It would be nice if there was a definitive, standard rating system for backpack trips. A system that
covered all the factors, and which worked for everyone. But unfortunately there ain’t no such
So here is a basic rating system. It is based on participant experience, # of days on the trail,
elevation gain, daily mileage, and trail conditions. Following it are some factors that may affect the
rating. It assumes that a participant is an outdoor enthusiast in reasonably decent physical condition.
A: Participants may include beginning or 1st-time backpackers. Trip of short duration, typically
2-days / 1-night or geared for beginners. Moderate elevation gain, less than 1,000’ per day. Daily
mileage in single digits. Trails in generally good condition.
B: Participants should be strong hikers and have some backpack experience. Multi-night trips.
Elevation gain of up to 2,000’ per day. Daily mileage may reach double digits. Trails may range
from good to rugged condition.
C: Participants should be strong hikers with considerable backpack experience. Multi-night
trips. Elevation gain may exceed 2,000’ per day. Daily mileage may reach double digits. Trails
may range from good to rugged condition. May include off-trail or cross-country travel.
The above provides a general guideline for the trip rating. The leader should consider other factors
which can significantly alter the basic trip rating. Bottom line: It is ultimately up to the trip leader
to determine the trip rating based on all the information that he or she has available.
Factors which can affect the trip rating: notice how many you can not directly control
-number of days on the trail: more days = more food & gear to carry, heavier packs, rougher trip
-number of rest days: add to duration of trip, but also provide a break from trail rigors
-age of participants: generally younger means more resilient
-base elevation: even level travel is more taxing at elevation
-condition of trails: any deviat