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College Outdoors

Tools for Leaders

Leader Ladder

This chart represents student leadership progression.  Any student leader must begin as a participant.  From there, you can develop into a student coordinator, assistant leader, trip specialist, trip leader, and finally a trainer.


10 + 1: Outdoor Skills

The following are a list of skills we expect our leaders to be working through.  We understand that leadership development is an evolving process; however the following are tools that will be useful to you both within College Outdoors and with any outside organization.

Professional Medical Training such as WFR, EMT, WEMT is invaluable in the field (click title for courses). The ability to perform a solid patient assessment and execute care for complaints ranging from anaphylactic shock to blisters is paramount to being a guide.
      -  WFR, EMT, WEMT, or another comparable 80hr+ medical training + CPR
      -  Certifications must be current to lead trips

Policy Articulation is vital. Rules are in place to ensure safe trips. The ability to persuade participants to voluntarily obey College Outdoors’ policies rather than imposing them is an all but required tactic.
      -  Swimming, personal floatation devices, alcohol and drugs, closed-toe shoes, cliffs, lightning, search
         & rescue
      -  Use of “Near Miss” & “Incident” reports

Driving is the most dangerous part of any College Outdoors trip. As such, we take all possible steps to reduce road related risks.
      -  Excellent safe driving practices
      -  Ability to change a flat tire
      -  Deploy flares & hazard triangles
      -  Jumpstart a dead battery
      -  Know when and how to mount snow chains
      -  Complete pre-departure vehicle checklist
      -  Maintain current fleet defense certificate 
      -  Complete a check-off run with a full-time staff member of College Outdoors

Trailer Training: complex trips demand trailers. As a result, leaders expecting to lead these trips must be able deftly maneuver in reverse in order to even leave Sequoia.
      Be able to complete the following:
      -  1 complete and continuous turn in reverse around the Corbett House Circle
      -  Do a 90 degree backing turn into the vehicle yard
      -  Complete a highway driving check-off

Navigation is essential. Leaders should be comfortable navigating using various (digital and analog) methods.
      Be able to effectively operate and use a trail GPS:
      -  Mark waypoints
      -  Enter target coordinates
      -  Create & follow breadcrumbs

      Be able to effectively use and operate map & compass:
      -  Take & follow a bearing
      -  Shoot bearing to determine location
      -  Read topographical features accurately

Interpersonal Skills are crucial for communicating knowledge, risk management, and providing effective group management.
      Attend 3 of the following College Outdoors Training Sessions:
      -  NST Staff Training
      -  How to Teach
      -  Cultural Competency / Cultural Humility
      -  Risk Management 
      -  Conflict Resolution
      -  Working with Challenging Students 
      -  Leadership Development
      -  Initiatives / Icebreakers / Group Facilitation 
      -  Interleader Communication
      -  Decision Making 

Rescue Skills change depending on the particular trip you are leading. One must be prepared to handle trip-specific risk management, as well as emergency response.
      Have the necessary skills for the trip you are leading:
      -  Avalanche awareness
      -  Swiftwater rescue
      -  Sea kayak rescues
      -  Winter rescue skills

Knot Knowledge and the ability to secure cargo on vehicles are useful, impressive, and critical for safety.
      -  Trucker hitch
      -  Bowline
      -  Figure 8
      -  Use of Cam-Straps
      -  Use of prussiks 

Environmental Education is an important component of any outdoor outing. It ties participants to the land that we visit. Leaders should take time to learn the basic geology, flora, and fauna of the area before (well, sometimes during…) each trip.
      -  Leave No Trace
      -  Orient and connect participants to the natural world using geology, area biology, etc.

Professionalism, prompt response to emails, and meticulous use of checklists is beloved at College Outdoors. It takes countless hands to get any College Outdoors trip out the door: adhere to the systems in place for efficiency, be considerate (e.g. on time) for others, and use the checklists for transparency.
      Always use/do the following:
      -  PTM Checklist
      -  Group Gear Checklist
      -  Pre-departure Checklist
      -  Golden Hour Checklist
      -  Daily Duties List
      -  Blue tape
      -  Respond to emails/voicemails/text messages promptly 

+1 skill that you just want to learn!

Skills Spreadsheet

Click above for the link.  This spreadsheet is designed to help guide you through the leader ladder gaining the skills you need to become a trip leader.  Make a copy for yourself to track your progress.

10 Tips for Climbing the Leader Ladder

The insiders guide to quickly becoming a College Outdoors trip leader (and not shooting yourself in the foot in the process).

  1. Figure out if you want to be a trip leader or not, because it is a big investment of time…however, you can still put things in motion now and decide later.  Take a moment, though, to critically think about it…WHY do you want to be a trip leader?  Understand the liability involved of being a leader.

    1. You are going to want some kind of professional development while you are in College…maybe with CO, maybe with another department.  And if it is CO, dedicate yourself knowing it will take all of your time…so embrace or run.
    2. We expect when people make a commitment that they follow through.  You could really shoot yourself in the foot if you miss a training, etc.  If we don’t perceive that we can count on you, you aren’t likely to get trips.
  1. Get cleared to drive right away and demonstrate good driving habits.  Learn how to back a trailer.
  2. Help out with New Student Trips.  If you lead an NST you will get tons of field time, on-the-job training, pre-trip training, trip and CO logistical practice.  If there is only one trip you can lead each year, it should be an NST.  It accelerates all processes of your leadership development.  And gets you involved in the greater CO community…alum, etc.
  3. Do not smoke cigarettes.  Stay out of trouble. Don’t get written up (we look at conduct records).  Be a good role-model.
  4. Show up for trainings and Open House.  Help out with trainings.
  5. Get a summer of professional experience right away…and make sure it is relevant (i.e. extended trips, backcountry, risk management, etc.)  Check out our job resources webpage.
  6. Respond to professional staff emails, texts, and voicemails right away…even if it is just to say that you need to think about it but will get back to you by such and such date.
  7. Ask professional staff and/or Roundtable what you need to do, specifically, to move up the leader ladder.  Choose whomever you find most approachable.  This could also be trip leaders.
  8. Be open to feedback.
  9. Vocalize where you want to be with College Outdoors.


Of course, if you ever have questions, do not hesitate to stop by our office in Templeton 244 or by the Sequoia Warehouse on South Campus.  You may also feel free to call (503) 768-7116 or email us at