TRIP DOCTOR: Is There Such a Thing as Adventure Insurance for Outdoor Pursuits?

Let's face it. Some sports are dangerous. Our Trip Doctor lays out some options for getting insured on the trail.
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Let's face it. Some sports are dangerous. Our Trip Doctor lays out some options for getting insured on the trail.

I’m climbing a peak this summer. Does anyone offer outdoor insurance in case something happens to me? How do I get it?

--Bill, Lander WY

Most insurers still haven’t wrapped their brains around outdoor sports—especially those that entail some degree of risk, like mountain climbing. Typical health insurance policies won’t cover an expensive evacuation from a wilderness setting in the event of an injury that’s immobilizing or life threatening. Unless you get travel insurance that specifically covers circumstances that could slam the door on your trip—such as weather preventing you from getting to your destination—you’ll eat the entire cost.

The best solution I’ve seen is the Adventure Travel Protection Plan from AIG/Travel Guard (travelguard.com), one of the only policies that covers climbing and hiking at altitude. The basic plan provides a menu of coverage including trip cancellation or interruption, reimbursement for costs of replacing gear if baggage is lost, and up to $25,000 for emergency medical expenses and $500,000 for emergency evacuation. There are optional additions to the coverage, too, including for cancelling your trip for any reason.

The company’s website allows you to quickly enter some basic personal information (state of residence and birth date) and trip details (departure and return dates and cost) to get a quote. When I entered that info for an upcoming five-day sea kayaking trip in Glacier Bay, Alaska, I received a quote for $73.47 for the basic coverage—not bad to insure a guided trip that costs $1,800.00.

Another option is to join the American Alpine Club (americanalpineclub.org). The basic membership of $75/year ($40 for anyone age 28 and under, $50 for age 66 and older) includes the club’s Global Rescue Service, a $5,000 rescue benefit with no restrictions on elevation that’s not limited to climbing.

I’ve taken many adventure trips without insurance, of course, and I’ll certainly take more. But when you’re talking about a very expensive trip that could be quashed by a host of circumstances beyond your control, or that presents substantial risk, an inexpensive travel-insurance policy makes a lot of sense.

—MICHAEL LANZA

Michael Lanza is Backpacker’s Northwest Editor. He’s working on a book, “Before They’re Gone,” about spending a year taking his kids to national parks threatened by climate change. See stories and images from those trips at TheBigOutside.com/