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Bay Area Backcountry Buddies Message Board › So you want to go backpacking with us (or how to post a trip in 3 easy steps.)

So you want to go backpacking with us (or how to post a trip in 3 easy steps.)

user 5685298
San Francisco, CA
Post #: 270
Many people have asked something along the lines of "This is a great group and I want to go backpacking but so many people are trying to get on your trips that there's not enough room. How can I get on one of your backpack trips?"

There's a simple answer for this. Organize a trip and invite people to go on it. This is absolutely the best way to get to know people and make friends in the group. Plus it's personally rewarding and you'll earn the gratitude of your fellow backpackers. "No way! I'm not ready/experienced/popular/organized enough to do that." Well, it's actually not that hard and I hope to show you how easy it is in this post.

In order to post a trip with us all you have to do is three things.
1. Pick a date you want to go.
2. Find a place/route.
3. Get a permit.

That's it. Well, there's a couple other steps but those are the hard ones for most people as they're the ones you have to do pretty much by yourself. We'll help you with the rest of the stuff.

Picking a date is easy. Be mindful of the season (I don't recommend a week long high sierra trip in Nov.) 3-4 day weekends work best for the most part but pick whatever works best for you. For the first trip you organize I recommend doing a weekender just to get a feel for how things work, especially if you're not super experienced.

Finding a place to backpack is a bit harder, particularly if you're new to the area or haven't done a lot of backpacking. It's hard to know what conditions are like in places you're unfamiliar with. I think that's what stops most people from organizing trips. Reviewing our past trips is a *great* way to find places to go. There's probably about 100 backpacking trips, many of them classics, with photos and an organizer that you can probably get in touch with for information about the route and conditions. These are some of the best trips in California and well worth repeating.

The permit can be difficult to acquire also. Most of the trailheads in the Sierra and elsewhere have quotas these days. Navigating the system can be daunting; there's a learning curve to knowing all the rules and regulations. But don't worry, the rangers and other staff you will talk to are incredibly helpful, don't be afraid to ask questions. After you score permits a few times you'll get comfortable with the process and know what to expect. One thing to note, permits cost money in most places, usually $5 per person. This gets paid back by the people who attend but it's probably wise to check in with me to see if the trip you want to do is a good idea and appropriate for our group before you pony up $30-40 for the permits. You could also check the availability of permits, then post the trip to judge interest before buying them. But don't delay, permits can disappear quickly.

After you've done that, open a 'suggested' new meetup, write up a brief description and save it as a draft. Email me and I will check it out. I may suggest some changes or give a little guidance for how to set it up. This is just for the first time, after that you're on your own.

So you say "I can do that but there's no way that I'm going to be leading people on the trail." Well, first, we don't do 'Leaders' (more about that later) second, we've got you covered. Just let me know that you want some help on the trail and we'll make sure that one of our more experienced members is on the trip. I like to call them the 'Trailmaster'. (Please note, this is a social group for backpacking, we are not professional guides. Everyone should be somewhat self sufficient and responsible for their own safety. Please check here­ for more info.)

Ok, you've done all that, what else do you need to know? Not much. There are just three rules that I enforce.

#1. No leaders. I really can't stand the 'you must do what I say' way of doing things. Backpacking is a social activity. When you go out on the town with your friends is there one person who makes all the decisions? Usually not. You figure out what everyone wants to do and you negotiate and compromise and you have a good time. Maybe one or two people have a better idea about what's going on but they'll usually present the information and let everyone decide. Backpacking should be like that. The more experienced people should look out for the less experienced and share their wisdom when they need to, but keep it passive. Master the art of saying "Hmm... That doesn't seem like a good idea, why don't we do something else."

#2. Nobody makes money. We want to get people outdoors with minimal cost. There's no 'suggested donations' or anything above actual, real costs which should be split among the attendees. The cost of permits and night-before camping are the most common. We try to carpool as much as possible; be generous with gas money if you're a rider.

#3. We assume that people have the skills that they need to go on our trips. This means that as an organizer you're not allowed to quiz everyone about their experience before they're permitted on your trip (exception applies if you're doing something more than ordinarily dangerous) and we frown on 'pre-trip meetings.' In general our people are strong and knowledgeable and great company. Of the hundreds of people that I've met backpacking with this group there are less than a handful that I felt were unprepared or no fun enough that I would never go into the wilderness with them again. Certainly as an organizer you should listen to your gut. If there's something that cues you in that someone isn't right for your trip you should absolutely start asking questions. Refer the situation to me if you're not feeling comfortable with kicking someone off your trip or have a question about what you should do. I'm here to solve problems.

That's about it. There's some mechanics about setting things up, herding cats and trailhead logistics that I'll cover next.

user 5685298
San Francisco, CA
Post #: 271
Ok, setting up an event on Meetup. Start a new event by 'suggesting' it if you're not an event organizer already. Now do these steps.

1. Pick a name for your trip. Descriptive is good.
2. Select the date and time. Normally this is when you plan to meet at the trailhead. So Saturday 9 am or something like that.
3. If you want to enter the trailhead into the system for the location or check if it's already there that's fine but feel free to skip this part.
4. How to find us isn't important, that info will be covered in your description.
5. Enter your description. I generally try to keep it simple, a few paragraphs or less. Be sure to mention the difficulty of the trip (easy, medium, hard) and anything other than standard gear that people should bring (snow gear for early season pass crossing or something like that.) Check some of the past trip descriptions for guidance. It's important that the trip description has enough info to let people decide if it's the right trip for them but not so much that you take all the mystery out of it. I usually don't post "Day 1 - 10 miles and 2000 feet elevation gain" and so on. Make sure to include information about where you're going to meet, be it the trailhead or somewhere else. Add this text to the bottom of your description. "If the trip fills up we will use the standard lottery system to chose attendees. The lottery will be held on (pick a time period from 3-7 days)"
6. Skip down to "Charging for this Meetup". Click on "Yes, I'd like to charge my members." Select Amazon Payments. The amount is the cost of permits and any other money that will be shared, plus $21. ($1 for CC fees and $20 as a 'Commitment Deposit'. More about this later.) Click on "Require payment to RSVP" and "Yes, I will offer a refund." Click on "If the Meetup is canceled" Paste this text into the box. "If you attend $20 will be refunded. If you do not attend for any reason no refund will be given. No exceptions."
7. Click the heading for "RSVP Settings." Select "Limited to (Fill in '1') attendees." Select "Manual waiting list" and "Allow members to attend with up to (fill in '1') guest." This sets up the lottery system which we'll go into in a second.

That's it. There's some other stuff you can do that's more complicated but let's keep it simple for now. Save that sucker as a draft and send me the link.

Ok, let me explain the lottery system. Because our trips are popular (everyone knows we do the best backpacking trips around) frequently they fill up. In the past this meant that people who were on e-mail all the time and got the notices first were always on the trips and if you didn't pay close attention to your e-mail you never had a chance. To solve this problem we decided on a lottery system. Now everyone has a few days to sign up and we randomly select the attendees. This gives everyone a chance and is decently fair. Sure, there are problems but it's much better than it used to be. Once the lottery is run we work our way down the list until all the available slots are full. Each person has 24-48 hours to commit. If they don't communicate their slot goes to the next person on the list. So just because you came in 10th on a 6 person trip doesn't mean you're out of the running. Lot of times people find that they can't go or just fail to commit.

Now, about the commitment deposit. Way back when this thing started we had a big problem. People would sign up, fill up the trips, then drop out at the last minute. Major uncool and a huge PITA. It meant that less people got to go on trips and always left the organizer scrambling the last couple days. To solve this problem we decided to make it hurt a bit to drop out. It makes people stop and think for a minute before they decide to accept that open slot on a trip. It works great, the number of last minute dropouts has dramatically declined. THERE ARE NO REFUNDS IF YOU DON'T GO ON THE TRIP. No exceptions. I don't care if your dog died or you just found out that you have leukemia. To be flexible on this rule just encourages people to make up lies. Don't even try. Got it? Whether you want to use the commitment deposit for your trip is somewhat optional but I STRONGLY encourage it's use, especially for popular trips.

The money that's collected goes into an account that I control. After the attendees have all been decided e-mail me and I'll send you a check for whatever was collected for permits and other costs. After the trip I refund the $20 through people's credit cards. If someone bails out on a trip I keep the deposit. Don't like it, too bad. Go whine somewhere else. It actually doesn't happen all that frequently and the money goes to offset the $144 a year I pay to be the organizer of this group (I don't think deposits have ever covered all of that.)

Ok, that's this piece of it. There's a few more topics to cover in the next post.
user 5685298
San Francisco, CA
Post #: 272
(warning, post half finished.)

It can be hard to get 6-10 people all to the same place at the same time with all the gear that they need to spend a few days in the wilderness. Amazingly it always works out.

We ask that people be as self contained as they can. If people want to share gear (stoves in particular) or food that's fine but sometimes it's easier to figure that stuff out at the trailhead.

Bear cans, impact and other regulations. Know if bear cans are required wherever you're going. Ask the ranger.

Carpooling. Generally I ask people to wait until a few days before we leave to arrange carpools. Plans tend to change at the last minute and that can wreak havoc if you've tried to nail things down too far in advance.

Trailhead logistics can be confusing at times. If you're not familiar with an area it's frequently hard to know where to camp the night before you leave, where to park your cars and so forth. Each trailhead has it's own quirks. If you're doing a trip that our group has done before I'd recommend contacting the organizer of that trip and ask them about the trailhead. The 'net can sometimes be useful but people tend to write up their hike, not where they parked. Be prepared for the unexpected.
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