Unexpected Benefits of Formal Outdoor Training

©istockphoto/Predrag Vuckovic

For the ama­teur outdoor-enthusiast—and even the less amateur—there’s always val­ue in receiv­ing for­mal train­ing from out­door experts. When you’re shelling out the dough to take these cours­es, there are some def­i­nite objec­tives you should look to achieve, includ­ing intro­duc­tion to a new skill, risk mit­i­ga­tion in tough ter­rain, or sur­vival and res­cue skills. But occa­sion­al­ly in for­mal train­ing cours­es, you’ll stum­ble upon these less tan­gi­ble, pleas­ant­ly sur­pris­ing benefits.

Own­er­ship and Independence
Got that always-reli­able climb­ing part­ner who knows every­thing about the out­doors? Chances are if you do, you’re inclined to let them do the heavy lift­ing when it comes to trip plan­ning, route-find­ing, and basic safe­ty. You maybe even lulled your­self into the false sense that if some­thing goes wrong, they’ll know how to han­dle it. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, though, the thing that goes wrong could very well hap­pen to them leav­ing you to fig­ure out how to pull them out of a crevasse—which may be a stretch if you’ve nev­er learned the fig­ure eight series.

After tak­ing many trips and real­iz­ing I was not con­tribut­ing as much as the knowl­edge-hold­ers on my team, I decid­ed I want­ed to own my part while in the out­doors. After tak­ing some cours­es I found that a remark­able thing hap­pens when you learn a tan­gi­ble set of skills. You walk away with a strong sense of inde­pen­dence and own­er­ship of those skills ren­der­ing you less reliant on oth­ers and capa­ble of mit­i­gat­ing or deal­ing with out­door dan­gers. Bot­tom line, invest in your learn­ing and you will feel more inde­pen­dent and use­ful in the outdoors.

A New Out­door Hobby
Most of us engage in train­ing with a spe­cif­ic activ­i­ty in mind—get your WFR so you can feel safer when back­pack­ing or learn knots so you can rock climb—but the knowl­edge sup­plied in for­mal cours­es usu­al­ly cross­es into a vari­ety of out­door activ­i­ties mean­ing they’re taught with dif­fer­ent activ­i­ties in mind.

Often cours­es require a min­i­mum skill set to par­tic­i­pate but as long as you meet that, you may get to stretch your­self into a new hobby—because you didn’t have enough already right?

Out­door Community
There’s some­thing spe­cial about a self-select­ed group of peo­ple com­ing togeth­er to broad­en their hori­zons. While you’ll find a vari­ety of skill lev­els and exper­tise in your class­mates, you’ll also find you have a great deal in com­mon and you might just score a new adven­ture bud­dy.  Out­doorsy folk espe­cial­ly are known for their approach­a­bil­i­ty and good nature, which makes out­door train­ing an ide­al oppor­tu­ni­ty to make a new friend.

So, if you’re new to an area and need a climb­ing part­ner, hik­ing bud­dy, or just some com­pa­ny, learn­ing some­thing new with new peo­ple is a great way to start a new relationship—plus you’ll both have a wealth of new skills to prac­tice. Put your­self out there a lit­tle, find each oth­er on Face­book, exchange phone num­bers, and get togeth­er over a trail run. You won’t regret the ini­tial awk­ward­ness when you forge a new friend­ship around an out­door activity.

While you won’t find these top­ics cov­ered on the syl­labus, they’re cer­tain­ly of ben­e­fit to you. Sign up for a course or two and be open to the oth­er pos­i­tives you might encounter.