Made to Order

The Custom-Trip Transformation

Mar 1, 2004
Outside Magazine

The promise of Himalayan ecstasy beckons from the cover of a slick brochure. It would be the perfect trip if it didn't involve sharing a tent with a stranger. And, well, maybe if it started a few weeks later.

Fear not, picky traveler: The adventure industry hears you. Responding to a surge in the demand for custom itineraries, a growing number of outfitters now offer design-it-yourself tours. At Mountain Travel Sobek, 15 percent of the trips are custom jobs. And last year, Butterfield & Robinson assigned half a dozen staffers to its new Bespoke division, which customizes adventures for a quarter of the company's clientele. "It's part of an overall trend toward individualism," says B&R marketing director Cari Gray. The biggest factor is clients' desire to pick their own dates, she says, along with wanting to travel with family and friends. The best news is—as you'll see from the sample trips below—creating your own private outing doesn't have to come at a premium.

+ When a customer asked Olaf Malver, "chief exploratory officer" of Explorers' Corner (510-559-8099,, to design a kayak trip that follows a river from its headwaters to the ocean, Malver set his sights on Siberia. The resulting itinerary is a two-week paddle down the Zhupanova River. The 15-day adventure has been so successful, it's now a regularly scheduled group trip. The $5,100 price tag remains the same.

+ For serious road cyclists, Iron Donkey Bicycle Touring (866-255-3637, designs high-mileage itineraries on Ireland's back roads. Owner Tony Boyd, a Belfast native, just finished mapping a 29-day, 1,500-mile route that runs over emerald hills to pasture-fringed villages. Riding a section of that route in a one-week trip would cost a group of eight $690 per person, including maps, luggage transfers, and B&B accommodations.

+ Founded in 2002 by former investment banker Emmanuel Burgio, Blue Parallel (800-256-5307, offers high-end custom trips to South America. Its outdoorsy Peru, Chile, Argentina, and Brazil itineraries can be packed with private perks like after-dark tours of Machu Picchu. A weeklong jaunt runs $4,000 to $6,000 per person.

+ If you prefer high altitude to high end, sign on with the Patagonian Brothers ([email protected], Damian and Willie Benegas are identical twins and veteran mountaineers who can guide you up everything from a Patagonian icefield to Everest.