream

NOLS, the leading school for outdoor skills and leadership in the world, has joined forces with lightweight gear and skills leaders GoLite and Backpacking Light Magazine to offer ultralight backpacking skills courses to their adult students.

These courses represent NOLS’ first foray into ultralight backpacking, the most recognized trend in the outdoors over the past decade. “This is an ideal partnership,” said NOLS’ Executive Director, John Gans. “We’ve recognized the lightweight trend, and we’re very excited to be able to capitalize on NOLS’ world-class instructors backed up by GoLite’s and Backpacking Light’s enormous expertise and excellent products. We see this as the first of many lightweight NOLS courses to come.”

The new 14-day NOLS courses, “Light and Fast Backpacking,” will be offered in August 2006. Outfitted with backpack base loads of only 10 to 15 pounds (not including the consumables like food and fuel), course participants will hike with freedom and the added safety of a lighter pack to some of Wyoming's most remote and beautiful ranges. Students will learn the skills, knowledge, and philosophy behind “going light,” from cooking one-pot meals, to advanced body temperature regulation and stealth camping techniques.

“We’re honored to be working with NOLS,” said GoLite co-founder and CEO Kim Coupounas. “These courses can enable a new generation of outdoor enthusiasts to experience the fun and freedom that lightweight backpacking affords.”

“Teaching lightweight backcountry skills in the NOLS curriculum will improve the leadership quality of their graduates,” says Backpacking Light Magazine Publisher, Ryan Jordan. “They will not only take home the NOLS experience, but they will take home the most advanced techniques and trends that are shaping tomorrow’s outdoor experience.”

NOLS, GoLite, and Backpacking Light Magazine have been designing this course for the past six months. GoLite co-founder and president, Demetri Coupounas, and Backpacking Light’s founder and publisher, Ryan Jordan, both experts in lightweight backcountry travel skills, will be training NOLS instructors in spring 2006. GoLite and other companies will be supplying both instructors and students with optimal lightweight gear and clothing for the courses.

The National Outdoor Leadership School, the premier teacher of outdoor skills and leadership, offers courses 10 days to full semesters in the world's most spectacular wilderness classrooms. Since 1965, more than 85,000 people have turned to NOLS to learn sea kayaking, backpacking, sailing, mountaineering, kayaking, horsepacking and canoeing.

GoLite sparked a lightweight revolution in 1999 when it introduced a full range of ultra-lite equipment and clothing for backpacking and other outdoor adventures that rocked the outdoor sports world. Today the company offers unique, innovative, and affordable outdoor products for a wide range of outdoor activities and sponsors more than 50 professional athletes in fast-packing, adventuring racing, thru-hiking, trail running, and mountain biking. These athletes regularly share “fast + lite” techniques in outreach seminars around the world.

Backpacking Light Magazine is the outdoor industry’s most recognized and authoritative voice about lightweight hiking and backcountry travel. Backpacking Light is published as a quarterly print magazine and a comprehensive subscription-based website ( Both feature editorials, comprehensive treatises about technique and training, travel journals, and in-depth scientific gear reviews. In addition, hosts reader forums and gear reviews, gear buying guides, and a co-op style gear shop that sells some of the most innovative – and lightest – gear on the planet.


"NOLS Sees the Light," by Backpacking Light Staff. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2005-11-30 03:00:00-07.


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NOLS Sees the Light
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Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
NOLS Sees the Light on 11/30/2005 02:16:37 MST Print View

Companion forum thread to:

NOLS Sees the Light

kevin davidson
(kdesign) - F

Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson
Nols goes light on 11/30/2005 11:30:57 MST Print View

Awesome! What a coup. And with, Coup, too.
A good way to build up a cadre of LW ambassadors.

Edited by kdesign on 11/30/2005 12:17:46 MST.

Ryan Faulkner
(ryanf) - F

Locale: Mid atlantic, No. Cal
Re: NOLS Sees the Light on 11/30/2005 12:59:18 MST Print View

Will you mention the SUL philosiphy? or are the people going to these courses not quite ready for it.

Glen Van Peski? where is he? I think he would be a great instructer. along with you and Coup.

Edited by ryanf on 11/30/2005 13:02:00 MST.

Tony Burnett
(tlbj6142) - F

Locale: OH--IO
NOLS Sees the Light on 11/30/2005 13:04:15 MST Print View

Base weight of 15#-20#? While for NOLS that's SUL, its almost heavy weight for the rest of the world. What gives?

Or is there a bunch of climbing involved?

Edited by tlbj6142 on 11/30/2005 13:05:06 MST.

David Bonn
(david_bonn) - F

Locale: North Cascades
Re: NOLS Sees the Light on 11/30/2005 14:32:12 MST Print View

Change taqkes time to propogate. Any business like NOLS is going to be very conservative about something new (to their organization).

The reality is that NOLS has a system that works pretty well for beginners and especially for younger folk who are having their first wilderness experiences. The fact that those experiences are generally positive is what keeps them in business.

The fact that those systems works so well tends to make them even more conservative when it comes to trying something new.

Vick Hines
(vickrhines) - F

Locale: Central Texas
Re: NOLS Sees the Light on 11/30/2005 15:23:06 MST Print View

A little history on NOLS. Give them a break.

I knew Paul Petzolt, Paul Petzolt was a friend of mine... and so on. Paul founded NOLS.

Back when the lava was still warm, NOLS was mainly a training and certification program for outdoor professionals. They ran lots of trips. Elegant backpacking was not the point. The idea was to train people in how to run safe group trips. Paul actually flirted with ultralight systems including top bags. But the demands of training and certifying lots of folks in group leadership took precedence. When tent foors wore out too fast and it got expensive to replace them regularly, Paul started getting them made with pack cloth!!! Seven pound tents went to 9 or 10. But who was counting? NOLS was training tough, strong kids who didn't care what they were packing as long as it got the job done. They would go back to their shoestring operations with their heavy cheapo gear knowing how to run wilderness programs safely. Now NOLS is training lots of weekend warrior wannabees. So, now's the time to teach ultralight. Different audience with different priorities. And today, I argue that wilderness programs should go to ultralight for safety reasons as well as program effectiveness. But that's another story.

R Alsborg
(FastWalker) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
NOLS Sees the Light on 11/30/2005 19:38:31 MST Print View

Well said, Vick....

NOLS has been and is the premier institution for outdoor training for over 40 years…
So show some respect, to quote Kim Coupounas “We’re honored to be working with NOLS,” “These courses can enable a new generation of outdoor enthusiasts to experience the fun and freedom that lightweight backpacking affords.”

The NOLS alumni that I‘ve met in the backcountry have been some of the strongest well skilled backpackers. The melding of NOLS training and U.L. Backpacking skills makes me very excited for the future of backpacking.

Vick Hines
(vickrhines) - F

Locale: Central Texas
Re: NOLS Sees the Light on 11/30/2005 19:45:25 MST Print View

Right on!

Mike Clelland
(mikeclelland) - MLife

Locale: The Tetons (via Idaho)
Re: NOLS Sees the Light on 02/05/2006 10:20:59 MST Print View

I work as a NOLS instructor, and i have done some of the work to prep this new course type.

All the comments above are true. We at the school have a bit of a reputation for big packs, but please note, the majority of our trips are 30 days long! That's a long time, and all of it is in a mountain environment. The courses are set-up to be challenging; we teach a lot of curriculum (first aid, advanced navigation, leadership, natural history, etc) and we do some pretty ambitious stuff (lot's of off-trail travel and peak ascents), and we eat great (baking bread and even pizza).

That said - We have amazing success taking total beginners into some real-deal wilderness environments. The experience can be really rewarding, for everyone. Hopefully, if we as instructors do our job right, our students leave NOLS as very skilled outdoor leaders.

Folks at the school (including me) are genuinely excited about the challenge of running a high-quality light-weight course.

Mike Clelland!
driggs idaho

A Lee Deavers jr
(got2go4hike) - F
Sign Me Up on 04/12/2006 19:02:59 MDT Print View

Can I sign up for the August trip? Who do I contact?

Lee Deavers

Erich Foster
(erichlf) - F
Re: NOLS Sees the Light on 04/12/2006 19:27:51 MDT Print View

Wow, that is pretty heavy, but it is a start. I think that was about my base weight when I first learned about UL.

Ryan Hutchins
(ryan_hutchins) - F

Locale: Somewhere out there
How do I sign up on 04/13/2006 10:37:06 MDT Print View

you can apply online @ or call the admissions office @ 1-800-710-NOLS,
Thanks for your interest.