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Frequently Asked Questions

  • What's included?

    SYMG is a full service outfitter and we pride ourselves on taking care of the details for you. The list below highlights what can be expected on all of our backcountry trips*. Past that, some trips also include additional services such as lodging, transportation, and stock-support.

    • Professional Guides
    • All meals while in the backcountry, including snacks*
    • Personal gear that you may require (backpack, tent, sleeping bag, pad)
    • Eatingware
    • Group camp gear including water filters, stoves, first aid kit, etc
    • Applicable permits
    • Friendly office staff for any pre-trip details or questions 800-231-4575/
    • Pre-departure information specific to your trip, including packing lists

    *Please note that we do not provide food for single-day trips.

  • What gear should I bring and what do you provide?

    When you book onto one of our trips, we will send you a full pre-trip package. Included in that will be a gear and clothing list specific to your trip, with example suggestions. If you own your own backpack, tent, sleeping bag and pad, we encourage you to bring it for fit and familiarity. However, SYMG can also provide state of the art gear free of charge at your request. We also provide all stoves, cooking and eating-ware, water filters, etc.

  • What's a typical day like on a backcountry trip?

    Typically, the guides get up and get hot water going for strong coffee/morning drinks around 6:30. You can begin packing your personal clothing and gear. We’ll have breakfast, finish up camp breakdown and hit the trail around 8-9am depending on the day’s mileage. We stop as a group for snack and lunch breaks. We hit camp in the later afternoon (again, dependent on mileage). After setting up camp, you’ll have time to relax, swim, fish or wash clothes before dinner, prepared by the guides. Each trip is different and some have more "down time" than others.

  • What are my duties while on a backcountry trip?

    We take pride in our efforts as a full service outfitter. As our guest, you are only responsible for setting up and taking down your own tent, packing your personal gear, and filtering your own water. Of course, our guides are always available to assist. Other camp chores such as cooking, cleaning, hauling water, packing up/down of camp, etc are left to the guides, leaving you to relax and enjoy the backcountry.

  • How fit and/or experienced do I need to be?

    We offer a variety of trips and can suit the needs of any ability level. During the booking process, it is common to have a conversation with our office staff to make sure that you are joining the trip that is best for you. Our office staff are all current and former guides and have lead all the trips in our catalog.

  • What's the best training for a mountain trip?

    The best training for hiking is hiking, so get out and have some fun, preferably on hilly terrain. Past that, think about striking a balance between cardio and strength training. Cycling and swimming are fantastic. Gym workouts focusing on your leg muscles are great, as is training on stadium bleachers for those in flat areas. Daily stretching with Pilates or Yoga is also wonderful training when used in conjunction with the above.

  • What about acclimatization?

    Our itineraries generally reflect the acclimatization process for trips at higher elevations. Increasing your cardio training is the best thing you can do on your own to help expedite this process. On trips over 9,000 ft, it is not uncommon to feel mild symptoms of altitude effects (AMS) such as loss of appetite, lethargy, trouble sleeping, or headache. Typically, these symptoms disappear after the first or second night.

  • What do the different difficulty ratings mean?

    Difficulty descriptions are by nature very subjective. The categories below represent generalized distinctions in terrain, level of commitment, time spent at elevation and overall trip duration. Level of commitment refers to the ability to opt out of activities such as peak ascents from a base camp. A committing trip requires a daily mileage to be completed each day.

    These trips typically travel on groomed trails at a leisurely pace. You can expect maintained trails, gentle grades and more flexibility in terms of your destination for the day. Hikers will carry mainly the essentials in a light daypack and travel anywhere from 3 to 8 miles depending on the trip or preference.

    Moderate- Basecamps
    These include hiking, backpacking, or stock-supported trips that take place mostly on maintained trails to get to camp. These trips hike into a set basecamp and then offer optional destinations with varying degrees of challenge. You can expect modest climbs on uneven terrain. Total distances are often 4-7 miles of hiking per day over 3-4 days of hiking.

    These trips include on- and off-trail hiking or backpacking or stock-supported trips. The trails can consist of uneven terrain with modest to difficult climbs and some steep passes (gains of 1000-2000’). These trips are typically 3-5 days in duration but can be longer. For backpacking trips, they can include carrying a fully weighted pack (30-42lbs) and travel 6-10 miles per day.

    These trips include on- and off-trail hiking, backpacking or stock-supported trips with uneven terrain and steep grades and passes. These trips are more physically and mentally challenging and usually 7-8 days in duration. For backpacking trips, pack weight will consist of (30-40lbs). Because these types of trips have a required mileage to complete each day, the level of commitment is high. Trips in this category spend significant time at higher elevations and often cover 8-12+ miles per day with average gains/losses of 1,500-3,000’ per day. The most successful people on these trips have some prior overnight backcountry experience.

    These trips include on- and off-trail hiking or backpacking on uneven terrain with steep grades. These trips travel 10-12+ miles per day and can vary from 8-21 days in length. Given the mileage and duration, there is an increased amount of physical and mental challenge throughout the trip. Pack weights will consist of 35-45lbs depending on the resupply schedule. Because these types of trips have a required mileage to complete each day, the level of commitment to reach your destination is high. The most successful people on these trips have extensive overnight backcountry experience.

  • How are varying hiking speeds handled?

    On the trail, each group has its own dynamic and pace. Every group has folks who are faster, and folks who are slower. The guides excel at pacing the group appropriately, taking into account the ability of all participants. Typically, the group behaves sort of like an accordion. That is, there’s room to spread out and get into your own hiking groove. The guide, who is always in the lead (and 1 as a sweep on fuller trips), will periodically bring the group back together at trail intersections, tricky spots, or to point out something interesting.

  • What can I expect from my guide?

    Our professional mountain guides are there to facilitate a seamless and memorable trip for you. All guides are trained in wilderness medicine at the professional level and are experienced backcountry folks. Each guide has his/her own specialties, often associated with advanced coursework or certifications. They are well versed in the natural and cultural history of the area, cook excellent food, and are fun, personable people to spend time with.

  • Who will my guide will be? Can I speak with him/her before my trip?

    Guide assignments are often scheduled in advance and you can ask our office staff who will be leading your trip. However, guide assignments are subject to change, and often do given the dynamic nature of our industry. In most cases, you will not hear from the guide in advance as they work primarily in the backcountry and are out of cell and e-mail range. Our office staff is happy to assist with trip related questions, which keeps information accurate and avoids any frustrating communication issues.
    Read more about our Guiding Staff.

  • Gratuities for guides?

    Tipping is customary and our guides depend on them. We recommend 10-20% of the total trip cost for a job well done. This is a total amount, not per guide. Cash or a check given directly to the guide(s) is the best method. For trips with multiple guides, the gratuity will typically be split down the middle or, in rare cases in proportion to workload. Tipping to the lead guide is preferred.

    For trips with stock-support, it is also customary to tip the packer. For basecamp trips where your gear is dropped off at camp and then picked up later, a tip of $10-20 per participant is recommended. For traveling trips where the packer is moving camp each day and caring for the mules, 3% of the trip cost is customary. Tips can be given directly to the packer, or passed on through the trip leader.

  • Can I join a group trip as a solo traveler?

    Of Course! Solo travelers are welcomed on any of our scheduled group trips. Joining a trip as a solo traveler can be a great way to meet other like-minded individuals and to create lasting friendships.

    Some of our trips have multiple tiered pricing which is based on the total number of registered participants when your final payment is made, irrelevant of whether you join the trip as a solo traveler or with your friends or family members.

  • What is a single supplement and who does it apply to?

    The prices of our trips are based on double occupancy at accommodations included in your trip (hotels, lodges, and tent cabins). If you would like to request a room to yourself, we require a “requested single supplement” fee. Fees vary for each trip and are listed under the pricing on the specific trip itinerary page. Single supplements do not apply to tents while on the trail. All single travelers will receive their own tent if you are borrowing one from SYMG.

    If you are traveling alone and wish to share accommodation we will assign a roommate of the same gender to share your room. Occasionally, due to the demographic make up of your trip, there is no one able to share your room. In this instance you are required to pay a “forced single supplement”. For additional questions regarding single supplements please contact us at or 1-800-231-4575 and we would be happy to help you.

  • Can I bring my children on a trip?

    Yes. Children 16 and over are welcome to join any of our regular departures when accompanied by a parent. Some departures are also appropriate for 12 years and older such as our stock-supported basecamp trips, hiking weekends, and rock climbing trips, again when accompanied by a parent. We also sometimes make exceptions for children who have had prior experience and success on the type of trip you are interested in joining. Past that, we’ve found it best for families with younger children to create a private trip for just the family which we are happy to do. This way the entire trip can be catered to your own interests and abilities, and having a private guide will give lots of flexibility for the younger kids, meaning more fun for everyone. Feel free to contact us to discuss your family’s interests and we can help you plan a memorable adventure here in the Yosemite area. 800-231-4575

  • What's the best airport?

    There are several possibilities, depending on your itinerary. When you book a trip with us, we give arrival directions, which have the most convenient airports noted. Generally, here are some thoughts: For those who are including visits to the coast on their trip, it makes more sense to fly in and out of San Francisco/Oakhurst/San Jose, as it is generally cheaper. For those just visiting the Yosemite area, Fresno is best. Although the ticket is typically a bit more expensive than San Francisco, it saves half a day’s driving on either end of the trip, plus gas, etc. Fresno is also best for most of our trips along the John Muir Trail, Yosemite Grand Traverse, and Ansel Adams Wilderness departures. LA or Reno could work for trips originating on the eastern slope.

  • What communications should I expect prior to my trip?

    The process goes typically like this: Once you reserve a trip you will hear confirmation from our office that we have received your registration form and credit card for deposit (or full payment). We will then send you over e-mail a detailed trip packet. Our office will contact you via e-mail at about 60 days prior for final trip payments which will be due and again at about 2 weeks prior to your trip to check in with any final trip details. Of course please feel free to call our office anytime for any questions. 1-800-231-4575.

  • Payments and Cancelations?

    Generally a non-refundable deposit is due at the time of booking in order to secure your spot on our trips. Final balances are due at either 60 or 90 days prior to the trip date, depending on your trip (23-day JMT and International trips are 90 days). For the complete payment and cancellation schedule, please refer to our Terms and Conditions.

  • Weather?

    Mountain weather prevails, even here in sunny California. During the high season, daytime mountain temperatures reach into the 70s-80s F and nights can get into the 30s-40s F. Rain or snow showers can happen any afternoon in the summer, although proper multi-day storm systems are rare. Each part of the season has different historical characteristics. Here’s a link to our favorite up to date local weather high country point-forecast.

  • Will my trip be cancelled due to weather, trail conditions, fires or other unforseen circumstances?

    We know you've been looking forward to your trip and so are we. Some weather is expected in the mountains and with the aid of our recommended gear list you’ll have everything you need to be comfortable and have fun. Occasionally there are environmental factors that cause access issues beyond our control that warrant rerouting (nearby fires, snow-pack issues that affect the mules on stock supported trips, government trail closures, etc). In this case, we will plan an alternative itinerary in the spirit of the original and give you as much notice as possible. We do not give refunds for natural disasters including forest fires. We highly recommend Trip Cancellation Insurance to protect your trip cost investment. For rock-climbing day trips, we will cancel in the case of rain, snow, or lightning, as this is a safety concern. We will do our best to reschedule as conditions improve.

  • Will my trip be cancelled due to low participation?

    It is uncommon that our trips do not reach the minimum number of participants, but it does happen on occasion. Even more uncommon is SYMG staff not being able to find a practical alternative option. We will notify you when final deposits are due if the minimum has not yet been met and we can discuss alternative options then. However, last minute sign-ups are common to many of our departures and we will not fully cancel a trip outside of 30 days. Ultimately, if SYMG cancels the trip due to low participation, a full refund is always an option. If you prefer, we will also work with you to find an alternative solution that you are happy with. In the past, guests have opted to join a different trip in the same time frame, transferred their trip cost to a future trip, or even split the cost of a small group surcharge to make the original trip happen.

  • How are First Aid/Emergencies handled?

    All of our guides are trained in wilderness medicine at the professional level. Each guide carries a large first aid kit appropriate to the trip. Cell phones are carried all the time, and on more remote trips a SPOT device or Satellite phone may be brought. There is no “typical” emergency situation, and actual procedures depend on location, type of injury, and resources available. Office staff can always be reached after hours in the event of an emergency.

  • Evacuation/Departure from a trip?

    An evacuation is defined as anytime you need to come off the trip before the scheduled exit. In these cases, your guide(s) and our office experts will devise the best plan for a safe and efficient extraction from the backcountry, all dependent on your location, specific situation, and available resources. You can also count on SYMG to arrange any logistics that you may need in the front country once you exit, including shuttling, lodging, medical care, etc. There may be costs associated with your evacuation and these costs will be your responsibility. We will of course do our very best to minimize these costs while still ensuring a safe and efficient process for you as well as for the rest of the group remaining on the trail. Shuttling, lodging, heli/medi-vac transports, staffing resources, stock-support, meals, shipping, and other needs may all be factors depending on what needs to be done to get you out efficiently and safely. Fortunately, Travel Guard trip insurance covers many of these costs, which we highly recommend.

  • Trip Insurance?

    We highly recommend trip insurance, especially for our bigger departures such as those on the John Muir Trail, Yosemite Grand Traverse, and Trans-Sierra Trail, for example. The most common reason guests need to make a claim is for missing the trip entirely due to injury/sickness prior to the trip (either to yourself or loved-one). We highly recommend our travel insurance partner TravelGuard Insurance. When we send you your confirmation packet we will be sending you instructions on how to purchase the right policy for you.

  • Can I bring my own SPOT device or Satellite phone?

    Yes, however please understand that there are many limitations of these in a backcountry setting. These devices are good for emergency use, but in the deep canyons of the high Sierra they do not get reception just anywhere. Please do not plan on reliably checking in with friends/family at pre-determined times/locations. If you do plan on bringing a SPOT, please notify the office.

  • Water treatment?

    We supply water filters on all of our trips. Although the water in the Sierra is renowned for its cleanliness, we still take precautions, so our guests always have the option of filtering. Generally, as a trip participant you are responsible for filtering your own daily water.

  • What's the food like?

    SYMG is renowned for delicious and nutritious meals in the backcountry. We take care of all menu planning, food shopping, and cooking. We use fresh ingredients, varying recipes and never freeze-dried foods. We don’t have standardized menus, but instead let the guides show off their own best dishes.

  • Dietary needs/allergies?

    We can easily accommodate most traditional dietary requests and are happy to do so. Let us know on your reservation form what we can do for you. Please keep in mind that we’re cooking in a backcountry setting and cooking for groups of up to 12 participants. We do appreciate the distinction between allergies and preferences and hope that you will appreciate that we can’t always create 12 separate meals!

  • Snacks?

    As a full-service outfitter, we take care of all menu planning and shopping, including snacks. Some guests who may prefer particular types of snacks or know themselves to be big eaters and/or snackers may want to bring something extra along, just to have it handy. Please keep in mind that there is limited space in the bear-proof containers that we use. You are also welcome to make requests when booking the trip.

  • Bears?

    Black Bears are the only bear here in Yosemite and they are quite docile. They may seek our food, but are certainly not interested in us otherwise. As a precaution, we store all of our food in bear proof cans (backpacking trips) or panniers (horse-packing trips). On most trips, you will never see a bear.

  • Toilet procedures?

    We provide everything needed for a comfortable wilderness toilet experience, including toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Certain “Leave No Trace” practices apply, and your guide will go over the proper etiquette and method as part of the camp orientation. It’s rare in the remote High Sierra to encounter any permanent structures, including restrooms.

  • Additional Questions?

    We're here to help! Please feel free to call or email our office staff at 800-231-4575 or

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