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Backpacking

Backpacking

Designed with outdoor skill progression in mind, GSHPA's backpacking program is an outdoor experience she won't want to miss! Each level of the program offers new challenges, and new opportunities to grow her outdoor skills and knowledge. Two amazing GSHPA volunteers run programs throughout the year, which you can find on our Event Calendar

See level descriptions and prerequisites and explore backpacking resources helpful to any backpacker below!

Introductory Course

Introduction is the first step in the GSHPA backpacking progression. This course is intended for both adults and girls (Juniors-Ambassadors) who wish to learn the skills necessary to go on an overnight backpacking trip. Topics covered include: Leave No Trace principles, how to use typical backpacking gear, and basic outdoor safety. Day hikes prior to this course are encouraged. The morning will be classroom based and a group hike will take place after lunch.

Prerequisites: No experience necessary.
Levels: Adults & girls (Juniors-Ambassadors)
Distance: 1-2 miles
Duration: Single day (9:30am-4pm)
Location: GSHPA property
Cost: $7
What’s included in fee: Hot chocolate & granola bar, backpacking/Leave No Trace handouts

Level 1

Level 1 is the second step in the GSHPA backpacking progression. This course is intended for girls who have taken the Introduction course and are ready for two nights outdoors. The course will begin on Friday evening with car camping at a PA State Park or similar location. Friday evening and Saturday morning girls will review basic backpacking principles, pack their backpacks, and prepare to head out on Saturday afternoon to their camping spot. Girls will hike back to the car on Sunday morning and debrief their weekend. In addition to the two trip leaders, there will be one adult spot available for an adult who is interested in gaining the skills necessary to lead GSHPA backpacking events. Sleeping pads & backpacks are available to borrow on a first come, first served basis. Girls will be expected to share the responsibility of carrying group gear.

Prerequisites: Introduction Course
Levels: Juniors - Ambassadors
Distance: 3-4 miles/day
Duration: 2 nights
Location: Pennsylvania State Park or similar location
Cost: $40
What’s included in fee: Food and group gear (Group Gear listed on Equipment List)

Level 2

Level 2 is the third step in the GSHPA backpacking progression. This course is for girls who have completed two Level 1 courses and are ready to test their skills during a 2-3 night backpacking trip. Girls must be comfortable hiking 6-10 miles per day with a loaded backpack. In addition to the two trip leaders, there will be one adult spot available for an adult who is interested in gaining the skills necessary to lead GSHPA backpacking events. Sleeping pads & backpacks are available to borrow on a first come, first served basis. Girls will be expected to share the responsibility of carrying group gear.

Prerequisites: Two Level 1 courses 
Levels: Cadettes - Ambassadors
Distance: 6-10 miles/day
Duration: 2-3 nights
Location: Usually within GSHPA footprint
Cost: $60
What’s included in fee: Food and group gear (Group Gear listed on Equipment List)

Level 3

Level 3 is the fourth and final step in the GSHPA backpacking progression. This course is for girls who are comfortable backpacking for 4-6 nights with a loaded backpack. This course will take place somewhere in the Mid-Atlantic or New England region and girls will hike 6-10 miles per day. In addition to the two trip leaders, there will be one adult spot available for an adult who is interested in gaining the skills necessary to lead GSHPA backpacking events. Sleeping pads & backpacks are available to borrow on a first come, first served basis. Girls will be expected to share the responsibility of carrying group gear.

Prerequisites: Combination of a total of three Level 1 and Level 2's; with at least one Level 1 and one Level 2
Levels: Cadettes - Ambassadors
Distance: 6-10 miles/day
Duration: 4-6 nights
Location: Mid-Atlantic or New England region
Cost: $150
What’s included in fee: Food and group gear (Group Gear listed on Equipment List)

 


Patches

  • Backpacking Program Patch
  • Backpacking Program Rockers

Participants in the backpacking program will receive a patch and rocker for their initial program, and then a rocker for each unique level of programming they attend after.

Backpacking Resources

Equipment List

Safety Activity Checkpoints - Backpacking

Leave No Trace Online Awareness Course - This is an introductory Leave No Trace workshop recommended for ages 12 and older. It is approximately 45 minutes in length and includes a certificate of completion.

Leave No Trace PEAK Online - This course includes videos and activities to help kids (ages 7-12) understand the Seven Principles of Leave No Trace. A digital certificate is available upon completion.

How To Videos

How to Set up a Tent

What Clothes to Wear

What To Pack 

Dispose of Waste Properly

Campsite Selection

Camp Stoves

Leave No Trace

At GSHPA, we believe in responsible behavior and respecting the environment. That’s why we're one of only two Girl Scout Councils that are Leave No Trace Partners! The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics is a national organization that supports protecting the outdoors by teaching and inspiring people to enjoy it responsibly. That’s something we can get behind!


How can Girl Scouts ensure they’re practicing #LNT daily?

There are seven principles of Leave No Trace. It’s important that Girl Scouts are familiar with these principles, considering so many of our activities happen in the outdoors. Let’s go through each one and think about how the principles apply to Girl Scouts.

1. Plan Ahead and Prepare

Before you start your outdoor adventure (no matter how small!), make sure you’re prepared. Make sure you’re familiar with regulations and special concerns about the area(s) you’ll be visiting, and keep in mind high-traffic times. Avoiding crowds will not only prevent protected wildlife from getting trampled, it will also make it a more enjoyable experience for the girls!

Depending on the size of your troop, consider splitting up into smaller groups. If there are too many people in one given spot, there might not be enough room on the trail for everyone to listen, talk, and share with each other. Smaller groups help us foster conversation while we’re mindful of the environment around us.

2. Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces

Whether you’re visiting for a day or overnight, it’s important to stick to durable surfaces, like established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grass, or snow. This is for the safety of everyone in your group as well as the safety of the environment. When we walk beyond established paths, we risk damaging vegetation and other organisms that can be damaged beyond recovery.

If your troop is staying overnight, remember that campsites are found, not made! You don’t need to alter an existing site to meet your needs. Try to find a site that is so highly impacted that further careful use will cause no noticeable impact.

3. Dispose of Waste Properly

One of the easiest ways to Leave No Trace is to dispose of any waste you’ve brought with you. If there are trash cans available, excellent! Use them for anything you no longer need, separating recyclable and compostable items if necessary. If there aren’t any trash cans, bring it all with you. This includes packaging, leftover food, and other litter. And if you’re camping overnight, don’t forget to check that you’ve grabbed all of your clothing, camping gear, and anything else non-edible you may have left behind.

And when nature calls, find a spot at least 200 feet from water, your camp, and trails, and dig a hole 6 to 8 inches deep for solid human waste. When finished, cover and disguise the hole. It’s not glamorous, but it helps protect the environment!

4. Leave What You Find

Girl Scouts love souvenirs as much as the next person, but during your outdoor adventure, the only souvenirs you should take are pictures! Leave rocks, plants, and other natural objects where you find them, and avoid building structures like forts or makeshift furniture. Leave those projects for your backyard.

5. Minimize Campfire Impacts

While you may not be in wildfire country, it’s still incredibly important to minimize the impact of your campfire. Keep in mind regulations for where you’re visiting (which you should’ve already researched as part of principle 1!), as fires might not be allowed.

When and where fires are permitted, keep them as small as possible. Only use sticks that can be broken by hand, no tools required. Once you’re done, make sure all wood and coals have burned to ash. Put out the fires completely, then scatter the ashes once they’ve cooled.

6. Respect Wildlife

One of the best parts of spending time outdoors is seeing all the amazing wildlife. But as exciting as it is to see animals in the wild, remember that they should be observed from a distance and should never be fed. It damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.

Similarly, make sure food (including food waste!) is stored securely. Whether they’re fed intentionally or find your food on accident, wildlife can be very negatively impacted by human food.

7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Finally, remember to be considerate toward others, including those in your group. Ask questions courteously, avoid making loud noises, and yield to others on the trail. In short, be a sister to every Girl Scout—as well as every non–Girl Scout!

  

  

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Meet the Volunteers

Connie Bio

Connie has been a Girl Scout volunteer for 13 years. She has degrees in Physical Therapy and Industrial Hygiene/Safety and is currently employed by Geisinger Health System. Find her trail hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, skiing, gardening, and even indoors quilting. She is certified in Wilderness First Aid, CPR, and is a Level 1 NICA coach. 

Addie Bio

Addie has been a Girl Scout since first grade and an adult volunteer since 2014. She has worked as a camp counselor at many camps. When Addie isn’t teaching ESL to middle and high school students, she can be found trail running, hiking, camping, or backpacking. She has completed a 50k trail run and hopes to do a 50-mile race in 2020! She is certified in Wilderness First Aid and First Aid/CPR/AED.

Have questions about the Backpacking program? Reach out to our Member Services team at MemberServices@gshpa.org or 800-692-7816.