Venture Outdoors vs. Florida Outfitter

By: Nancy Latimer

Venture Outdoors may be a nonprofit with volunteer Trip Leaders, but it’s not a rinky dink operation. Venture Outdoors has rigorous training to ensure that all Trip Leaders follow the same format including the planning, the introduction, the safety, and the experience. Recently, I was on vacation in southwest Florida and went on an Everglades kayak tour with a commercial outfitter. Many of the Venture Outdoors checklist items were the same as my Everglades trip, but Venture Outdoors covered things more thoroughly. I was impressed that Venture Outdoors trips are on par or better! Read on for the details.

I booked a three-hour Everglades kayaking tour with a reputable outfitter. They had excellent reviews on Trip Advisor. The trip cost three times the cost of a similar Venture Outdoors kayak trip. Like Venture Outdoors, it was a fully supported trip with the guide and her assistant. She supplied all the necessary equipment, kayaks, and PFDs. She also supplied water and snacks which is not a requirement for Venture Outdoors trips, but which many Leaders provide. So far, score one for Venture Outdoors for an economical price.

When I booked the trip, the owner was very responsive and gave detailed instructions on what to wear, what to bring, and what to expect. Like going on an outing with Venture Outdoors, I felt very prepared. We met at a nearby park and caravanned to the launch site. The guide introduced the trip with a map. No safety talk or paddle talk, although the four participants had kayak experience. No medical talk (I’m attentive to this since I have a severe bee allergy and carry an Epipen.) No introductions of participants. Being the Venture Outdoors person, I am I had introduced myself. Score three for Venture Outdoors, for the safety talk, the paddle talk, and the introductions.

We launched without incident into a calm pond with gators floating here and there, eyeing us. The sun was just rising, the water was like glass, and the birds were waking up. It was spectacular. There was some safety talk on the water as we met alligators. The guide stopped often to give facts and introduce the next section. This was similar to Venture Outdoors trips. Volunteer Trip Leaders are very knowledgeable. TIE!

We paddled through the mangroves, passing beautiful flora and fauna specimens. The Everglades has the largest population of bromeliads in North America and our trip didn’t disappoint. These are commonly known as “airplants” at the local Home Depot. My favorite thing was the mirror-like reflections of the vibrant greenery on the glassy water, magnificent. The Outfitter was great at identifying everything, giving history, and taking photos. As a Trip Leader I always try to take photos, but with all my responsibilities, I struggle. Thankfully Venture Outdoors has started adding a photographer on trips. That’s a plus for me (and you.) Score one for the Outfitter.

We ended the trip on time and the Outfitter sent us copies of her photos. Venture Outdoors often posts them on the Flickr site, but not quite as user friendly. Score one for the Outfitter.

In conclusion, Venture Outdoors is as professional an outdoor experience as a commercial Outfitter at a much better price!


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  • The Nature Treasure Hunt is Here – Join Now!

    March 20, 2018

    By: Josh Doty of Foto-Foraging

    Spring is here. If you have been hiding from the snow and cold temperatures, it is now time to venture outdoors again. There is so much to see, even if you only have a chance to go to your local park or even your own backyard.

    The Nature Treasure Hunt

    The Nature Treasure Hunt is a quest to explore, discover, document, learn and share (Instagram #naturetreasurehunt, #ventureoutdoors) nature with others. It is a year-long activity that will provide exercise, fresh air, strong family/friend bonding moments, opportunities to discover and learn,

     » Read more about: The Nature Treasure Hunt is Here – Join Now!  »

  • Winter Tree ID

    March 13, 2018

    By: Iris Marzolf

    My favorite Venture Outdoors program I’ve attended thus far is the Winter Tree ID hike in January at Frick Park.

    It was an educational hike, so participants got a two-for-one deal—exercising while learning how to identify trees without leaves. Winter tree identification is a lot easier and more engaging than one would think. My opinion of trees in winter is generally negative; they look like dull brown skeletons. They’re all the same. Ugly.

    BUT ACTUALLY trees are like people; certain types look the same, and they all have unique characteristics depending on how they grew up.

     » Read more about: Winter Tree ID  »

  • Youth Mental Health First Aid

    March 6, 2018

    By: Maggie Zangara

    On November 20, 2017, I had the opportunity to participate in an interesting training hosted by Venture Outdoors. The name of the training was Youth Mental Health First Aid, and it took place at Venture Outdoors through the Allegheny County Department of Human Services. A fun fact is that Lady GaGa, who is a first aider herself and an advocate of the program, has set a goal of getting 150,000 people trained this year.

    Youth Mental Health First Aid ActivityThe intent of the training was to teach family members, teachers, school staff, health and human services workers and other caring citizens how to help adolescents who are experiencing a mental health crisis.

     » Read more about: Youth Mental Health First Aid  »

  • Rachel Carson Trails

    February 27, 2018

    By: Amy Nelson, Rachel Carson Trails Conservancy, Member and Volunteer 

    In 2015, three friends and I did the Rachel Carson Trail Challenge  for the first time. We were avid road runners, bored with the monotony of pavement.  A 34-mile trek through the woods seemed like a great way to mix things up. Cut to the day of the event. Twenty miles into it, we experienced a torrential downpour which caused mud slides on some of the steepest hills. Mother Nature can be cruel.  By the time the last five miles rolled around our spirits were broken and we prayed for it to be over.

     » Read more about: Rachel Carson Trails  »

  • Leaving No Trace

    February 20, 2018

    By: Sara Cardamone

    At the Annual Volunteer Meeting, I had the opportunity to attend the Leave No Trace breakout session. Led by Joel Johnston, the interactive gathering was focused on educating participants on what Leave No Trace is truly about. Here are some of the things that I learned!

    Leave No Trace was launched when attendance at parks started to increase, so much so that it was taking a toll on the environment. The mission of the organization is to “protect the outdoors by teaching and inspiring people to enjoy it responsibly”. This comes in the form of seven principles that one should keep in mind when enjoying the outdoors.

     » Read more about: Leaving No Trace  »

Kayak Pittsburgh

Sunset Paddle

Thank you for another great season!
We’ll see you on the water in 2018!


Featured Outing


About Boating Safely
Saturday, March 24
9 AM – 5 PM

Join Venture Outdoors and members of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary for About Boating Safely. This course gives participants the knowledge needed to obtain a boat license or safety certification in Pennsylvania.