Whether you’re fifty feet above the ground hanging onto a pair of crimpers, or about to crush a class V rapid in a ducky boat, the one piece of gear you should never leave home without is knowledge. There are many places to gain the educational edge, from the classroom to the back-country, and here is a quick reference to get you started on building your toolbox of information.
A good start is to obtain the basic Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation certification, also known as CPR. Visit the Red Cross website to see where and when you can take a class. Next for a true wilderness safety certification, and not just a card stating you can give the Heimlich, check out the different Wilderness First Responder courses. The two largest and most reputable organizations to offer these classes across the nation is the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), and Stonehearth Open Learning Opportunities (SOLO). From here the floodgates open and more specific certifications can be reached. Interested in rock climbing? Check out the American Mountain Guide Association (AMGA) Certification programs. How about white-water kayaking? The American Canoe Association (ACA) offers a ton of classes open to any level of experience. Whatever adventure sport your interested in, their is a professional organization one Google click away. These certifications not only let other people know you understand what your doing, but by learning from trained professionals, you will have confidence in your own hands, confidence that you do in fact know what you are doing.
Take yourself to new heights with the many skill clinics offered through community centers, outdoor facilities, and local outdoor programs. Check out the local colleges, summer camps, and outdoor retailers for information on when and where the next opportunity for advancement can be found. Take the weekend, make it a date, do whatever you need to do to get off the couch and learn some new moves from a trained professional. Ask anyone in the industry and they’ll tell you half the battle is showing up. Don’t be shy, everyone attends these clinics for the same reason; to learn something new.
This one takes the cake! Anyone can pass a few written tests or read a guide book. Where the true growth, the true progress towards betterment comes from is the miles you put into a sport. What’s the only way to get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice. And the same holds true for any adventure sport. You can hold the certifications and you can attend the skill clinics but without actual experience in the sport your striving for, little progress will be made. Get out and play, learn something new, and never stop adding to your toolbox.