Posted by: James Wapotich | February 18, 2022

Backpacking Made Easy

Backpacking class instruction workshop Santa Barbara hiking trails Los Padres National Forest wilderness native plants ecotherapy nature connection

Backpacking class instruction workshop Santa Barbara hiking trails Los Padres National Forest wilderness native plants ecotherapy nature connection

Through this class, you will learn the basic skills and awareness to set out on our local trails and craft your own backpacking trips. Many of these skills can also be used for day hiking as well.

This class is unique in that all classes take place out on our local trails and not in a classroom, as the best place to learn wilderness skills is outside in nature.

In general, the class covers three main areas: wilderness navigation, nature connection, and gear/trip planning.

Our approach to wilderness navigation is also somewhat unique. You will learn orienteering skills that are not dependent on having a GPS or compass. While these are good tools to have, learning how to navigate without them can help you develop a richer skill set.

Nature connection is also a big part of our time out on the land. For many of us, the aliveness of the natural world is what makes it worthwhile to invest the time and energy to head out into the backcountry, not the exercise from carrying gear. Feeling a deeper sense of connection and immersion in the elements is often the real payoff for being outdoors.

We will cover the gear basics and provide insights into how to evolve your own gear set. You don’t necessarily need to buy the latest gear in order to head out into the backcountry; what’s more important is to have the basics covered so you can get out there and get started.

Backpacking Made Easy
Saturdays, March 19 – April 2

Santa Barbara and Ojai are home to a variety of incredible backpacking destinations, and yet, often the biggest obstacle is simply having the knowledge and skills to get started.

Through this immersive workshop, you will learn the basic skills needed to comfortably explore and enjoy our local trails.

Hot springs, waterfalls, epic views, and unspoiled wilderness are just some of the rewards for those who are willing to make the journey.

Each class takes place outside, on one of our local trails, and provides a mix of hands on instruction, immersive exercises, and sharing circles that allows for learning on many levels.

Lay of the Land
March 19th 9AM-3PM

Learn how to orient yourself to the landscape and topography, and begin learning the skills and awareness that will help you remove the word lost from your vocabulary. Become familiar with maps and creating your own mental maps of the backcountry.

Working with habitats and being able to recognize them is another key skill to further orienting to the landscape.

Nature Connection
March 26th 9AM-3PM

Venturing out onto the land is even more enjoyable when we take time to develop a meaningful connection with nature.

Learning about the different plants, and plant communities along our trails, as well as some of their edible and medicinal properties helps deepen our connection with the natural environment. This in turn makes us more aware of the landscape around us. 

We will also cover the different gear options and how to choose equipment that suits you, as well as menu planning ideas.

Listening to Nature
April 2nd 9AM-3PM

By learning how to read the landscape and develop a sense of place, we can begin to feel more at home in the woods and start to see nature as ally. By tuning into our senses and being in relationship with nature, we lay the foundation for being able to know the backcountry like the back of our hand.

We will also cover the essentials of self-care on the trails, preventive first aid skills, and successful trip planning, as well as some local plants that can be used for everyday ailments.

Optional Free
Overnight Backpacking Trip
April 9-10

For those who are interested, we will help organize a free, optional backpacking trip. Here’s a chance to put all these great skills to use, and build on the material covered so far.

Length of the hike and destination for the overnight trip to be determined according to current conditions and the capabilities and interests of the participants.


James Wapotich is a Volunteer Wilderness Ranger with Los Padres National Forest, a UC Certified California Naturalist, and author of the Santa Barbara News-Press hiking column, Trail Quest. He is a trail guide and has hiked many of the trails in our local backcountry, and has been backpacking here for over 35 years.  

Sierra Boatwright, LMFT, is the founder of Santa Barbara Ecotherapy, where she weaves together naturalist skills and psychotherapy to help people gain more support through their time in the outdoors. Sierra has been hiking and backpacking for over 25 years and is an alumna of the Pacific Crest Outward Bound School.

Emily Sanders* is the Director & Founder of the Artemisia Academy, and has been studying holistic health for over 15 years. She is a Certified Clinical Herbalist and Clinical Nutritionist from the North American Institute of Medical Herbalism. She teaches classes on herbal medicine, nutrition, and plant identification.

*Because of Emily’s full schedule, she’ll be joining us on just the first day. A backpacking enthusiast, Emily is also available for the optional overnight backpacking trip.

Workshop is $245 per person, or bring a friend and both 15% off.
Limit 12 students. Must be able to comfortably hike 3-4 miles.

To sign up or for more information please contact:

James (805) 729-4250
Sierra (805) 335-1915

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