6 Tips for Leading Your First Venture Outdoors Trip
By Mara Addison
By Mara Addison
Have you joined us on a Venture Outdoors outing? If so, you’ve met some of our fantastic Trip Leaders and assistants. Did you know the majority of these folks are volunteers? That’s right. If you are on a Venture Outdoors outing, more than likely the people guiding you through nature are members just like you. They choose to act as volunteer Trip Leaders for many reasons, the most compelling being their love of the outdoors and desire to share their passion with others.
To become a Trip Leader or assistant, you have to meet certain requirements. They aren’t terribly difficult, but they do take time, dedication, and a willingness to learn how to tie a tourniquet. (It’s true.) Once your training is complete and your clearances are checked, you are ready to lead your first outing!
Wait. Lead an outing? With people? By yourself?
At Venture Outdoors, you’re never by yourself. There is an incredible administrative team dedicated to making sure every outing is a success. Moreover, there are fellow volunteers who will support your efforts and be there to lend assistance, including your trip assistants.
For those volunteers who have yet to lead a trip, or for those members who might be interested in exploring this great volunteer opportunity with our truly fantastic organization, I have some tips to help you lead your first outing. This list certainly isn’t all encompassing, but it helps me through my leadership duties every time.
Yes, I said it. Your first tip is to cheat.
Unless you are creating a custom outing, there’s a better than likely chance someone has done the same trip before. Venture Outdoors has a private Share Point site where years of outing information is stored.
My first trip as a leader was to be a simple urban hike through the borough of Bellevue. I was so nervous; I worried over it for two months beforehand. Luckily, there was a plethora of information about Bellevue as well as several trail routes to choose from on our SharePoint site. It was one less thing to worry about.
Not so fast there. Just because a route was mapped out a year prior doesn’t mean it will be perfect to use as is.
This is Pittsburgh, so there may be construction. The public bathroom might be closed for the season. The point of interest you were planning on taking the group to see might be gone.
A couple of days before the outing, go through the route to make sure that there are no surprises. And find the bathrooms. Trust me. You need to know where the bathrooms are.
You know your mom and your sister are coming to support your first outing as a Leader. But who else should you be expecting? The evening before (or possibly the morning of) your outing, print out your trip roster so you have the most current list of trip participants, along with their contact information.
Also, bring a pile of Assumption of Risk Forms and a few ballpoint pens. So few of us have printers at home anymore. Until the forms are available online, make sure you bring enough for anyone who might need to fill one out before the trip. This includes one for each minor participant. (Remember: No waiver, no trip. That includes your mom.)
You are the Trip Leader. You are in charge! So you need to be prepared. Besides your printouts, make sure you have your route map and a list of any talking points. Always important is your First Aid Kit, in case of accidents or spills. You may also consider a roll of toilet paper, Wet Wipes, and some garbage bags – just in case.
And how about an extra couple of bottles of water or granola bars, dried fruit, or nuts, in case you have a participant with dehydration or low blood sugar.
Why do you need a phone outdoors? Doesn’t that distract from, well, the outdoors?
If participants get lost on the way to the trailhead (or starting point), they will call and ask for directions. (True confession: I still get lost.) There may be emergencies for which you need to call 911.
And sometimes, darn it, our members are so darn cute we want to take pictures of them enjoying themselves. Do yourself a favor and don’t leave the house without a charged phone.
Before you head off, ask if anyone needs one last stop in the restroom. It will make the outing better for them and for you. Trust me on this.
HAVE FUN. You are leading a great group of people on a well-planned trip. You have water and toilet paper and a map. You feel confident in your route. You have a great team supporting you. Be yourself, and enjoy yourself!
If something goes wrong, most of the time no one will know unless you tell them. Did you miss a turn? Double back. Did you forget a fact? The world won’t end. Did you trip and splatter yourself with mud? Laugh and bring out the Wet Wipes.
My first time leading an outing, I was terrified. Okay, my first few times leading, I was terrified. Now, I have as much fun as I hope my participants are having! What a joy to lead people through the wonder of nature. What happiness to share your passion. This is not a chore. This is a delight.