Membership Ranks

Want to join us? Visit our Meetup site to become a member.

DC UL has a membership structure, as well as trip ranks, that serve as a system to allow advanced backpackers to get out on the trips they want to do and to provide a path for new people to build up skills and progress to doing longer and bigger trips. In short, we do ask you to earn your stripes with us, and we want everyone to do that, even former AT and PCT thru-hikers. But, on the other hand, by earning your stripes we just mean “Come backpacking with us!”


Applicant: When your written application is accepted, you’re given the rank of Applicant. You can attend our socials and our low mileage (LM) trips. Once an organizer has seen you hike or backpack and confirms your fitness and backpacking proficiency, you’ll be promoted to Member. Some may be promoted to Member after one trip, while others (especially those new to backpacking and still getting gear together) may have to do a few LM trips before they are promoted to Member.

Member: As a Member, you can do LM trips and MO trips. The rank of Member means you have reasonably demonstrated the following proficiencies to a DC UL trip leader:

  • Have most components needed for a complete backpacking setup (pack, tent, sleeping bag/pad, stove, etc), with maybe needing to borrow at most an item or two. Your gear doesn’t necessarily need to be UL at this point, but you are on the road to lightening up your pack.
  • Don’t need any special assistance from the trip leader, such as assistance with handling backpacking gear or help with following well marked routes.
  • Always bring along a copy of the map and are familiar with the route.
  • Can average at least 2 miles per hour during a full day of backpacking.
  • Can show good judgment about your own skills and limitations.
  • Familiarity with and use of most LNT principles.
  • Prepared to handle minor injuries to yourself such as cuts, scrapes, blisters, minor burns, insect stings, sore joints/ligaments, and minor illnesses such as headaches and upset stomachs.

Veteran: The rank of Veteran indicates that you have completed at least one MO trip with DC UL that included the equivalent of a 20 mile day and done so in good form, demonstrating the following proficiencies to a DC UL trip leader:

  • Currently have or are in the final stages of completing a backpacking setup that is mostly lightweight/UL.
  • Are proficient at handling all your backpacking gear.
  • Are physically fit enough to average around 2.5 mph for a full 20 mile day.
  • Always bring along a copy of the map, show familiarity with the route, and can find your own way along the trip route if needed.
  • Pretty much self-sufficient on the trail. You are able to hike for several hours without seeing another trip member, and could extract yourself gracefully from a trip if needed.
  • Have reviewed and are familiar with wilderness first aid techniques using materials such as those provided by the American Red Cross and are prepared to provide such assistance to both yourself and others.

Veteran Plus: This is our highest DC UL Rank. It indicates someone who has completed in good form a multiple day trip with DC UL consisting of at least three consecutive nights in the woods while averaging 15 miles or more per full day on the trail, and demonstrating to a DC UL trip leader the following proficiencies:

  • Have a backpacking setup that is sufficiently lightweight/UL.
  • Are efficient at handling all your backpacking gear, including when dealing with any (extended) inclement weather conditions that may be encountered.
  • Are physically fit enough to average around 2.5 mph over a period of several consecutive days of backpacking.
  • Could be completely self-sufficient on the trail, finishing the trip on a different schedule from the rest of the group if events conspired that way, and could extract yourself gracefully from a trip if needed, including in international settings.
  • Mentally prepared to step up and, to the best of your ability, deal with any major injury that may occur to yourself or another trip member in situations where you may be a day or more away from getting medical assistance.
  • Could basically lead an MO or VMO trip in a pinch.

Other Indicators: You might see other other numbers or symbols after someone’s rank. These are our fun ways of tracking ‘feats of strength’. For example, a number after someone’s Veteran Member tag (“Veteran Member Plus (3)”) would signifies that the person has done three consecutive 20-mile days on one of our trips. If you see a “!” after someone’s name, that indicates that the person has backpacked a 30-mile day on one of our trips. A “@” indicates that the person has backpacked a 40-mile day on one of our trips, whereas a ‘#’ indicates that the person has backpacked a 50-mile day. A “B” followed by a Roman numeral marks how many cans of beer were carried in (the record is 20!). A “*” is given to new members who’ve been on a LM trip that turned out more adventurous than advertised.

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