Wilderness Backpacking + Packrafting


“Being with MWS was probably one of the most confidence boosting, empowering experiences of my life! It was so awesome to be lucky enough to explore one of the most remote places in Montana. Plus, learning new technical skills was super radical!”
—Chloe, Wilderness Packrafting + Fly Fishing Student

Expedition Overview

Dates: July 10 - 24, 2022
Age: 16–18 years old
Group size: max 10 students/3 instructors
Length: 15 Days
Tuition: $4,725
1 week backpacking & 1 week packrafting (inflatable kayaks) + Fly Fishing

*Note: MWS river trips on the Main Salmon are run by SOAR Northwest, a legal operator and permit holder on the Main Salmon, River of No Return.
Packing List 
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Expedition Highlights

  • Backpacking in a remote wilderness area
  • Packraft (inflatable kayak) the "Main" section of the Salmon River in Idaho
  • Learn swift water rescue techniques
  • Adventurous backcountry paddling experiences on exciting whitewater
  • Learn to fly fish
  • Wilderness decision-making and communication skills
  • Experience pristine ecosystems, huge river beaches, and natural hot springs

Expedition Description

The Wilderness Backpacking + Packrafting Expedition provides multiple forms of adventure while promoting personal growth, character development, and technical skills. Students will spend the first week of their15-day expedition backpacking, covering significant mileage and exploring a remote wilderness area. Students will spend the second week packrafting and fly fishing the famous "River of No Return" main stretch of the SalmonRiver in Idaho. The unique continuous flow of this itinerary will give students outstanding opportunities to develop extensive land- and water-based leadership skills while traveling through the vast and remote Northern Rockies backcountry. In addition to technical paddling skills, students will learn swift water rescue techniques and be challenged to identify, understand, and avoid water hazards as part of MWS’ river risk management curriculum. For more information about MWS core curriculum and expedition progression see Expedition Life.

Expedition Objectives and Learning Outcomes

Teamwork and communication skills

  • Learn positive communication skills with diverse group members to create a healthy community, build trust, and make sound decisions in the backcountry together
  • Develop an expedition philosophy, apply it to the course, and understand how it can transfer back to the student’s home environment

Safety and wilderness based decision making

  • Backcountry hazard evaluation and risk reduction guidelines and tools
  • First aid awareness for backcountry settings: identification and treatment of common backcountry illness and injuries
  • Learn to collaboratively make decisions in remote environments that prioritizes individual and group safety

Conservation Ethic

  • Use basic observational and interpretive skills to demonstrate an understanding and respect for the natural environment
  • Discuss the history, facts and potential solutions to pertinent environmental and social issues affecting the wilderness in the expedition area
  • Reflect upon and discuss the conveyance of wilderness conservation ethics into personal life and build a capacity for commitment and stewardship to wild places
  • Develop comprehensive understanding of Leave No Trace© ethics and apply them during the expedition

Backcountry camping and navigation skills

  • Use safe backcountry kitchen practices to cook nutritious meals on a camp stove or fire
  • Demonstrate an ability to select an appropriate campsite and set up a shelter while minimizing the impact on the ecosystem
  • Understand and demonstrate how to stay healthy, warm, and comfortable in the backcountry
  • Understand and demonstrate techniques for camping and traveling in bear habitat
  • Use various navigation and route-finding tools and methods for on and off trail travel
  • Travel efficiently in the alpine environment using map and compass skills

Technical Skills

  • Inflating, deflating, packing and securing equipment in an inflatable packraft
  • Reading water and understanding hydraulics in swift moving water
  • Swift water rescue skills
  • Packraft control and paddling skills in swift moving water and rapids
Fly Fishing
  • Basic understanding of Entomology in respect to fishing
  • Catch and release principles and ethics
  • Fishing techniques; casting, knots, reel control
  • Basic river and mountain lake ecology
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Montana Wilderness School
P.O. Box 1183
Bozeman, MT 59771
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