Start and End at Home!

Take your adventures to the next level with this comprehensive course about trip planning, navigation, safety, and low-impact travel in the backcountry.

Unlimited access to six modules—eight weeks of material and discussion—designed and taught by Luc Mehl, a leader in the field of trip planning and preparation.

Sign up for information about the next course, January - March, 2023.

Start and End at Home!

Take your adventures to the next level with this comprehensive course about trip planning, navigation, safety, and low-impact travel in the backcountry.

Unlimited access to six modules—eight weeks of material and discussion—designed and taught by Luc Mehl, a leader in the field of trip planning and preparation.

Informed, not lucky 

Preparing for your outdoor time enables you to get creative, ambitious, and to help ensure that you Start and End at Home.

Do you have a sense that there is more out there?

Do you want the extra security of knowing how to use your phone to navigate back to a trailhead? Or, are you planning a backcountry trip? From four-hour to four-week journeys, this course can help.

Here is what makes Luc Mehl and this course unique:
  • Stewardship and ethics: Growing up in a half-native community in rural Alaska, Luc learned the value of wild lands and the importance of respectfully visiting them. Stewardship and ethics are woven into all aspects of this course.
  • Risk assessment and safety: These are priorities in all of Luc's instruction. Luc's attention to safety was recognized when The Packraft Handbook was awarded a 2021 National Outdoor Book Award: "One of the book’s strong points is Mehl’s emphasis on safety. He returns to the safety angle again and again with the hope that his readers will keep it foremost in their minds."
  • Hard-earned expertise: Luc has traveled over 10,000 miles in the backcountry under his own power, with all of the accomplishments and mistakes ("learning opportunities") that entails. Start and End at Home is a skills accelerator: twenty years of hard-earned experience compressed into an eight-week course.
  • Top-tier instruction. From swiftwater rescue to university physics, Luc is recognized as an excellent instructor. "Luc is, by far, the most thoughtful and conscientious instructor I've ever had the pleasure of working with. He is able to explain things in a way that makes sense, and he cares as much about the experience of his students as he does about their safety. -Eric C."

Designed for:

Hiking and backpacking

  • Download maps and satellite imagery to your phone
  • Plan and create your intended route ahead of time, and carry it on your phone and/or GPS unit
  • Use satellite imagery and weather resources to plan the timing of your trip

Paddlesports and multisport adventures

  • Use Google Earth and Esri World Imagery to identify and record points of interest, cruxes, exit plans, etc.
  • Measure river or overland miles so that you plan your pace and supplies accordingly
  • Create a trip and emergency plan to leave with your in-town contact

Backcountry skiing and mountaineering

  • Use Google Earth and other applications to plan your route
  • Identify climbing routes, crevasse bands, and other features of interest
  • Use slope-angle shading to identify avalanche terrain
  • Create an emergency plan and carry the right communication device

Rescue, guide, and organization professionals

  • Use near-real-time satellite imagery to determine the current conditions in the area of interest
  • Record and share search efforts to help identify missing coverage
  • Manage geographic data (waypoints and routes) collected from various sources

KNOW WHERE TO GO

Module 1: Route planning. Plan ahead and prepare by drafting your intended route—replete with points of interest and bail-outs. Google Earth will be our workhorse—augmented by features available from Esri, CalTopo, and Gaia GPS. You will finish this module with a detailed route and trip plan document.

  • Google Earth
  • Esri World Imagery
  • CalTopo
  • Gaiagps.com
  • File management

KNOW WHEN TO GO

Module 2: Near-real-time satellite imagery. In this module, you will learn how to access and interpret satellite imagery. These resources enable you to identify seasonal trends and current conditions. How much snow can we expect in April? Are the lakes frozen? When does the vegetation typically leaf out?

  • NASA Worldview
  • Sentinel Hub Playground
  • Sentinel Hub EO Browser
  • EOS Landviewer
Watch a free webinar to see these tools in action

KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT

Module 3: Weather. Weather forecasts and history help you determine what to expect and when to visit. An understanding of seasonal trends can help you avoid (or seek!) snow and put the wind at your back. Learn how to compare models and interpret a meteogram forecast before you head out.

  • Windy.com
  • Environmental data portals
  • Garmin and WX2InReach weather messaging

FIND YOURSELF!

Module 4: Modern navigation. Your smartphone serves as a powerful GPS unit that can show your location on a topographic or satellite basemap, even if you are out of cell range. This module consists of tutorial videos for all of Gaia GPS's features, as well as a discussion about not relying on electronic devices.

  • Gaia GPS
  • Avenza Maps: Importing custom basemaps
  • How to import your route to a GPS unit
  • Printing maps
  • Map and compass essentials

THE EMERGENCY PLAN

Module 5: Risk and the emergency plan. An SOS button is not an emergency plan. Take the time to evaluate what could go wrong and how you will respond. This module presents risk assessment frameworks and how to add an emergency plan to your trip plan document. 

  • Satellite communication devices and guidelines
  • What happens when you push the SOS button
  • Options for evacuation insurance

LOVE BIG

Module 6: Stewardship. Let your love for wild places inspire you to reduce your impact. Impact is easy, recovery is hard. This module presents the Leave No Trace ethics and provides a framework to discuss sharing routes and geotagged locations, visiting Native and private lands, and more.

Sam Alexander

Mountain Guide and Former US Special Forces Detachment Commander

I have planned and executed high-level Special Operations combat missions as well as complex backcountry guided tours and I will outright say that taking a course from Luc has made me a better operational planner. And as an Alaskan Native, I appreciate the thought and care he puts in his approach to stewardship of the land and his sincere desire to be a good neighbor.

If you want to take your backcountry planning to the next level, spend some time with Luc.

Online course: Start and End at Home

$495 USD

Trip planning, safety, and low-impact backcountry travel. Everything you need to create your dream trip.

  • Registration is closed for 2022
  • Unlimited access to over 80 instructional videos
  • Complete at your own pace/schedule, but intended to take 6-8 weeks to complete
  • Office hours for troubleshooting and consultation from January through March
  • Content access beginning January 1st; formal start January 7th 

Questions?

Shoot me a message.

This course is closed for 2022.

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