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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.

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.

Driving is the most dangerous part of any College Outdoors trip. As such, we take all possible steps to reduce road related risks.

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.

Navigation is essential. Leaders should be comfortable navigating using various (digital and analog) methods.

Soft Skills are crucial for communicating knowledge, risk management, and providing effective group management.

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.

Knot Knowledge and the ability to secure cargo on vehicles are useful, impressive, and critical for safety.

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.

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.

+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.
  1. Get cleared to drive right away and demonstrate good driving habits.
  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.  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