Four Corners Guides Bikepacking, Packrafting & Bikerafting FAQs
Frequently Asked Questions & What to Expect on Our Multi-Sport Adventure Tours
Most cycling guide services currently offer fully-supported trips (support vehicles, shuttles to the top, etc). Our self-supported, low-impact bikepacking and packrafting trips are geared toward that subset of adventurers who prefer human-powered adventures, where they have a limited impact on the environment and a low-carbon footprint. While we will be shuttling you to and from the take out and put in points and, at times, we may shuttle food and water to resupply stations along the routes, especially during seasons when water is scarce, our goal with everything we do is, to do more adventure with less stuff. We hope you can take what you learn back to your "normal" life. We also seek to show you less crowded corners of the Four Corners region. Popular Four Corners destinations like Moab and Durango are busy. You can’t go anywhere even in the backcountry without seeing people. We cater to those of you who don’t mind suffering a bit in order to find more solitude. The terrain in the Four Corners is complicated, remote and rugged. We believe if we give you a safe, but difficult, and engaging “extraordinary experience,” we may change your life and enhance your reverence for and understanding of this landscape. If we missed any bikepacking, packrafting, or bikerafting FAQs, feel free to email us.
IMPORTANT: What skills and fitness level do I need to do a multi-day tour?
Our multi-day tours are *NOT* for people with zero experience in the backcountry. We do not prepare food for you, set up your tent, teach you how to use camping gear, or cater to your every need. Our goal with our guide service is to provide you with additional skills and tools to accentuate your already-existing backcountry skills and to help you realize you can travel with less in the backcountry (and in life). Please do not expect a standard big boat river trip with large kitchens, tons of beer, etc. Our tours are low-impact, lightweight adventures where we carry everything we need from start to finish. Our tours are not easy. They will challenge you mentally and physically. We don't want to scare you away from doing one of our tours, but we want you to be realistic about your abilities. In general, you must have basic backcountry skills and a level of fitness that allows you to:
- Bike from 10-30 miles per day; OR
- Packraft at least 6 miles of flatwater per day; OR
- Paddle up to 15 miles on a river per day; OR
- Hike 5-15 miles per day; OR
- Do a combination of all these things in one day.
If you want to do a more moderate tour, consider our more instruction-based one-day tours. You do not need to have packrafting experience to do our one-day packrafting adventures. And, you just need basic mountain biking skills to do our one-day bikerafting tours.
Do I need to sign a waiver?
Yes and no. If you sign up for a tour exclusively in either Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (including the Dirty Devil River or Lake Powell) or the Manti-La Sal National Forest, Four Corners Guides is not allowed to ask guests to sign a standard waiver. Instead, those two entities ask that our guests sign a "Visitor’s Statement of Acknowledgement of Risk." For all other tours, we require you to sign our “Acknowledgement of Risk, Waiver of Liability, & Indemnification Agreement.” If guests sign up for tours that cross into both of these territories (unlikely), you may have to sign both the Statement of Acknowledgement of Risk and our standard legal waiver.
How do I deal with my garbage?
You will carry all your garbage out, including your toilet paper, baby wipes, extra food scraps and sometimes your poop. We will recycle as much as we can post tour. We likely won’t be washing dishes, as we’re exclusively using dehydrated foods. But, if you do end up using pots or dirty your cup with oatmeal, for example, you must wash these items no less than 300 feet from any water source, using biodegradable soap, and burying the waste water at least 6 inches deep.
Do you recycle?
We aspire to run a low-waste business (with the exception of wag bags, which we will have to use at times). We currently utilize dehydrated foods in pre-packaged bags, but we are in search of a company that will provide us with bulk dehydrated food and a company that has a good solution for reusable backcountry food bags. We currently are able to recycle all packaging for energy drinks, bars, and Gus (through GU’s Terracycle program). We recycle all plastic bottles and cans that are brought on trips.
What seasons do you operate?
Typically late March through early November, weather and permitting dependent.
How often do you inspect your gear?
We inspect and maintain if necessary all our packrafts, PFDs, and paddles after each tour.
Can my kids do an overnight tour?
It totally depends on how skilled your child is in the backcountry and how much experience s/he has riding bicycles. Can she set up her own tent? Can he carry a 30-pound backpack? Can she ride at least 6 miles on a laden bicycle? Is he comfortable and uncomplaining if he sometimes get cold and wet? If your child has, for example, easily mountain biked 20+ miles in a day or done a triathlon, we'll assume she can do one of our moderate tours. However, we'll assess each child's ability after talking with his parents.
Can I use/take electronics with me?
We highly recommend that you take this opportunity to unplug and play hard. You may want to take photos, of course, but most of the places we visit will not have cell reception. Be prepared to disconnect. In case of emergencies, your guides will have an In-Reach device.
Can I bathe on multi-day tours?
Yes, but all body washing will be done with biodegradable soaps no less than 200 feet from any water source.
I found an arrowhead! May I take it?
Absolutely not. All ruins, petroglyphs and pictographs are considered by Four Corners Guides to be "do not touch or take anything" areas. You must leave all artifacts exactly where you found them. Human contact can and does degrade these artifacts, structures and paints used to make the pictographs found in these sensitive areas. All Four Corners Guides guests must sign our "Antiquities Agreement" in advance of your tour. If we catch you stealing artifacts or defacing ancient ruins, petroglyphs or pictographs, we will not hesitate to report you to the authorities, remove you from the trip (at your expense) and ban from all future FCG tours. We have a zero tolerance policy in regards to taking, stealing or defacing antiquities. There will be times, such as on our Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Park Tours, that you may be able to pick up and photograph pottery shards and other items, with permission from the Ute Mountain Ute guides.
Where does FCG have permits?
As of February 2020, we have been approved to run a packrafting tour in Colorado's Tres Rios Bureau of Land Management area, specifically the Dolores River Corridor (the Dolores Wilderness run). As well, we have permits to run bikepacking trips in Utah's Manti-La Sal National Forest and the Beef Basin/Bridger Jack area. We are very likely to soon be approved to do bikerafting and packrafting tours in Colorado's San Juan National Forest (McPhee Reservoir and the Dolores Town Run). And we are working hard to get permits to do bikerafting and packrafting tours in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, specifically on the Dirty Devil River and Lake Powell. We have our Colorado River Outfitters License, and are working on our Utah River Outfitters License.
What food/drink do you provide on your multi-day tours?
For the backcountry, we currently provide Heather's Choice dehydrated dinners, plus some of their snacks and breakfasts. We also provide organic quick oatmeal breakfasts, coffee/tea, and sugar, along with packaged snacks for lunch, such as Lara Bars, Clif Bars, HC Packaroons, potato chips, sausage, and hydration drinks. We are not permitted to prepare fresh food in the backcountry at this time. As well, we will not buy specifically-requested snacks. If you would like additional favorite snacks or treats, please bring them. We will also stop by a grocery store upon request when we shuttle to the put in to give you the opportunity to buy sandwiches or other perishable foods for yourself. We are also not permitted to supply you with alcohol in the backcountry. Please note that we do not supply any food on single-day tours. You must bring your own food.
To avoid getting sick or spreading illness, we encourage guests to regularly utilize hand sanitizer after going to the bathroom and regularly throughout the day before meals.
What do I do with my poop in the backcountry?
We follow strict principles of leaving nothing behind. When camping in group sites we will use pit toilets when provided. On all dispersed backcountry bikepacking and packrafting trips, guests must dig 6-inch deep cat holes no less than 300 feet away from any water source, campsite or trail, unless regulated otherwise, in which case approved wag bags will be used and all solid (fecal) matter will be carried out. On the river we will follow all regulations regarding human waste. I.e. we will use wag bags and hard-sided containers. No guest or guide will ever burn toilet paper or garbage. All toilet paper and hygiene products will be packed out.
What safety precautions does Four Corners Guides take to keep me safe while on tour?
All our guides have Swiftwater Safety Certification and are certified Wilderness First Responders. Head Guide Steve Fassbinder has additional swiftwater and Kayak Instruction training. Guides will always bring a comprehensive first aid kit(s), appropriate for the length of trip and number of people. We have a Comprehensive Risk Management Plan that includes an Emergency Evacuation Plan. Plus, our guides will teach you about and regularly remind you to consider the following hazards:
- Heatstroke and dehydration can easily shut down your tour and ruin your experience. We encourage you and will remind you to both bring and drink plenty of water, to eat snacks throughout the day, and to wear hats and sunscreen to minimize sun exposure. We will make plenty of water available to you, and our water sources will be scouted in advance.
- You may also experience dramatic weather events. For this reason, we require that you bring sufficient warm, synthetic or wool clothing and waterproof rain layers.
- Rattle snake bites are rare, but can happen.
- You will be traveling over rough, uneven terrain; roots, rocks and sand are inherent to biking and hiking to and from the water’s edge to camp. You must always wear helmets (and gloves season/weather dependent) while riding.
- For all packrafting and bikerafting courses, you must respect the power of both flat and running water. Strainers, rocks and swims in cold rivers can make your trip go bad quickly, as can swims in cold lakes due to powerful winds tipping boats over. You must always wear your PFD on the water, a helmet if there are rapids, and weather/season dependent, a dry or wet suit.