Back to School?

12:51 a.m. on July 8, 2008 (EDT)
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I keep reading in posts where people have taken classes in areas of certain backcountry skills. Where do you find these classes? I have looked for some online but I am not real sure what to type into google to get the right response. Anyway, what I am looking for are some of the entry level backpacking classes. I know REI has some however the closest REI is two hours away and it is not worth it for an hour seminar. thanks for your help

6:45 a.m. on July 8, 2008 (EDT)
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Knowledge always comes at a price. I believe that if it's worth learning, the travel is worth it too. If you think about it, you would probably travel 2 hours or more to go on a wilderness adventure, so why not do the same to prepare for it. The knowledge you gain will help you on ALL future outings as well.

I teach beginers' wilderness survival classes at CCEEC, http://www.carboneec.org but I too will be traveling 2 hours in september to attend a wilderness first aid class through Allegheny Mountain Rescue. http://www.amrg.info/ The class is being taught by CDS Outdoor School.http://www.cdsoutdoor.com/

There are lots of local outdoor education opportunities. try your local State Park for plant/mushroom ID classes. You may also try local nature centers, Boy/Girl scouts, Local emergency teams often sponsor public training classes too. Avalanche awareness training is available through you local ski patrol. I've also taken a few courses through some unexpected organizations, like adventure race companies like GOALS ARA http://www.goalsara.org/

One of the best little backpacking courses I've taken was the overnight Leave No Trace trainers course. http://www.lnt.org Not just LNT principals, but LOTS of sound backpacking advice too.

If you want specialized skills training, there's always NOLS/WMI http://www.nols.edu.

Finally, if the training is too far away, ask REI or EMS if they might be able to hold a class or two closer to your home town. I too am 2 hours or so away from either store, but EMS has Get Outdoors Days events, at state park near me, every year. Condensed Kayaking, LNT, backpacking, and camp cooking seminars, all rolled up into one day. It's good for their business because it gives them a chance to showcase their products, and the public get free entertainment ...uh, I mean education.

7:07 a.m. on July 8, 2008 (EDT)
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FYI: I got 371,000 hits when I Googled "wilderness skills training" and 86,000 with "backcountry skills training"

7:42 a.m. on July 8, 2008 (EDT)
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Depends on a couple of things - like where you live and what skills you're looking to learn/improve. The first thing on any skills list should be a first aid course - check with your local red cross chapter for those. Also high on my list would be CPR - check with the American Heart Association.
For more backcountry specifics, in addition to f_klock's solid suggestions I'd check with mountain shops, hiking clubs, university outting clubs - their classes may not be as formal (nor expensive) as the professional ones but in addition to learning skills you'll meet like minded people and may learn of some new hiking / backpacking / climbing areas that you were not aware of.

12:29 p.m. on July 8, 2008 (EDT)
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I don't recall the area you live, but as the others said, backpacking classes are good to build the skills. Lots of good suggestions there.

You might consider volunteering as a Boy Scout leader and taking the series of backpacking courses that are given by most scout councils. You do not have to have a son or nephew of your own (or daughter or niece if you volunteer with the Venturing or Explorer programs), And BSA has both male and female adult leaders these days. I have to caution you, though, that not all councils are equal in their training programs. For example, many, but not all, the councils in California offer very good to excellent High Adventure Training (HAT) courses. In the SFBay area, my home council (Pacific Skyline), San Francisco, and Diablo-Silverado have outstanding courses, while the other 5 local councils are quite good. The Sacramento council, Golden Empire, also has an excellent set of courses. Some of the Midwestern councils don't seem to offer much, perhaps because they have less extensive wilderness. Same with a number of the councils in the mid-Atlantic area, which seem to have a more urban orientation. That is not to say that there aren't good courses in those areas, just that there are fewer. So be sure to have a long talk with the Council Training Committee people before getting too locked in.

Girl Scouts (GSUSA) does not offer as much in the way of backpacking for the youth, and little in adult leader training in these areas (despite my good friend and GSUSA champion, Esther, who heavily promotes orienteering among GSUSA groups - she agrees it has been an uphill battle).

NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) has a wide range of courses. It might be far for you to travel to some of them, but they are really excellent (their Wilderness Medicine Institute, which offers some of the best Wilderness First Aid and more advanced wilderness medicine courses in the world, offers courses all over the US).

One comment on the first aid training - American Red Cross does an excellent job with their urban first aid and CPR courses. Their Wilderness First Aid course is rather skimpy on the wilderness skills compared to the WMI/NOLS courses for example (this from a friend who is a Red Cross instructor and instructor trainer - he is one of a group trying to get ARC to improve its offerings in this area). It is a lot less expensive than the certified WFA, WFR, WEMT, etc courses and may be easier to find, and it does give the basic wilderness first aid skills. But eventually, you will want to go to one of the courses certified by the professional association (5 or 6 certified training organizations at present, I think).

5:43 p.m. on July 9, 2008 (EDT)
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I was just sorting through google with the wrong set of keywords, I will try again later tonight. I am in Auburn, Alabama. The closest REI is in Atlanta which is not a fun drive. Also from my experience working for lowes I usually dont trust the larger comercial stores (I was a Window and Door certified specialist after a 2 hours class). What is the quality of the material covered at the REI classes? Worth the trip cost? Thanks for your help.

10:17 p.m. on July 9, 2008 (EDT)
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The quality of the REI classes is highly variable from store to store (as with their sales people). I am not familiar with the Atlanta store (didn't even know they had one, but since there are "hunerts and hunerts" of REIs now, I'm not surprised.

The Sierra Club has a chapter there and I believe there may be an outing club at the university. I know several faculty members there who are very much into the outdoors, canoing and kayaking in particular. There is a fair amount of rock climbing and backpacking above Ft Payne (used to go there from time to time).

10:33 p.m. on July 9, 2008 (EDT)
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For those who live around NC, there is an REI store in Pineville NC as well.

7:24 p.m. on July 10, 2008 (EDT)
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I'll wager that there's a university or two near Auburn, Alabama - once again - check for outting or outdoors clubs associated with the university - you'll be amazed at the depth of knowledge some of the young folks have - and how willing they are to share that knowledge.

9:32 p.m. on July 14, 2008 (EDT)
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ther's actually 2 REI stores in the ATL area now, at least 2. I wouldn't get my hopes too high on their instructional quality though.

To the OP, maybe try calling High Country Outfitters or get in touch with the Appalachian Trail Conference people to get better leads than what REI will offer.

There's also a store whose name escapes me at Neels Gap on the AT that used to have some very good people running it that were quite knowledgeable. Not sure about the new owners but might be worth a try.

9:44 p.m. on July 14, 2008 (EDT)
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Name of the store is Mountain Crossings. It is at the southern terminus of the AT. Good store. I had the best tasting bottle of snapple I have ever had while resting there. Not sure what I smelled like, but they didn't seem to mind.
http://www.mountaincrossings.com/index.asp?PageAction=CONTACTUS

9:16 p.m. on July 16, 2008 (EDT)
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that would be 32 miles FROM the southern terminus. anyway, been there lately? Used to be real good with the previous owners but that last time I strolled through was unimpressed with what I saw/heard. Might've been a bad day though.

thanks for helping my memory.

9:59 p.m. on July 16, 2008 (EDT)
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I stand corrected on the location, adam g is correct.
Haven't been there lately. I had over extended myself both in stamina and food when I got there, it was like finding the promised land I tell you!
I packed there from the "clingy d." (Clingmans Dome) not all at one time, but in sections. One day though........

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