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Getting paid to backpack
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Keegan D

Locale: Bay Area
Getting paid to backpack on 05/31/2012 18:49:59 MDT Print View

This topic might have been discussed already but what are some jobs that pay you to go backpacking? I'm kind of at a loss as to where to steer my career and I thought why not combine my passion with my career.

I know the common suggestions might be gear reviewer or gear tester, but I am not very proficient at writing so let's try and stay away from those kinds of jobs.

I'm more carious about how to become a park backcountry ranger? Or any other job where you primarily stay out in the backcountry.

let the suggestions flow.

Greg Pehrson
(GregPehrson) - MLife

Locale: playa del caballo blanco
Geologist on 05/31/2012 19:35:58 MDT Print View

When I was in college I knew a number of folks who majored in geology because that department took the best field trips. :). Field studies to examine rock specimines could take you some pretty spectacular places.

Brendan S
(brendans) - MLife

Locale: Fruita CO
Re: Getting paid to backpack on 05/31/2012 19:55:36 MDT Print View

Geology or biological/environmental sciences. I went back to school to study biology after doing social work for a few years after graduating from college. Right now I'm working for an environmental consulting company doing rare/sensitive plant and raptor surveys in oil and gas development areas. Not really backpacking but all day in the backcountry and it's pretty cool to be looking more closely at things than I often do backpacking. There are NPS/BLM/private jobs that do backpack and do similar things.

Keegan D

Locale: Bay Area
Re: on 06/01/2012 00:57:48 MDT Print View

thanks for the insightful suggestions but they both seem to involve at least 2 years of schooling. Is there anything a recent grad can get into quickly or within a years worth of schooling?

Tony Fischer
(adfischer) - F
Philmont? on 06/01/2012 07:19:07 MDT Print View

What about trying to become a guide at a place like Philmont Scout Ranch? Its only a summer job but that experience might be good to #1 see if thats what you really want to do and #2 get experience for something more permanent.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Getting paid to backpack on 06/01/2012 07:32:13 MDT Print View

Know a guy working for the Nature Conservancy. $20 hour for counting critters. Will be out there for 6 weeks this time.

How long does it take you get certified as a guide?

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(RogerDodger) - F

Locale: (...)
... on 06/01/2012 10:09:47 MDT Print View


Edited by RogerDodger on 07/11/2015 18:05:52 MDT.

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(RogerDodger) - F

Locale: (...)
... on 06/01/2012 10:43:21 MDT Print View


Edited by RogerDodger on 07/11/2015 18:07:32 MDT.

Julie Romig

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Trail Crew on 06/01/2012 12:27:19 MDT Print View

Another area to look into is trail crews. National Forest Service or Park Service. These are seasonal positions, but usually from May-October, with cheap housing and a lot of people travel in the off season. A lot of FS crews do backcountry spikes as well as frontcountry work, especially in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. If you can get into the Forest Service, you can eventually work your way up into a management position when you're tired of seasonal work.

Another option along the lines of Philmont if you're interested in working with youth is a conservation corps, such as Northwest Youth Corps, Southwest Conservation Corps (SCC), or SCA (just to name a few). Northwest Youth Corps (NYC) still has assistant crew leader positions open for the summer, but staff trainings are underway, so apply quick. NYC East and North programs typically have more backpacking projects.

Coconino Rural Environment Corps has adult conservation crews, but more frontcountry projects than backcountry. And lots of chainsaw projects. SCC has adult crews as well.

Trail crew is great, even if you're not backcountry all the time, it's a great way to get to know an area really well and meet people passionate about the outdoors.

Edited by julier on 06/01/2012 17:20:40 MDT.

Keegan D

Locale: Bay Area
Re: Backpacking Jobs on 06/01/2012 12:54:23 MDT Print View

Wow, those are a lot of great suggestions, I guess I should have clarified that I would like to stay in California as much as possible. But that doesn't mean CA doesn't have the same opportunities that you all suggested. I'll see if I can find something similar in my state.

Julie Romig

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Trail Crew on 06/01/2012 15:07:50 MDT Print View

Check out California Conservation Corps.

Edited by julier on 06/01/2012 15:08:25 MDT.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Getting paid to backpack on 06/01/2012 15:24:21 MDT Print View

This is a problem I faced and gave up on. When I was young there were basically no outdoor jobs open to women (yes, I'm showing my age here!). Later, it was a case of hundreds of applicants per position available. Even folks with advanced degrees in biology or geology couldn't get hired. Now the government agencies, thanks to budget cuts, can't afford to hire. At least here in the Pacific NW, trail maintenance is done by various volunteer groups or by the Youth Conservation Corps (different budget). Unless you're eligible for the YCC or a similar outfit, you may not have much luck.

I suspect that an advanced degree in geology or biology or environmental science, plus contacts with private industry, are your best bet for an outdoor job. Without those, consider road construction (a lucrative field; I have a couple of friends who find it a lucrative career and make the fullest use of their winters off, backpacking in deserts and other lower-elevation areas).

Or you could become a large animal veterinarian, like my daughter (although another advanced degree is required there). It's definitely outdoors, although not backpacking, with lots of fresh air, exercise, and patients that weigh over half a ton. Actually, the downside is not the patients but some of their two-legged owners. She loves it, though!

My sons all went into engineering or computer science so of course have sedentary jobs. They all love the outdoors, though, and appreciate the income from the sedentary jobs so they can pursue their outdoor interests in their free time. That's what I did, too!

Edited by hikinggranny on 06/01/2012 15:26:37 MDT.

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(RogerDodger) - F

Locale: (...)
... on 06/01/2012 15:50:34 MDT Print View


Edited by RogerDodger on 06/17/2015 10:44:05 MDT.

Julie Romig

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Backcountry Ranger Type Job on 06/01/2012 17:45:02 MDT Print View

In answer to your original question about backcountry ranger jobs, first, check out, which lists all of the available jobs for park service and forest service (set up an account and an advanced search to find what you're interested in). might be a little late to get a seasonal job, but I've still seen some openings. doesn't hurt to apply.

These jobs are fairly competitive. it's easier to get a low-level job within the park and work your way up, or a job on trail crew rather than wilderness ranger type. Also, experience helps. The people I know who are backcountry interpretive rangers at Yosemite and at Mt. Adams (seasonal, but have returned year after year) both worked for various non-profit conservation corps leading crews. Gained trail/conservation experience, as well as management/leadership experience. Working at these types of organizations also helps with networking and getting an "in" for a more competitive job. For example, CCC does work for Yosemite/Kings Canyon. Hit it off with the Park service contact, and it's easier to get hired there the next year. And corps hire a large number of seasonal field staff every year, easier to get started there than with the FS or Park Service.

Also, NOLS and outward bound offer leadership courses, more for outdoor guide type positions. However, these programs cost money, and I feel like you can get similar experience elsewhere while getting paid. Though if you're interested in outdoor work, do check out a Wilderness First Aid Course (minimum), or if you're really committed to working outdoors and have some time, take a Wilderness First Responder course. The Wilderness Medicine Institute through NOLS has one of the most recognized courses. Some corps like CREC also offer WFA training as part of the program.

I worked seasonally for years and loved it - some of the best experiences of my life. Definitely some trade offs compared to an office job - the seasonal nature of the job, low pay, not a lot of time at home, hard work - but if you don't mind that, then you can have some amazing backcountry experiences while getting paid for it.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Getting paid to backpack on 06/01/2012 20:56:57 MDT Print View

Open your own backpacking guide small bidness.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Getting paid to backpack on 06/02/2012 00:18:55 MDT Print View

I'm in a different state, climate, and income strata, but maybe this will give you an idea.

When I moved to Alaska I didn't have any hunter-gather skills (4th Gen SF). But if someone would take me out, I'd buy lunch, the fuel and listen as they conveyed their wisdom. I got good at clamming. Then set netting. Then dipnetting out of a boat.

For my birthday last week, I went on a 3-day hunting/fishing trip for halibut and black bear. Not surprisingly, I'm in better shape than most hunters and they are happy to have a strong hiker along. A year ago, they went for elk on the reservation and while they dressed the carcass, I packed out the quarters. Last week, I hauled out two bears but also got some lessons and practice at skinning and quartering. There were two San Ildefonso Pueblo brothers and two Sri Lankans and I was the only one who was cooking so I joked that "there were too many Indians and not enough chefs" but I enjoyed myself and they were all very happy to have me along.

What do people pay for large, legal game in their sights every hour? Thousands. On the other hand, what do people pay for an outfitted trip, hot meals in the back country and porters? Thousands. Or not, if you swap those services.

So, if you're good with people, a strong hiker and decent cook, wilderness lodges or hunting guides would pay a little while transporting you to some spectacular places.