Frequently Asked Questions

What can I expect?
Beautiful scenery, incredible wildlife, and a physical adventure are practically guaranteed. However, your total experience will be a reflection of what you contribute to the trip. If you engage in the pre-trip planning phase, you will feel more excited and gain more rewards. The adventure doesn’t start at the trailhead, it starts many weeks before. On the trail, you can expect to learn a variety of hiking, backpacking, and camping skills. We do not guide in the typical chauffeur-style. Everyone carries their own backpack with their own equipment and pitches their own tent. You will experience the trip the way an outdoor professional does.

What do you expect from your guests?
Our ideal guest is someone who is positive, open-minded, has a sense of adventure, enjoys being in nature, and who is engaged in learning new outdoor skills. Guests who relax into the wilderness create the best space for sharing knowledge and techniques. We love it when guests return for a new trip to learn even more, in different zones and more challenging terrain.

How big are the groups?
Our groups have a maximum of seven participants per trip.

Why are your groups so small?
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.

Why haven’t I heard of MB Guiding?
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.

What is included in the cost?
ACMG Hiking Guide
Pre-trip planning and organizing logistics
Environmental conditions assessment
Lightweight gear selection and packing tips
Vegan breakfasts and dinners
Coffee, tea, hot chocolate, electrolytes
Technical and interpretive guiding
Experiential learning
Group gear (e.g. stoves, water filters, tarps)
Safety and communications equipment (e.g. first aid kits, navigational tools, satellite phone)
Emergency preparedness plan
ACMG Liability Insurance
BC Parks Commercial Parks Use Permit
Parks Canada Commercial Business License
BC Parks Backcountry Camping fees
Parks Canada West Coast Trail fees
Ditidaht/Pacheedaht First Nations fees
Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nations fees
Cape Scott Water Taxi fare
North Coast Trail Shuttle fare
Della Falls Water Taxi fare
West Coast Trail Express fare
Air Nootka fare
MV Uchuck III fare
Lots of adventure

What is not included in the cost?
Travel from point of origin to staging area
Accommodations at staging area
Personal backpacking equipment (e.g. backpacks, sleeping bags, tents, clothes, trekking poles)
Daytime snacks and lunches
Trip cancellation, travel medical, emergency evacuation insurance

What’s your cancellation policy?
Cancellations must be made in writing and sent via email. Cancellations made at least 90 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. Cancellations made at least 30 days before trip departure date, receive a 25% refund, less the deposit. There are no refunds for cancellations made less than 30 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.

Why can’t I pay online?
Once we receive your inquiry, we’ll contact you to confirm availability. Then we email you a FreshBooks invoice for a 25% deposit and the balance due. FreshBooks payments are processed online with a major credit card through our secure payment gateway. You can also pay by cheque or bank transfer (between Canadian Financial Institutions only).

Why don’t you have an automated booking engine on your website?
We don’t take payment for any trip before knowing who our guests are. We only ask for the deposit after we confirm availability and match the guest to the trip (e.g. experience, fitness, objectives).

Where are your guiding permits for?
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 group permits for Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Glacier, and Revelstoke National Parks. He also has special permission to guide the Nootka Trail, which is on BC Crown land.

What type of insurance do you have?
As a certified guide, Mike carries Commercial General Liability Insurance as directed in ACMG standard of practice and mandated by the Crown, BC Parks, and Parks Canada.

Do I need insurance?
We recommend that all guests have travel/medical insurance.

How difficult is this hike?
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.

What kind of fitness level or experience do I need?
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.

How should I train for my backpacking trip?
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.

How much weight will I have to carry?
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!

Is it okay if I’ve never hiked or backpacked before?
We do create trips for novice hikers and backpackers. Contact us directly so we can design something for you.

Do you provide any gear?
We provide group gear and safety equipment. Each guest must bring their own backpacking gear. BYOG. We will instruct you on how to choose proper gear for the trip.

What gear should I bring?
During the pre-trip planning phase, we will instruct our guests on what gear to bring for the trips. Check out our trip reports for gear lists of what we packed on each trip.

What other gear will I be carrying?
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).

What kinds of meals are served?
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.

Why do I have to bring my own lunch or snacks?
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.

Do I have to carry my own water?
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.

Do we have to purify the water?
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.

Do I need to carry my own food?
Yes. Each person carries their own personal snacks for the trip plus a portion of the group food (breakfasts and dinners).

Do I need to cook my own meals?
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.

Do I need to do my own dishes?
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.

What if I have dietary restrictions or special requests?
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.

Where will we camp?
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.

Will I be setting up my own tent?
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.

Will my guide know much about natural and cultural history?
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.

What’s the weather going to be like?
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.

What is a typical day like?
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.

Can we have a campfire?
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.

What are bathroom facilities like?
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.

What are the trail conditions?
Check out our trip reports for detailed conditions and photos.

Will the trip still run if the forecast calls for poor weather?
The trip will run rain or shine. We only reschedule a trip if environmental conditions are deemed unsafe.

Will I be uncomfortable, cold, or wet?
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.

Will I be able to bathe?
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.

Will I encounter bears, cougars, or wolves on the trail?
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.