Frequently Asked Questions

Joining a Challenge

Who can participate on a TSX Challenge experience?

You have what it takes to succeed! We started TSX to enable people of all backgrounds, skill sets and experience levels to reach goals they may have never thought possible. While some basic level of physical fitness is required, participants range from grade-schoolers to grandparents, and mothers to marines. We firmly believe you can do this, once you commit to succeed. Check out our team pictures for inspiration!

I’ve never backpacked before, can I still participate?

Absolutely. TSX makes it easy for people new to backpacking to experience some of the most remote, least traveled regions of the Sierra, Grand Canyon and beyond. We provide all major gear to those who need it at no additional cost and take care of all group gear, logistics, permits, etc. For roughly one-third of our participants, a TSX Challenge is their first ever overnight backpacking experience.

Do you have beginner treks?

Beginners are welcome on all of our treks – if you have the will, we’ll show you the way. TSX was created to inspire and change the lives of others. We do this by making it really simple for people of all ages, shapes and experience levels to accomplish something really difficult. That being said, we have a few trips categorized as beginner friendly backpacking trips if you’re not sure where to start. Backpacking our routes has had an incredibly positive impact on our lives, and the lives of those we’ve touched. We hope it can have a similar impact on you, your friends and family, and provide inspiration that can last a lifetime.

Which trek is the easiest?

We believe great experiences are earned. Each trek (Challenge) is designed to deliver a unique, incredibly satisfying sense of accomplishment. Spending a week on our routes traversing remote, uneven terrain, with your food, shelter and clothing strapped to your back, under uncertain weather conditions, and completely off the grid can make even a beginner friendly backpacking trip an incredible physical, mental and emotional challenge. No matter your experience or physical condition, you’ll have moments when you need to “dig deep.” But that’s kind of why we go out there, isn’t it?

How is this a team experience?

Individuals, couples, families and friends are all welcome to join our experiences. However making it through each Challenge is a team effort. No one gets left behind. Positive encouragement and supporting each other with a team mentality is how we roll! Watch our 10-minute Thorns & Roses short video to see a team in action!

Gear and food

How do I know I’m bringing the right gear?

After registering for a TSX experience, download our official backpacking gear checklists with recommended items for your trek location. The evening before you hit the trail, your guides will walk you through a “pack-check” to make sure you have the basics and help with any adjustments. This is our opportunity to help you lighten up your pack so you have the best experience possible.

What’s involved with a pack-check?

At the pack-check your guides will literally pull everything out of your pack to ensure you have all that you need, and more importantly, they will work with you to lighten up your pack. If you’ll be using a TSX provided pack, bring your items in a duffel bag; we will size you up and fit you at that time. Pack-checks should take no more than 10 minutes.

What about backpack, sleeping bags, sleeping pads and tents?

If you’ve indicated you’ll need a backpack, sleeping bag or tent on your registration form, it will be provided to you. Your gear will be waiting for you at the trailhead. If you’ll be bringing your own backpack, sleeping bag or tent, please bring it with you to the pack-check. Final gear arrangements will be confirmed at your pack-check.

Can I bring my own gear?

Yes. You’re welcome to bring your own gear like tent, sleeping bag and backpack. We simply offer these gear items to make it easy for new backpackers to join us in the back country. When you complete your personal questionnaire, please describe the gear you plan on bringing. At the pack-check before your hike, we’ll review the gear together to make sure it will work. Please note backpacks should be 60 liter capacity or greater, sleeping bags should be rated at least 30°F and tent weight should ideally be less than than 3lbs per person.

Do I need to bring my own stoves, pots, water pumps, bear can or food?

No. Please leave that gear at home. We have all group gear and food covered. Please refer to your gear checklist for personal items you’ll need to bring.

What about snacks?

At the trailhead, each hiker will receive a personalized snack bag (energy bars, trail mix, dried fruit etc.). These are yours to keep and ration while on the trip. If you want to bring a few of your favorite snacks from home to mix, match, trade or swap out that is ok – however, don’t go overboard! All together, we plan for 2-3 snacks per day.

Will there be coffee on the trail?

Yes, we will have hot water and Starbucks Via coffee available each morning. If you are a two-or-more-cups-a-day coffee drinker, please bring additional packets from home. An assortment of caffeinated and herbal tea, hot chocolate and spiced cider will also be available most mornings.

Do you accommodate special diets?

We do our best! We’ve become pretty skilled at managing around certain food allergies, vegetarian diets, and a few others. If you have a specific concern, please contact us directly to discuss your requirement.

What is the average weight each person will be carrying?

You can expect your fully-loaded pack to start out between 30-40 lbs, including group food, fuel and your personal water. For youth, we try and keep packs closer to 20-25 lbs. Your pack will naturally get lighter each day.

I want to bring some items that are not on the gear checklist, is that cool?

What we generally say is if there is one “luxury” item you really want to take, bring it. But please limit it to one. Every ounce really, really counts. If you’re a novice backpacker, you won’t realize your mistake of over packing until the end of day one. And by then you’ll be wishing you left the – 3lb tripod, extra clothes, sun umbrella, bulging first aid kit, full stick of deodorant, War and Peace novel (unless it doubles as toilet paper) – at home.

On the trail

How do meals and cooking work while on the trail?

Your guides will be responsible for preparing breakfast, lunch and dinner. However, cooking is a great social activity; your participation, help and curiosity are always welcome.

It says everyone goes at their own pace, how does that work out?

We usually have a guide at the front and the back of the group for support and safety. With everyone hiking at their own pace, there can be 30+ minutes from front to back on any given stretch. There are scheduled stops / break points throughout the day, and those who are at the front take longer breaks than those at the back. Once we start the trail however, making it to the end is a group effort. Nobody gets left behind.

How far will we hike each day?

Most days are full hiking days – on the trail by 8am, at camp between 3-5pm, with plenty of breaks in between. Depending on the group pace, trail conditions, permit allocation, etc. some days could be as short as 5-6 miles, while others could be 12-14 miles.

What is the elevation change each day?

Elevation change can range from about 1000 to 4000 feet (up or down), depending on the day.

What is the temperature at night and during the day likely to be?

Temperature can vary widely. If you follow the items outlined on our gear checklist, you should be well prepared for all situations. Generally, you can expect 60-90’s during the day and mildly cold to freezing evenings. However, it can be hotter, and it can be colder.

Are there any communications with home while on the trail?

Not in the traditional sense. If you’d like to bring your phone, OK with us, they are great for pictures! However, there is zero reception for 99% of the trip. We will however be using a GPS messaging device. If you’d like to keep family and friends abreast of your progress, please have them join our Facebook or Instagram page for periodic updates and team pictures.

Will we be able to fish?

Yes! You’re welcome to bring a pole, light tackle and your license.

What hashtags should we use to share our experiences on social media?

Tag us with #tsxchallenge. Thanks for sharing!