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Backpacking Light's Wilderness Trekking School

Calm, Montana waters.

Wilderness Trekking School Instructor Bios

Backpacking Light employs a staff of instructors with a knowledge of the backcountry and a willingness to educate others in these skills, tricks, and tips. Learning about lightweight and ultralight backpacking, hiking, and camping can make your time in backcountry more enjoyable, help you to go farther and faster, take on bigger and bolder trips, allow you to do more while carrying less, or any combination of these advantages. Our instructors have a range of skill, abilities, talents, and experience. All have taken the Wilderness Trekking School - Expedition Traverse (WT3-EXT) course from Backpacking Light. This course is a difficult, seven day course that proves an individual's meddle in a rugged, off-season setting. Other skill sets include Wilderness First Aid, Wilderness First Responder, Swift Water Rescue, et al.

Backpacking Light Wilderness Trekking School Instructor Bios

Darin Banner

Darin Banner

Darin grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah in a family that spent much of its free time in the mountains backpacking, fishing, canoeing, skiing, and doing the occasional climbing. By high school, he and his friends were doing multiday backpacking trips and a lot of rock climbing (mostly during school hours). He has since expanded his climbing to include aid climbing, ice climbing, and alpine mountaineering.

In order to carry his climbing equipment and still keep up with the speed racers with whom he traveled, Darin worked earnestly to reduce his pack weight. "When I found the backpackinglight.com Web site in 2003, I thought I had found nirvana. The information and products provided by Backpacking Light, helped me greatly reduce my pack weight and increase my enjoyment of my backcountry experiences."

Darin loves sharing his passion for the outdoors with others. He has many years of experience taking groups into the backcountry as a scoutmaster, a youth group leader, a Ski-with-a-Ranger guide for the U.S. Forest Service, and a Sierra Club outings leader. To increase the safety and success of his outdoor activities, Darin has become highly skilled in land navigation, wilderness first aid, wilderness survival, avalanche safety, and vertical rescue.

Darin is married and has two children: a girl and a boy. He earned a Bachelors of Arts in Accounting and an MBA. He is now working as a project manager for a health care system in southern Oregon.


Mike Clelland!

Mike Clelland!

Mike is a recovering yuppie, college drop-out and former urban hipster. Mike spent his formative years in the flat suburbs of Detroit with a pile of MAD magazines. In 1981 he moved to New York City to attend NYU film school.

Wintering at Jackson Hole ski resort as a ski bum Mike decided to make the big shift to living out west that. He began a career in outdoor education, working as an instructor for NOLS (The National Outdoor Leadership School). He also began working as an illustrator for instructional books with an outdoor theme such as the Allen & Mike's Really Cool series of books (Backpackin', Telemark Tips and the Backcountry Ski Book).

In 2005 Mike spearheaded the very successful LIGHTWEIGHT program at NOLS, where the course goal is to go out into the mountains with as light a pack as safety and comfort can allow.

His expertise includes: Lightweight camping, glacier mountaineering, telemark skiing, winter camping, igloo building, and way too much knowledge of black and white movies from the 40s.


Carol Crooker

Carol Crooker

After years of dreaming and several false starts, Carol finally began backpacking soon after retiring from the Navy and moving to the desert southwest. With a trip to her new home state’s jewel – the Grand Canyon – in the works, Carol set her sights on as light a pack base weight as possible to offset the twenty-four pounds of water she’d be carrying down the steep and rocky Grandview trail. With a Master’s degree in engineering, she was immediately hooked by the problem-solving process required to minimize gear weight while maintaining in-camp comfort.

Since that lightweight start, Carol has continued to refine her pack weight, including a series of SuperUltraLight trips (type superultralight in the BPL search field) with a base pack weight of five pounds. She has presented numerous clinics on lightweight backpacking and guided backpackers on lightweight trips into the backcountry.

After even more years of dreaming, Carol fulfilled her childhood Tom Sawyer fantasy of floating down a river on a raft when she took her first packraft trip in 2007. She loves being on the water and enjoys helping others learn to comfortably captain their own packrafts.

Carol is currently pursuing a Master’s in Education so she can begin her fourth career (following Naval officer, intuition teacher, and Editor-in-Chief of Backpacking Light) as a high school math teacher. Guess what she’ll be doing during summer breaks?


Ryan Connelly

Ryan Connelly

In addition to guiding for Backpacking Light, Ryan Connelly is the director of an adventure education program and retreat center located near Bozeman, MT. (LionsRidge.org). Ryan is an avid backcountry skiier, whitewater paddler, and brand new father. Ryan's backpack training program entails hikes out his backdoor with his wife, Mindy, and 6 month old son, Reid (carried in a Sherpani Ultralight).


Sam Haraldson

Sam Haraldson

Sam was born into a camping family in Minnesota. In his twenties he fell in love with backpacking and then soon after, ultralight backpacking. While working on a trail-maintenance crew in Glacier National Park, Montana in 2004/2005 Sam hiked the majority of the 730 miles of trails within the parks boundaries. Before returning to work in May of 2005 Sam thru-hiked the 205 mile Superior Hiking Trail along Minnesota's North Shore of Lake Superior in a lightweight style. His thirst for long trails was not quenched and in 2007 he planned and executed a solo traverse of the Pacific Northwest Trail stretching 1,200 miles from Montana to the Pacific Ocean in an ultralight style.

Sam is a personable individual with a passion for educating people in the art and style of ultralight backpacking and packrafting. Sam dreams of the wilderness and it is in the forefront of most all his thoughts.

Read more at Sam's Web site samh.net.


Ryan Jordan

Ryan Jordan

Ryan's wilderness travel background is rooted in his experience as both a Scout and Scouter in the Boy Scouts of America. Ryan is both an Eagle Scout (Troop 360, Burien, WA) and a Philmont graduate, and served seven years on the staff of the nation's oldest continuously operating Scout camp, Camp Parsons.

Growing up in the Seattle area, Ryan's home wilderness range spanned the Olympics and Cascades of Washington State. Now a resident of Bozeman, Montana, Ryan tramps around the Northern Rockies most often, including the Beartooth, Teton, and Wind River Ranges. An accomplished climber, Ryan has been an alpine mountaineering guide and glacier / ice climbing instructor, with several mountaineering achievements to his credit. In 2006, Ryan attempted the longest wilderness traverse in America (624 miles) without support, from the Chukchi Sea (west coast of Alaska) to the Alaskan Oil Pipeline Highway with Roman Dial and Jason Geck. More information about that trek can be found at Arctic1000.com.

Ryan founded Backpacking Light with Alan Dixon in the spring of 2001. Since that time, Backpacking Light has been recognized as a leading authority in the area of ultralight backpacking. Ryan is a co-author of both Lightweight Backpacking 101 and Clothing and Sleep Systems for Mountain Hiking, as well as several articles on the subject of lightweight backpacking that have appeared in various outdoor industry trade publications.

Ryan teaches ultralight mountain hiking seminars and guides clients into the field on a regular basis, with a focus on training Scout leaders, search and rescue personnel, land management agency staff, the media, outdoor program leaders, and adventure travelers.

Visit Ryan's Website at RyanJordan.com and view industry commentary and information about Ryan's gear, techniques, and experiences.


Mike Martin

Mike Martin

Longtime BPL Forum contributor Mike Martin joined the Backpacking Light staff in 2006 and currently holds the position of "Senior Editor" (Techniques). Mike has a Bachelors Degree in Engineering and currently teaches Engineering and Physics at North Idaho College. If pressed, he will confess to heavyweight backpacking "a long time ago" in the Sierras. But, inspired by Ray Jardine's Beyond Backpacking, he started lightweight backpacking in 2000 and has been a lightweight proponent ever since. In the winter, he enjoys backcountry skiing and snowshoeing in the Inland Northwest. In the summer, he switches to backpacking and fly-fishing, often accompanied by his son.

His passion for lightweight backpacking revolves around the gear as much as the trips. He is actively involved in homemade stove, sleep system and shelter design and is always looking for "optimal" gear - even if it means tearing apart and rebuilding perfectly good commercial products.


Andrew Skurka

Andrew Skurka

Andrew Skurka is an accomplished, professional backpacker who is most well known for his two monumental long-distance hiking firsts - the 6,875-mile Great Western Loop and the 7,778-mile Sea-to-Sea Route. He was named the 2007 "Adventurer of the Year" by National Geographic Adventure (which described him as "a Gen Y version of Henry David Thoreau or John Muir") and the 2005 "Person of the Year" by Backpacker.

Read more at Andy's Web site AndrewSkurka.com.


Forrest McCarthy

Forrest McCarthy

Forrest has been a professional mountain guide for over 18 years and is a veteran guide on Mt. McKinley, Aconcagua, and Vinson Massive. Internationally, Forrest has climbed, skied, paddled, and guided in Australia, New Zealand, Ecuador, Argentina, Chile, Nepal, Antarctica, and Greenland. Domestically, Forrest has pioneered technical ski and packrafting traverses throughout the Northern Rockies, Southern Utah, and Alaska and is at the forefront of applying packrafting techniques to the whitewater environment. Forrest obtained his Bachelors Degree in Outdoor Education from Prescott College and a Masters in Geography from the University of Wyoming. Currently Forrest is the Director of Public Lands for Winter Wildlands Alliance.


Glen Van Peski

Glen Van Peski

Glen Van Peski is a native Californian who grew up in the western outdoors. Through his involvement in Boy Scouts as a youth, he developed a love for being in the backcountry that continues to this day.

Bringing to bear his degrees in Engineering and Business Management, Glen soon started sewing his own backpacks and other gear. His personal efforts gradually developed into GVP Gear, one of the early cottage manufacturers of ultralight backpacking equipment. With a brand change to Gossamer Gear, the company expanded it's offerings to a full spectrum of innovative ultralight gear.

Known for his humorous, information-packed presentations, Glen is a sought-after speaker on ultralight backpacking equipment and techniques. Glen has developed a loyal following for his innovative designs, and his commitment to showing people the "way of enlightenment" for their pack weights.

Glen has served on the Board of the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA), and is the Ultralight Backpacking Program Director for Wilderness Outings. A professional engineer registered in three western states, Glen lives in Carlsbad, California with his wife of 27 years, Francie, and has two adult sons. He has hiked 1600 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, and continues to knock off chunks as time allows. Glen has also wandered the backcountry in numerous other locations and states.


Chris Wallace

Chris Wallace

Chris Wallace is an outdoor enthusiast that grew up playing in the woods behind his house. He also went on many weekend car camping and trout fishing trips in North Georgia's mountains with his family. A few years ago, Chris rediscovered his love of the wilderness and started hiking and backpacking on weekends. After a miserable trip where he carried 40+ pounds of traditional gear, he immediately replaced everything with lightweight gear. After a couple of lightweight trips and countless hours spent researching on the web, Chris went ultralight.

Chris has a Bachelors Degree in Information Technology and spends his weekdays working as an admin of too many things. The day job pays for his gear junky passion. This includes a constant search for the lightest possible gear while maintaining a decent comfort level. Chris is a year-round backpacker in the Southeast and is usually accompanied by his girlfriend, Robin. He has also been a trip leader for a local backpacking group for the last year where he works to educate members on lightening loads both on themselves and the wilderness they explore.