Do you have a passion for the outdoors? Are you good at working with people? And are you able to keep your cool in stressful situations? If you answered yes to all these questions, you might just have what it takes to become an outdoor adventure guide.
We will talk you through the process of getting into the outdoor guiding industry, so you can spend the majority of your days outdoors… and get paid to do so!
What is an Outdoor Adventure Guide?
Let’s start at the beginning - what exactly is an outdoor adventure guide? By definition, an outdoor adventure guide is someone who guides and instructs outdoor activities, like hiking, rock climbing, rafting, kayaking, canyoning, skiing, caving or mountain biking.
However, it's a versatile job and comes in many different forms. Some only take on half-day jobs in their own backyard, others prefer to travel to an exotic location for a couple of months to guide an entire expedition. Some work for adventure tourism companies, others operate their own small businesses.
What Does an Outdoor Adventure Guide Do?
Some of the responsibilities of an outdoor adventure guide include:
- Planning the outdoor activities
- Assessing the risks involved, taking into account the weather and customer abilities
- Gathering the equipment and supplies needed, and ensuring that the equipment is safe
- Instructing and demonstrating for individuals or groups taking part in the activities
- Providing a positive customer interaction
- Responding to emergencies by providing first aid and taking appropriate action
- Taking care of equipment after use
- Organizing transport, food, and accommodation if necessary
- Keeping logbooks and carrying out other administrative work
How Do I Become an Outdoor Adventure Guide?
1. Pick your field and build your skills
An outdoor adventure guide is usually a specialist in a certain area. Do you gravitate towards a specific outdoor activity, like climbing, mountaineering or skiing? Focus all your energy on perfecting those skills, and become an expert in that field. Most businesses would rather hire a highly proficient rock climber that is terrible at rafting, than someone who is ‘just okay’ at both.
2. Get certified
To work in the outdoor industry, you will need some qualifications or certifications depending on the activity and environment you will be instructing. A backcountry skier needs an Avalanche Certification, a rock climber needs a Rock Leader Qualification, a rafter needs a White Water Rescue Certification, and so on. Do some research in advance and contact employers to find out what certifications you will need for your chosen field.
Aside from these activity-specific qualifications, an International Wilderness First Aid Certificate will generally come in handy as it is a requirement for most outdoor jobs. A Guiding Certification will also be a valuable asset because it shows that you have also been trained in leading groups and are able to cope with different group dynamics.
Pro-tip: The Adventure Guide Program is a great way to gain industry-recognized certifications in both hiking and rock climbing, aswell as a Wilderness First Aid Certificate, while travelling to some epic locations!
3. Gain knowledge
Don’t limit your knowledge to your chosen discipline. Customers tend to rate their outdoor experience higher if a guide is able to talk about the area in which he or she is guiding, so learn a bit about the local fauna and flora, history and geology. Especially if you intend to guide in a specific national park, it will pay off to do some research and get to know the landscape better. Local tourism companies will be impressed if you apply for them with this wealth of knowledge!
4. Get experience
Like in any type of job, hiring managers in the outdoor tourism industry look favorably upon previous experience. They will be more interested in qualified guides with intensive outdoor experience, so it’s likely they will ask about your personal and professional experience in a job interview.
If you don’t have any professional experience yet, it’s a good idea to make a list of personal trips to prove you have the necessary skills for the job. Track all your personal outdoor adventures in a logbook that mentions the activity locations and durations.
5. Get a guiding job
Now that you have all the knowledge and skills required to become an outdoor adventure guide, it’s time to start networking, building your resume and applying for outdoor jobs! Make sure your resume mentions all relevant experiences, including certifications and major trips you have done.
Once you get your first job interview, make sure to not only focus on your technical skills, but also highlight your soft skills and passion to instruct others. Hiring managers are always on the lookout for guides with strong conflict resolution and communication skills that can remain calm under pressure.
Pro-tip: Pure Exploration has programs running year-round to worldwide locations, like Patagonia, Nepal and New Zealand. We are always on the lookout for qualified Technical Instructors that ensure our programs run smoothly and safely. Check out the job opportunities here!
Want to know more?
We created a Guide to Guiding to help people who are considering becoming an adventure guide with some quick tips and advice on what the best plan of attack is.
You will learn about:
- Common questions about becoming an adventure guide
- The benefits of an immersive internship vs. traditional training organization
- A day in the life of a hiking guide in New Zealand – hear what it’s really like!
- Adventure tourism and travel industry research trends
- Some words of advice from people who have recently trained as adventure guides