General FAQ

  • How long has the WBC been in existence?

    The San Diego Sierra Club WBC started in 1956 in cooperation with the City of San Diego. Eventually they separated from the city and have been running as a community service ever since.

    The North County Group WBC started in 1971.

  • What’s the difference between North County and San Diego WBC?

    There are two separate Wilderness Basics Courses to choose from, the North County WBC and the San Diego WBC. The major differences are:

    Location: North County WBC classes are held at San Pasqual High School in Escondido (near North County Fair). San Diego WBC classes are held at the Scottish Rite Event Center in Mission Valley.

    Class size: North County WBC typically allows 100 students. San Diego WBC typically allows 230. Outing weekends: outings occur on alternate weekends for San Diego and North County, to help ease the demand on local suppliers’ rental equipment.

    Start date: varies from year to year, but generally are offset by one or two weeks.

    Age Limit: North County WBC students must be 14 years old and in the 9th grade, however, a parent or legal guardian must accompany any minor to every WBC event (class, day hikes, weekend outings, reunion, etc). San Diego WBC students must be 18.

    Price: the San Diego WBC is a little more expensive because it involves some expenses that North Country WBC does not. Unfortunately, you have to choose only one. You can’t be enrolled in both courses in the same year, and you can’t substitute between them for classes or outings you’ve missed.

    To learn more about the San Diego WBC, go to

Registration FAQ

  • How (and when) can I register for the course?

    Each year registration usually opens in October or November. Use the enrollment links on our website to complete your registration and pay for the course.

  • Can I use my credit card to pay?

    Yes, we accept major credit cards for online payments.

  • Does the registration fee cover all these outings?

    The registration fee covers your participation in all of the outings except for Snow Camp which requires an additional $25 tram fee if you participate.

  • Can minors register for this class?

    The North County Group WBC accepts students who are at least 14 years old and in the 9th grade. However, minors (14-17) must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian on every WBC event (class, day hikes, weekend outings, etc).

    The San Diego WBC does not accept anyone under the age of 18 years old.

Course FAQ

  • What will I learn in this backpacking course?

    The WBC teaches a wide range of information and skills, presented by an array of outdoor-experienced guest speakers. Speakers use props, demonstrations, videos, and slide presentations to explain their subject matter. Topics include conditioning, first aid, foods and cooking, wilderness ethics, flora, weather, staying warm, packing a backpack, encounters with animals, map and compass navigation and comparisons of different types of equipment, to name a few.

  • How often do you offer the WBC?

    This course is offered once a year, starting in January for 11 weeks.

  • Can I take the course more than once?

    Yes, you may take the course as many times as you like. In fact, every year we have many repeat students who have such a wonderful time that they take the course multiple times. They repeat the course because it’s a great deal, lots of fun, and they make lasting friendships.

  • Where is the course held?

    The North County Group WBC is held in Escondido at San Pasqual High School.

  • What time does the class start?

    The course starts at 7:00 p.m. every Tuesday night and lasts until 9:30 p.m. On several class nights there are additional (optional) activities for students starting as early as 6:00 p.m. These include the WBC Swap Meet, Community Night, discussions with the WBC Leaders, Sierra Club Sections, etc. You may arrive early if you like, the doors open at 6:00 p.m. We also recommend that you come early the first night of class.

  • When do I receive my graduation certificate?

    Certificates are presented to graduates at our annual WBC Reunion weekend in the spring. If any student is unable to attend the Reunion, their WBC graduation certificate will be mailed to them after the Reunion.

  • Where can I find the Class Schedule?

    Class Schedule

Outings FAQ

  • How many outings are there?

    There is one short day hike up a local mountain and four (4) overnight camping weekend outings.

    • Desert Car Camp weekend outing
    • Desert Backpack weekend outing
    • Mountain Backpack weekend outing
    • Snow Camp/Flower Camp Backpack weekend outing
  • How many students are on each trip?

    Each outing will have a maximum of 11 students. Each outing will also have at least two leaders: a main leader and an assistant leader. Some trips may also have a second assistant and or WBC staff member. This is based on a 15-person maximum for overnight outings.

  • What if I miss one of the outings?

    If you miss one of the outings, we offer “make-up” outings on alternate weekends. These “make-up” trips are offered on a first-come basis. You must attend the make-up for the specific trip that you missed, they are not interchangeable.

    There may be no “make-up” trips for Snow Camp.

  • Can I still graduate if I miss a class or outing?

    If you miss a class or outing you will not receive your graduation certificate. However, students who were unable to complete all course requirements will be given the opportunity to complete the course the following year, subject to the following conditions:

    • If a single lecture OR outing was missed (but not both), you may complete the missed lecture or outing the next year without paying the course fee. If an outing was missed, you must also attend the class the week prior to the outing to sign up for the outing and receive information about the outing from the leader.
    • If more than one lecture or outing was missed, you must re-enroll the following year and pay the course fee. However, you only need to attend the lectures and outings that you missed.

    If you need to complete the course and you meet these requirements, please contact NCG/WBC to request arrangements for a second-year completion.

  • Can friends, family members or pets attend the outings?

    No. Only registered students, staff members and WBC leaders are allowed to participate on outings.

  • Are there any additional costs?

    In addition to the class registration fee, each student should also budget for the costs of equipment, rentals, travel expenses, and any miscellaneous costs including food, fuel, or special clothing (if they are not able to borrow from friends). Depending on how much equipment each student has and how much they still need to acquire, the amount spent could vary dramatically from student to student. A lot of students are able to find “camping” clothing or equipment at thrift stores which helps cut costs dramatically. The WBC also has 1-2 swap meets before the regularly scheduled classes where used equipment can be purchased.

    Registered students may also receive special student discounts provided by local participating merchants. In the past the following merchants have offered discounts to WBC students: Nomad Ventures and REI, however each year is different.

  • Who provides the equipment?

    Each student is responsible for providing their own equipment, food, and travel, as well as associated expenses.

    We strongly encourage all students who do not own their own equipment to either borrow or rent their equipment during class. It is better to test rented equipment for the trips and wait until after class to purchase equipment so that you will have greater knowledge of what types of equipment you will need. We also encourage students to share stoves, tents and to carpool to cut expenses. However, each student is required to wear appropriate footwear on each outing.

  • Does WBC insure each student?

    The Sierra Club, presenters of the WBC, does not provide insurance for students, staff or leaders.

    Each student is required to provide their own medical insurance. If a student is injured on any outing or in the classroom, their own medical insurance and/or medical provider needs to be contacted at the student’s cost. If a student is hurt on an outing and the leader feels the student must be evacuated or rescued, then the student is responsible for these charges also.

  • Where can I find additional hikes provided by the Sierra Club

    The Sierra Club San Diego offers a number of day hikes, car camps and backpacks led by trained Chapter Outings Leaders. Navigate to the bottom of the OUTINGS tab for details.