Someone recently asked me what the prices are for our hiking/backpacking trips. It’s a great question and one I probably need to do a better job communicating to others when we do post a trip.
For the most part our trips are free but there are potential costs. Let’s go through some details.
- Our trips are volunteer led so no cost there.
- Most trips offer carpooling as an option. In those situations we determine the round-trip distance in miles then multiply by 0.2. That calculated cost is a recommendation of what each car should split across all occupants including the driver. For example, a trip has a round-trip distance of 200 miles. 200 x 0.2 = $40. If there are 5 occupants in the car then $40 divided by 5 people would be $8 per person. This is a completely optional cost. If you don’t want to carpool you can meet us directly at the trailhead for the hike!
- Sometimes we stay at the walk-in only sites at Virginia State Parks. Those campsites have a fee. In those situations we recommend a voluntary contribution of $5 to $10 depending on how many people fit on the site and/or sign up for the trip. Again, this is a voluntary contribution. If people remember to pay us we thank them. If they forget or can’t afford it we won’t say a thing to you about it:-)
- We post our trips on Meetup where we can adjust attendee limits, share details, upload trip pictures, etc. Meetup has annual fees of about $180. We have two groups on Meetup: 1) Virginia Backpacking, and 2) Virginia Backpacking Premium (we only pay $180 total even though there are two groups). The first one is a completely free site to members. We usually post our state park trips there because we can take more people along. We’ll also post trips that may not be as well known because there will be lower demand for signing up. The second one has an annual membership fee of $11.36 a year. After transaction fees we net $10 as a group. This helps cover the annual costs for Meetup and allows us to offer nominal gift cards to trip leaders as a small token of appreciation for posting and leading a trip for others to join. This is where you’ll see really popular trips like Grayson Highlands, McAfee Knob, Dolly Sods, and Harpers Ferry.
- Finally, on special occasions we may put together a trip that has more significant costs. An example is our upcoming August trip to New Hampshire’s Presidential Range where we’ll be staying overnight at three of AMC’s full service huts. I’ve made arrangements with AMC ahead of time to reserve several spaces for our group and provided booking instructions to attendees to pay AMC directly. We’re planning to do another big trip to Zion National Park in 2020 where people will be expected to pay their own way to travel and group share any costs while there.
In summary, we’re not an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization but we very much operate like one. Our intent isn’t to make a profit but rather at least break even on our costs which include website fees and Meetup fees. I’ll go into more detail as to why we’re not a 501(c)(3) in a future post but rest assured that we try to do right by those that join us on our hikes.