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DC UL Backpacking Guiding Philosophy:

To backpack the Mid-Atlantic, with the idea of waking early, walking far, traveling light, and having a fulfilling backcountry experience.

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away”—Antoine de Saint-Exupery

This meet up group specializes in high-mileage, light-weight, overnight backpacking adventures throughout the Mid-Atlantic, especially Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. Our featured trips are often quite challenging, but we also do offer some lower mileage trips as a way for people new to the group to ease in.

How do you know if this group is right for you?

  • You’re an experienced backpacker who likes nothing more than to walk big days and you’re looking for some like-minded folks to keep you company and explore the Mid-Atlantic.
  • You’ve done some backpacking before, but you don’t enjoy sleeping in, stopping early, base-camping, cabin-camping, etc. You know that dawn and dusk are the best times for walking.
  • You’ve never been backpacking before, but you’re athletically minded, and fairly accomplished as a runner, triathlete, cyclist, day hiker, etc. You want to take on some backcountry challenges and you want to get up-to-speed fast.
  • You’re an experienced ULer who thinks anyone who hasn’t cut the handle off his toothbrush is crazy.
  • You just heard of this UL stuff (and you’ve never weighed your gear before), but you’re really interested in NOT carrying a 50-pound pack on a weekend trip. You’re quite curious how anyone can go backpacking with a sub-10 pound (or even a sub-5 pound!) base weight. You may even be skeptical, but it sure sounds like a good idea.
  • You don’t care at all about gear and want to have a single set of equipment you can use in all seasons.
  • You’re a total gearhead and like nothing more than buying and trying out new stuff.
  • You think keeping a walking journal sounds like fun. And the prospect of making a spreadsheet with your gear all listed and weighed sounds incredibly cool.
  • You buy all your gear ready-made at REI.
  • You constructed 13 different alcohol stoves in your basement and tested their boil times with a stopwatch till you got one you liked.
  • You think it would be pretty awesome to backpack a ton this year and rack up a few dozen nights under the stars.

In short, one size does not fit all. Different people come to the group with different backgrounds and expectations. On the balance, we’re interested in cultivating independent outdoors men and women who want nothing more than to log quite a few nights (and challenging days) in the backcountry.

People often ask me about the UL gearing aspect of the meet up, as that can be a little intimidating, even for experienced backpackers. Many of our members are very serious about going light, but we also have longstanding members who are not ultra-light. Others are in various phases of transitioning, trying out one new piece of gear against another. It took me about two years to make that transition myself. So, the short answer is that you shouldn’t be deterred from joining our group just because your gear is heavy. For us, these days, “ultra-light” is a means much more than an end. It enables us to walk farther and in greater comfort, but we’re not really interested in enforcing any “smelly little orthodoxy,” to borrow George Orwell’s memorable phrase.

Applying for the DC UL Meet Up

Because our trips are demanding and involve nights spent out of doors in the mountains, we have a more involved application procedure than many meet ups. When you apply to join, you’ll be asked a couple of questions. In essence, you’re filling out a written application, so do fill out the forms fully. Be sure to submit a photo that looks like you, so we can find you at events.

Based on your replies, I’ll admit you to the group with a rank of “Applicant.” As an applicant, you’ll be eligible to do our low-mileage overnight trips and you’ll be invited to day hike with our leadership team. You can also attend our social events. The point of this phase is for us to get know each other before you embark on one of our more adventuresome trips—we feel that everyone benefits from getting to know each other beforehand. Once you’ve completed a trip with us, we’ll promote you to “Member.”

As a member, you are required to pay our $10 yearly membership fee at the next event you attend. These fees help us run some of our events, but we do not charge for individual backpacking trips. Applicants do not have to pay the fee.

Liability Waiver: By joining this group, you agree to all waiver terms:

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