We are Vancouver Island’s hiking and backpacking specialists. Our guests come from all over the world to experience the beauty of this wild rock at the edge of the continent. From mountain peaks to coastal routes, Vancouver Island offers diverse adventures for everyone. We specialize in small groups and big experiences!
- Professional Certification
- Dedicated Team
- Repeat Alumni
- What People Are Saying
- Family Of Partners
- Frequently Asked Questions
MB Guiding is an Association of Canadian Mountain Guides (ACMG) certified guide service. Mike Blake, an ACMG Hiking Guide, is the lead guide and instructor on all trips and workshops. He has been guiding and instructing adventure sports since 2004. If you want to pick a professional guide’s brain, ask Mike all the questions you want. Lara Campbell has had a successful career as a professional pharmaceutical scientist. Lara spends a lot of time writing technical papers in her field of expertise. Looking to expand her portfolio, she trains to improve her outdoor skills. Continuing professional development is an ongoing process for both of us.
“The ACMG is a professional association of trained and certified Mountain Guides, Hiking Guides, and Climbing Instructors.
- We are dedicated to protecting the public interest in mountain travel and climbing instruction.
- We are the only internationally recognized professional association of trained and certified mountain guides and instructors in Canada.
- We set and maintain standards for admission to, and the practice of, the professions of mountain guiding and climbing instruction.”
Reference: ACMG website
We are a team of two that found love in exploring and discovering the wilderness together. Inspired by each other’s devotion to growth, we created MB Guiding in 2014. We’ve pushed each other’s comfort zones and improved our lives more than we could have hoped.
Mike lives and breathes every day with a high-spirited love of the outdoors. He’s always eager to share his passion and enthusiasm with everyone around him. Mike has a particular interest in our diverse wildlife, geography, and history. He combines his technical expertise with wilderness education and natural interpretation. Mike delivers his outdoor knowledge in fun and entertaining ways. Since 1995, he’s called Vancouver Island home.
Lara was born and raised on Vancouver Island. She has a life-long appreciation for wild places and new adventures. Curious about the natural world, she loves the physical challenges of backpacking. Lara draws from her science background to learn outdoor knowledge and build self-confidence. Her newest hobby is studying evolutionary biology. Lara blogs about our adventures and inspires appreciation for the wilderness.
One of our greatest pleasures is helping repeat guests experience a new adventure. Sometimes past workshop participants book a guided trip to practice their new skills. Other times, guests desire new terrain challenges in different locations. Several of our guests are quite skilled in the outdoors, but enjoy the safety, camaraderie, and logistics advantages of joining our guided trips.
Our relationships with these folks span many years, evolving into friendships near and far. We help fulfill personal hiking dream lists. Our alumni always book well in advance for their next trip, often up to a year. We are a small company and they know that space is limited. We are always delighted when a past guest contacts us to see what we have planned for the next hiking season.
What People Are Saying
Thanks Mike and Lara for sharing your wealth of knowledge on backpacking, wilderness navigation and knowledge of wildlife and flora during the 3-day Flower Ridge Trip. I am so grateful about the recommendations on gear. This would save me lots of time in the preparation of my West Coast Trail Trip in September. I also enjoyed discovering new, good and nutritious food. I will make Nomad Nutrition part of my next adventure. Including the miso soup. This trip was managed efficiently from start to finish. The preparation list was complete, making the preparation and packing process so easy for myself. You are very professional, approachable and so much fun to be around. I would not hesitate to recommend both of you to anyone wanting not only an adventure but learning new skills. Your excellent tutorial on Wilderness Navigation and various options on navigation tools has given me confidence to go solo hiking and discovering new trails. Many, many thanks. See you in 2019 for another great adventure!Silvie, Chemainus
NCT was a great backcountry trip and well planned by MB Guiding. I would highly recommend this trip for anyone who is looking for a personal challenge in their life. I still consider NCT a more intense physical experience then WCT and a lot more wild.Roland, Toronto
Thank you so much for such a great day. We both really enjoyed our time with you. Your knowledge, professionalism, and enthusiasm are a credit to you.Peter and Bruce, UK
I want to thank you again for the great workshop! So well organized, information was presented in a way that even a map-novice like myself could understand and apply the knowledge. I went home and took another look at a map I’d bought in Death Valley NP and now see it through different eyes! Wow, so helpful. I’d definitely recommend this class to anyone. And Mike you have a such a nice way of presenting and talking with people. It’s very exciting to think about using my new knowledge.Elaine, Courtenay
At least 3-4 times every day of our hike on the West Coast Trail, I thought to myself: “I am soooo glad we have a great guide!” Mike made our trip stress-free, safe, fun, educational and memorable. Without him, it would not have been the same positive experience. He helped us plan and pack before we started on the trail; the importance of preparation cannot be overstated! His knowledge of the trail meant we did not have to stress every morning about a route for the day. He made sure he set a pace that was doable for everyone in the group, including short breaks throughout the day. He kept us informed about the environment around us and always had interesting stories. Mike was super positive and optimistic, always encouraging us when the trail conditions seemed daunting. He was willing to answer our million and one questions. At the end of the day he helped set up camp and gave us ample down time to relax and recover. The meals he provided were delicious! He helped bring our group together so we worked well as a team. I have nothing but good things to say about Mike. I would recommend him to anyone without question. Worth every penny!Margie, Airdrie
Mike was my guide for a trip on the West Coast Trail in July of 2017. His guiding expertise made the trip run smoothly and he kept things very well organized. His extensive knowledge about the trail itself, especially the shipwrecks, and his unwavering enthusiasm for hiking/guiding really added to my trail experience. Overall, the trip was fantastic, challenging, and fun. The provided meals were absolutely fantastic, (Lara’s granola is the best thing ever!), and I felt very well cared for on my trip. I plan on hiking with MB Guiding again in the future and would highly recommend them to anyone seeking an excellent wilderness experience!Julie, Taiwan
Thank you for an incredible day! Justin is still beaming about being able to climb a summit. I had a great day, too, thanks to you. You encouraged without pushing, made it fun even though it was hard work at times. We always felt comfortable and that we were in good hands. Thanks again for making this possible. The day and the ascent were the highlight of Justin’s and my visit here this year.Barry and Justin, Toronto
Mike is very personable and detailed individual and combines these attributes very well to offer a most enjoyable outdoor experience. He loves to share his knowledge of all things outdoors allowing him to accommodate moderate excursions for the novice and something unique for the more adventurous. Local knowledge is key to Mike’s success and he’s always improving. From the mountaintops to the sunny shores it’s always a great joy to be out and about with Mike.Kevin and Christine, Calgary
Mike is insanely knowledgeable, infectiously passionate, and absolute pro..on the trail and in the office. Mike LOVES what he does and every client leaves his hikes/tour/program with a strong connection to him and the area he’s brought you to. He’s the BEST guide I’ve ever worked with and nobody knows Vancouver Island better than Mike.Jason and Jennifer, Vancouver
I first met Mike in 2008 when he was the lead guide for a wellness / hiking vacation that I took on Vancouver Island (contracted via a local resort). Mike proved himself to be an expert in many ways. He adapted our daily hikes based on weather conditions as well as experience and capabilities of the hikers. He provided encouragement when I thought a hike was too challenging, showing me how to set my own pace and tackle obstacles. His knowledge of the areas we hiked was tremendous. He seemed to know the answer to every question that I threw his way (and I always have many questions!). I enjoyed that first two week trip so much that I quickly signed on for a trip the following year which I enjoyed just as much as the first.Bernadette, Boston
Thanks to MB Guiding for running a terrific Trip Planning and Leadership course. This is a great workshop for folks with novice to intermediate skills who are looking to expand their hiking and backpacking horizons and gain some very valuable resources and skills around leading trips and planning larger adventures. Even though I am a fairly experienced backcountry traveller the course format and Mike and Lara’s collaborative approach made for an exciting exchange of information from everyone present that sent me home with both new knowledge and valuable refinement of existing knowledge and skills. Thanks for a great workshop and a weekend well spent.Bil, Nanaimo
In true workshop style, Mike often lead by opening up discussion on a topic and encouraged everyone’s participation as he guided us through the content. Everyone could learn something here and new tips were bountiful from both Mike and many in the group. Constructive discussions took place. I found much of the workshop very thought provoking, even afterwards. On day two we ran through several practical scenario’s and this was excellent. I also found that I was able to compare how a professional prepares and can compare this to how I prepare and found it reassuring in what and how I’m doing and where I could improve things.Rick, Victoria
Mike guided our family of three across the wilds of Strathcona Park. The initial trail is a pleasant stroll with a gentle climb the next day up to Mt Albert Edward for gorgeous views of all the peaks. So far, literally a walk in the park… but once we started to hike down the other side the real adventure began. This is when you see the merits of an experienced guide, as Mike’s knowledge of the ridge came in handy to avoid sharp drop-offs and also to pass the packs down one by one to lower the risk of slipping on the steep slopes. We made camp in a lovely little clearing with the full moon overhead – just us and the birds. The next day we hiked across to Ruth Masters and had the crystal clear waters all to ourselves. The early morning ascent of the Augerpoint really demonstrated Mike’s good understanding of the terrain. We had to be nimble footed to scramble up the path, but it is well worth the effort as the views at the top are spectacular with both coasts of the island visible in the distance. A great traverse, which we would thoroughly recommend.Stuart, Yumi and Kai – London UK
My wife and I hired Mike to guide us along the rugged and beautiful Nootka Trail for the six-day, 35-km trek. Mike’s enthusiasm was evident the minute we met him at the float plane, and that enthusiasm never waned and was matched by his knowledge, commitment and culinary skills. Despite the ruggedness of the trail, we always felt safe and confident, yet still challenged, allowing us to enjoy the trip and the many sites and features Mike pointed out. The pace he set was perfect for all four members of our group. His commitment to detail was evident, and he presented a perfect balance of guiding while allowing us to enjoy our own personal experiences. As a result, the trip was very memorable and we would certainly recommend Mike to anybody considering his services.Toby and Mary, Nanaimo
Mike has guided me and my family through the North Coast Trail on Vancouver Island. We had an excellent time. The whole organization was on very short notice and everything worked out great for us. Would not hesitate to have Mike as a Hiking Guide again!Alfred, Switzerland
Despite the rain and cooler than average temperatures Mike remained positive and always helpful. We learned a lot from Mike during our trip specifically the importance of staying put to stay warm and safe and how to set up camp to make it comfortable in rainy weather. Mike is very knowledgeable about hiking and he is methodical about being safe in the back-country. We really appreciated that Mike is always ready to have fun and he has lots of interesting stories to tell about the local area. Both of us had an excellent experience on our Della Falls hiking trip with Mike.Catherine and Bruce, Vancouver
Mike was incredible, he sorted out my accommodation and planned a personalized, fun packed and varied two days of hiking. If you are looking for a guide who is efficient, dedicated, knowledgeable and full of enthusiasm, then Mike is your man. I have never met anyone who has so much passion for what he does and who knows so much about the history of Vancouver Island, the culture, terrain, flora and fauna. Mike instinctively tailors the intensity appropriate for one’s physical ability. He showed me amazing feats of animal engineering (magnificent beaver creeks) and taught me how to identify animal tracks, filter drinking water from the river and a few other survival tricks. If you are looking for an amazing experience, then you can’t go wrong with Mike; he is one terrific guide. Thank you Mike and I will see you again soon for our next adventure.Choi, Hong Kong
Mike was extremely knowledgeable of all aspects of his job. Our daily hikes depended on weather permitted, where we hiked and how long we hiked that day. He got to know my boy friend and I instantly, made an assessment based on our age, level of activity and interests and planned our days accordingly. I was impressed with his ability to help us achieve the goals we set out to accomplish. Thank you Mike for the incredible experience!Amy, Chicago
Mike taught us many tips for preparing for a trip (gear lists, communication, planning apps, etc) and I think all participants left the weekend knowing that the pre-trip preparation is quite likely one of the most important aspects of leading a trip.Alois, Victoria
Thank you for leading such a great course today. We really enjoyed ourselves and got a lot out of it. We’d both be very interested in an advanced version to build on these new skills.Silas and Irini, Nanaimo
Mike was a very personable expert who had all the bases taken care of and his attention to detail always provided us with fabulous results!Peter and Shiela, Calgary
Family Of Partners
We appreciate the support from our extended family of partners.
- Air Nootka
- Alpine Club of Canada – Vancouver Island Section
- Ambassador Transportation
- Association of Canadian Mountain Guides
- BC Parks
- Cape Scott Water Taxi
- Comox District Mountaineering Club
- Della Falls Water Taxi
- Gaia GPS
- Get West Adventures – MV Uchuck III
- Hello BC
- Island Mountain Ramblers
- Mountain Equipment Co-op
- Nomad Nutrition
- North Coast Trail Backpackers
- North Coast Trail Shuttle
- Parks Canada
- Slipstream Wilderness First Aid
- Strathcona Wilderness Institute
- Take a Hike Vancouver Island
- West Coast Trail Express
- Wild Isle Publishing
Frequently Asked Questions
Beautiful scenery, incredible wildlife, and a life-changing adventure are guaranteed. In the weeks leading up to the trip, you will receive personalized coaching. We will help prepare you for the best possible experience. On the trail, you can expect to learn a variety of hiking, backpacking, and camping skills. All of our trips are rich in experiential learning. We encourage and empower our guests to become a part of the adventure. You will experience your trip the way an outdoor professional does.
Our ideal guest is someone who has a sense of adventure, enjoys being in nature, and is eager to learn new outdoor skills. We love it when guests return for successive trips to learn in new zones and more challenging terrain. In 2019, we have our fourth year alumni participating!
Our groups have a maximum of seven participants per trip.
Smaller groups make less impact on the delicate natural environments we hike in. Trip costs are lower because we don’t have to hire assistant guides. Fewer people also means that each guest receives more of the guide’s time and attention. Our days flow smoother and safer with less delays, variables, or interruptions.
Our company is small and has been growing slowly. Organic word-of-mouth and grassroots sharing feels good. We are proud to do all web design, web development, writing, and photography ourselves. A professional designer helped to create our logo and business cards, but we do everything else. We continue to learn and evolve through this process, which is personally rewarding and enjoyable.
Select your guided trip or workshop. Select your dates. Check availability. Select number of spots. Add to cart. View cart or checkout. Apply coupon codes. Enter billing details. Check your order. Choose your payment method. Read and agree to the terms and conditions. Place your order.
Once we receive your order, we will process the reservation and send you a written notice with a link to our online registration form. Once your registration is received and reviewed, MB Guiding will confirm your reservation via e-mail and include confirmation materials with important information relating to your selected program.
Our goal is to build strong teams and make sure all participants have satisfactorily completed any prerequisites, if required. MB Guiding reserves the right to deny participation to any participant until reviewing their registration.
If you are denied participation for any reason, and there is no resolution, we will return your deposit in full.
Cancellations must be made in writing and sent via email. Cancellations made at least 120 days before trip departure date, receive a 100% refund, less the deposit. Cancellations made at least 60 days before trip departure date, receive a 50% refund, less the deposit. There are no refunds for cancellations made less than 60 days before trip departure date, or after the trip has begun. Due to the nature of operating in remote areas, MB Guiding reserves the right to reschedule any trip if environmental conditions are deemed unsafe. MB Guiding will make every effort to offer acceptable alternatives. Deposits and non-refunded amounts will be combined and held as a lifetime deposit by MB Guiding. Lifetime deposits may be applied towards any future trip with MB Guiding. Lifetime deposits are transferable to other guests. Trip cancellation insurance is recommended.
Mike has Commercial Park Use Permits for BC Parks Strathcona and Cape Scott since 2011. A new addition in 2016 is a Parks Canada Business Licence for the West Coast Trail and Long Beach Units of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. Through the ACMG, Mike has access to ACMG Park Permits for Banff, Glacier, Kootenay, Jasper, Revelstoke, Waterton, and Yoho National Parks. He also has special permission to guide the Nootka Trail, which is on BC Crown land.
As a certified ACMG Hiking Guide, Mike carries Comprehensive General Liability Insurance as directed in ACMG standard of practice and mandated by the Crown, BC Parks, and Parks Canada.
We recommend that all our guests have Travel Medical Insurance and Trip Cancellation Insurance.
Difficulty ratings for hiking and backpacking trails are traditionally hard to define. Everyone has a unique level of personal fitness and mental fortitude and will perceive challenges subjectively. Good physical conditioning in one sport doesn’t always translate to backpacking. Also, if someone has a past history of backpacking, but hasn’t done that activity in a long time, they are essentially a beginner again. Check out our trip reports to get a feel for the daily distances and unique challenges of each trip. For example, the physical difficulties of the popular West Coast Trail should not be underestimated. The southeast portion of the trail includes many steep ladder-systems that will affect hikers in different ways. If the weather is wet, mud will be an obstacle on the coastal hikes, making travel slow and difficult. Mountain trips sometimes involve intense sun exposure and considerable elevation gain and drops. All of our trips involve carrying your own backpack for 8 – 10 hours a day over challenging terrain.
To enhance your wilderness experience, your body needs to be in shape for backpacking. The more conditioned your body is, the more energy you will have for enjoyment and learning.
Hiking is essentially walking! The best way to train is to go on as many walks, day-hikes, or shorter backpacking trips as possible. Practice putting all your gear in your pack and carrying it around. The more you make hiking a part of your lifestyle, the more enjoyable your backpacking adventure will be. Even urban hiking on city sidewalks will help with physical conditioning if you can’t get to trails all the time. Seek soft ground and natural terrain when you can (e.g. local parks, hills, or beaches). Strength training is helpful for overall conditioning and muscular endurance. Always check with you doctor before embarking on a new training program.
That depends. Our goal is to get our packs as light as possible; however, everyone carries their own personal gear plus some group gear. Mike is strong but he can’t carry everything! In pre-trip planning, we will share lightweight gear recommendations and backpacking tips. We’ve noticed that the four outdated (and therefore big and heavy) pieces of equipment people often bring include the backpack, tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad. We recommend investing in lighter packs and sleep systems. On the trip, we will teach you how to use your gear more efficiently. Check out our trip reports to see what gear we have experimented with. We are constantly looking for ways to lighten our own packs and increase efficiency. Lighter packs = more enjoyment for everyone!
We provide all of the group gear and safety equipment. Each guest brings their own personal backpacking equipment. We will instruct you on how to choose proper gear for the trip.
During the pre-trip planning phase, we will instruct you on what gear to bring for your specific trip. Check out our trip reports for gear lists of what we packed on each trip.
Some of the group gear will be split among all of the guests. Typically, each guest will add one extra piece of gear to their pack (e.g. stove, tarp, rope).
For breakfasts we share homemade granola, oatmeal, or couscous porridge. Coffee, tea, and powdered drinks are available. For dinners we provide homemade dehydrated food such as delicious soups, stews, and curries. We find that dehydrated food is the lightest to carry and easiest to manage at camp. All we do is add boiling water to a bowl of food, cover for several minutes, and eat! Sometimes we prepare more traditional meals at camp, like a curry with rice or burritos. All meals are vegan and made with organic ingredients where possible.
Our goal is to inspire our guests to try new things and show them how delicious, fun, and easy an outdoor vegan lifestyle can be. Our intention is not to convert people. You don’t have to be vegan to join our trips. In fact, most of our guests have been omnivores. Guests bring their own personal day snacks. Bringing your own snacks without restrictions allows experimenting with our food while not missing yours. Our nutritious and satisfying vegan breakfasts and dinners have pleasantly surprised even our most skeptical guests. Dehydrated vegan meals are also ideal for long backpacking trips from a food safety and lightweight standpoint. The menus are balanced to match hiking intensity. We love to answer questions and share what we have learned. Lara has been vegan for 17 years and Mike for 5 years. We invite you to be curious, open-minded, and try something new during your wilderness adventure with us.
We have discovered that our guests enjoy bringing along their favourite snack foods for day-time. We don’t typically stop for a traditional lunch event. Instead we take several breaks throughout the day where people can snack as they please. Everyone is different with appetite, endurance, calorie requirements, and preferences. For example, some people prefer sugary snacks while others like salty things.
Yes. Each person carries their own water. Typically, fresh water is readily available along all the trails we hike. We always perform an environmental assessment pre-trip to anticipate any water problems. On trips, we carry a one litre soft bottle each and recommend that guests do the same. Some people choose to carry more water than one litre.
We definitely recommend water purification on all of our trips to reduce the chance of waterborne illnesses. We always carry tablets for treating personal water in one litre bottles. For camp, we bring a large volume gravity filtration system.
Yes. Each person carries their own personal snacks for the trip plus their own breakfasts and dinners (provided by us).
With dehydrated meals, “cooking” is a simple process of distributing dried food into personal bowls, boiling water, adding water to the bowl, and waiting a few minutes for the food to rehydrate. We use a small stove to boil the water because fires are either illegal or impractical. The little stove really is a great system for the backcountry as it involves minimal mess and less food smells. Some guests love to help by getting the water going. Typically, delicious meals come together very quickly.
Yes. Everyone takes care of their own cups, bowls, and utensils. We teach the best leave-no-trace practices so everyone learns the most efficient methods of clean-up.
All of the food we create and share is vegan. Please let us know about any food allergies or preferences and we will do our very best to accommodate you.
Depending on the trip, we will camp in either designated backcountry sites or primitive wilderness sites that impact the environment the least. Designated sites sometimes have wooden tent platforms. Primitive sites will be on durable surfaces. On coastal trips, we often camp right on the sandy beach.
Yes. Everybody sets up their own shelter, sleep system, and manages their own gear. We will share our ideas around efficient camp set up and gear management.
Mike knows a great deal about Vancouver Island and the creatures who live there. We sometimes bring along a local nature book, plus we have apps on our devices to help. If there is something Mike doesn’t know, he will look it up so everyone learns together.
We do environmental assessments together in the weeks leading up to the trip. Summertime on Vancouver Island usually has mild temperatures; however, we need to be prepared for unexpected changes. Everyone must bring the appropriate gear for the conditions we may encounter.
Normally we get up around 0600h to get water and coffee going. After we break camp, we typically hit the trail at 0800h for a full day of hiking (usually 8 – 10 hours). Over the day we take several breaks in beautiful spots for rest, hydration, and snacks. When we arrive at camp for the night, everyone sets up their tent and gets ready for dinner. After dinner it is time to rest, wash, read, or watch the stars.
Campfires are illegal in Strathcona Provincial Park. Campfires are sometimes allowed in designated areas on the coastal trips. Leave-no-trace principles are always in effect.
Some designated backcountry campsites have parks-maintained outhouses. Other routes with primitive wilderness sites require that we go to the bathroom in the great outdoors. We will instruct our guests on leave-no-trace principles in these areas.
Check out our trip reports for detailed conditions and photos.
The trip will run rain or shine. We only reschedule a trip if environmental conditions are deemed unsafe.
Possibly. We insist that all our guests bring appropriate outerwear. We have tarps that we set up at camp to create a common sheltered area.
Yes. We will stay clean using natural bodies of water, such as the ocean, waterfalls, or mountain lakes. Some bodies of water or creeks are water sources for backcountry campers…those are not appropriate for bathing. Bring a small washcloth and towel and we will show you the best spots to clean up along the way.
One of the great things about Vancouver Island is viewing these incredible animals. We follow professional best practices to keep everyone safe. We will instruct our guests on wildlife etiquette.