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How to become a guide??
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Peter Sustr
(czechxpress) - F - M

Locale: Boulder
How to become a guide?? on 10/14/2009 20:40:59 MDT Print View

I am tired of my boring cubical life of doing insurance sales and want to finally start pursuing my passion showing and educating people about the outdoors.

Whats the best way to get started?

I've am a active member of the Colorado Mountain Club and have been an assistant instructor for Survival school, Winter Camping and Trekking school.

What courses do I need to take, what certifications do I need and how do i get started??

Any help would be really appreciated.

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: How to become a guide?? on 10/14/2009 23:11:57 MDT Print View

Look at job listings. Apply for jobs.

Most companies require Wilderness First Responder certification, at least to move up.

Lori P
(lori999) - F

Locale: Central Valley
re: how to become a guide on 10/14/2009 23:27:49 MDT Print View

You can apply for jobs with the forest services. There are those that require a specific type of college degree, and then there are the other ones, where you don't have to be an actual law enforcement type ranger. If you don't mind running a visitor center desk and giving interpretive walks, you can also be a backcountry ranger among other duties. There are postings (when there are jobs open) at

There's also sometimes jobs with Outward Bound - they have locations all over the country.

Edited by lori999 on 10/14/2009 23:29:09 MDT.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Guide on 10/15/2009 12:09:27 MDT Print View

You might try leading hikes for the Sierra Club. You wouldn't have to quit your day job and you could see if you enjoy it before taking the plunge. I find it to be kind of like babysitting sometimes and sort of annoying.

larry savage
(pyeyo) - F

Locale: pacific northwest
american mountain guides association on 10/15/2009 17:52:54 MDT Print View

The American Mountain Guides Association offers certification for guides,

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: How to become a guide?? on 10/15/2009 19:38:07 MDT Print View

> Whats the best way to get started?
Brain surgery.


William Puckett
(Beep) - F

Locale: Land of 11, 842 lakes
How to become a guide... on 10/15/2009 19:56:39 MDT Print View

Talk to other guides...they'll be happy to share their stories.

Peter Sustr
(czechxpress) - F - M

Locale: Boulder
guide on 10/15/2009 20:41:35 MDT Print View

thanks for the link. Is guiding not all its cracked up to be?? I've talked to a few and they have good stories and bad ones; actually horror stoires...

How did some of you get started?

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
Guide what? on 10/15/2009 20:51:01 MDT Print View

What exactly would you like to guide? And where? Like what country? And how technical?

Marketing and customer service! A lot of patience and organization.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: guide on 10/16/2009 13:29:46 MDT Print View

I don't guide professionally, just as a volunteer hike leader. I lead day hikes only. I got started because I started going on hikes and the other leaders pestered me until I said I would lead hikes, too.

Horror stories...I guess it's safe to say most horror stories we all share are similar to the kinds of horror stories customer service people share. Things like...

I had this lady come on one of my hikes. She kept sitting down every few minutes. She said she didn't know what was wrong. She could feel her heart beating and she was sweating. Uh, yeah. That's what happens when you walk up hill.

Or the one about the lady who every time she came on a hike she sprained her ankle and other people had to carry her out. We finally told her not to come on any more hikes.

Or the one about the ex-marine who came on one of our super strenuous extra long hikes. He complained all the way that there was nothing wrong with his muscles, the problem was his "wind". After many hours of "It's not my muscles, it's my wind", his girlfriend finally said, "It's not your wind! It's called cardiovascular fitness and you don't have any!" Meanwhile, an older lady with perfect hair and make-up, which she reapplied regularly, out-performed all of us.

Things like that are pretty common. Worse things can happen, though.

If you want to guide without being someone's employee, you might try looking up fitness instructor insurance to see what kind of insurance you can get.

Peter Sustr
(czechxpress) - F - M

Locale: Boulder
Guide on 10/16/2009 15:08:14 MDT Print View

Thank you all for your comments.

My goal is to introduce new people to the outdoors and teach them about the flora and the fauna, the peaks and valleys. I do not do technical stuff, I am not a mountain climber or searching high peaks. I am mostly aiming for trekking, local wilderness areas to explore and give people a view of what its all about and grow there appreciation for the outdoors.

I am looking to teach things like winter camping, year round trekking in various environments, survival techniques, identification of plants, trapping and exploration of geological and archeological areas.

I think my first step needs to be like suggested; do some volunteering of leading hikes to get a feel for it, then get Wilderness first aid training and probably do a long hike like the CDT to get some trail credit.

Are these the type of credentials you need to work for NOLS or Outward Bound? MIke C???

Has anyone made this kind of lifestyle change before? How did it work out?

Edited by czechxpress on 10/16/2009 15:09:37 MDT.

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: Guide on 10/16/2009 16:23:56 MDT Print View

If you want to work at NOLS. Go ahead and sign up for (and PAY for) their Instructor course. NOLS is a common entry point in to the field for many people, many who don't have significant other experience. OB has employment info on their website as well. You'll learn a lot more about what is required by looking at job postings.... If you're at all into the outdoors, and I can tell you are, step up to the wilderness first responder course. And if you want to be a desirable hire, consider W-EMT.

Being a strong naturalist can be a huge benefit. Typically people with those skills have at least a master's in their field. So if you're just an amature, either be really good at it, or perhaps don't focus your career around the skill.
A long hike like the CDT is definitely not required.

I've been an outdoor guide as my main employment for eight years. It wasn't a lifestyle change, it's been my only career. I'm currently unemployed, partly because of the economy, partly because I prefer not working. For many, it's what you'd guess. Fantastic, often fun and rewarding work. Low pay, no benefits, seasonal work, living in your car, etc etc.

Are you willing to relocate for work? Are you wanting a specific "field area" or are you willing to do trips in a wide geographic area? How experienced and skilled are you? How important is money to you?

Really, not much of this matters. Truth be told, due to low wages and transient lifestyle, most outdoor guiding jobs are entry level and have few requirements for hire. Better ones, perhaps in the REI/NOLS/OB category have more extensive bureaucracy/expectations and provide for a slightly more sustainable job in wilderness travel. The best, expensive, exotic locale guides typically are tops in their fields in many ways (experience, local contacts, graduate degrees, people skills, etc). There is a WIDE range though. I've met guides abroad who frankly didn't know much about guiding, nor have much outdoor experience, yet were able to pull the business aspect together well and find people to pay them.

Other low wage outdoor guiding job fields include: adaptive sports, wilderness therapy, service programs.

Edited by Found on 10/16/2009 16:26:56 MDT.

Denis Hazlewood
(redleader) - MLife

Locale: Luxury-Light Luke on the Llano Azul
Re: Guide on 10/16/2009 16:43:14 MDT Print View

In 1987 I submitted a lesson plan to the local recreation district to instruct beginning backpackers. The plan included an introduction to the commonly available gear, backpacking food preparation, back country sanitation, water treatment, permits required and, map and compass navigation.

Our schedule included: A three hour introductory lecture. A tour of local outfitters. Two day hikes of increasing difficulty. One overnight backpack trip. One two night backpack trip and. two six day backpack trips. We meet every two weeks, except for the two six day trips, which are one month apart. Typically, our program begins in mid June and runs through the last week of September.

By 1990 we had "graduated" about 20 hikers, several of whom came back - as guests - to continue hiking with us. In 1991 I expanded the program with and additional section in another nearby city, eventually teaching four sections simultaneously. 2009 was our twenty third season and we have had around 200 hikers in our program.

In the current economy enrollment has lagged, but we continue to attract a few new members each year and have a core group of alumni coming along on many trips.

My advice: Just Do It. You'll find a way.

Edited by redleader on 10/16/2009 16:47:40 MDT.

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: How to become a guide?? on 10/17/2009 16:39:04 MDT Print View

Another important question. Are you looking to guide as a full time career or a part time side job (or hobby)?

Unknown abc
(edude) - F
"How to become a guide??" on 10/17/2009 18:22:51 MDT Print View

very interesting thread, as I have been thinking about becoming a guide when I get older as well.

My question is:
What kind of certifications and credits will I need to be a wilderness backapcking instructor?


P.S., reason I want to become a wilderness instructor is because I don't want a boring cubical job all my life! lol!

Edited by edude on 10/17/2009 18:25:08 MDT.

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: "How to become a guide??" on 10/17/2009 18:52:17 MDT Print View

Again, look at job postings. They all have requirements.

The basic answer is that you typically only need Wilderness First Aid.

Peter Sustr
(czechxpress) - F - M

Locale: Boulder
How to become a guide on 10/19/2009 22:54:50 MDT Print View

Hey guys,

Thanks to all for your continued replies.

Here is a list of events or steps to make, that I've gathered from feedback from all of you and from what I've heard from others about making the transition from cubical to guide.

1. Start by taking at least a first aid class and then moving on to Wilderness First Aid.

2. Sign up for the Sierra Club or in my case the Colorado Mountain Club (CMC) and lead some trips to see if you like it and could handle something like this on a long period (1-30 day trips) repeatedly. The CMC has trip leader schools which helps or be an assistant instructor for a course you have previously taken.

3. If you still like what you have seen, NOLS has a instructor level course that will give you all that you need to be hired by MOST organizations. From what I've read and heard, pick a specialty, i.e. backpacking, mountaineering, fly fishing, etc. You can teach many but being really good at one is a great idea.

4. Understand the change of lifestyle. If you are moving from a cubical to the field, know that the pay will drastically change (lower) and you will probably relocate not just once, but, where ever the work is. Once you get experience you will be the first to get jobs in a organization but, starting out you will have to take what you can get.

5. Typically you will be gone a lot from family and friends. Developing long term relationships that are not wilderness or guiding based will be hard to maintain. You will be a one man show. It will be up to you to find work and make money. Also, your body is your career so if you get hurt, unless you have other skills, it will be difficult to make money. Side skills are important.

This is a list compiled of what I have heard from talking to guides and others who have been in or have retired from the industry. I was not trying to focus on the negative but, to put the facts out there and take the mind off of the beautiful valleys and mountain peaks that also come with it. I don't think this is a job you can waffle on, you are either in all the way or you are not.