10 Classes Every Adventure Traveler Should Take

Being an adventurer requires a lifetime of learning. These courses teach everything from exploring coral reefs to life-saving survival skills.

Photo By: Steve Larese

Photo By: Courtesy Steve Larese

Photo By: Courtesy Steve Larese

Photo By: Philip Lee Harvey/Getty Images

Photo By: Courtesy Steve Larese

Photo By: iStock/Sam Camp

Photo By: Matthew Inden

Photo By: Ian Shive / Aurora Photos

Learn First Aid and CPR

First Aid and CPR courses are perhaps the most important classes any traveler and adventurer can take. NOLS offers Wilderness First Aid and Wilderness First Responder courses that teach life-saving skills for when help isn’t immediately available. The American Red Cross offers CPR courses throughout the country. The American Heart Association offers both in-person and online classes. Many local organizations teach certified CPR and life-saving courses as well, check with your local fire station.

Learn to Survive

Learning the skills to survive in the outback with just materials you can find is at the very least fun and rewarding, and at most, it can save your life. Many wilderness survival schools around the country teach important skills such as fire starting, shelter building and food and water gathering. Nantahala Outdoor Center in North Carolina teaches several courses that include what to do in the first critical 72 hours after getting injured or lost. Sigma III Survival School classes include Wild Crafter, in which students learn about edible and medicinal plants. Thomas Coyne Survival Schools based in California teaches everything from making stone tools to avoiding kidnappings.

Learn to Dive

Scuba diving tours are offered throughout the world and are often the highlight of a vacation, but any reputable outfit will only allow certified divers to participate. Get your Open Water Diver certification through an organization such as PADI or NAUI before your adventure. Classes typically consist of at-home coursework, followed by five pool sessions and then four open water dives before the instructor will certify students. Classes are offered throughout the country. The online portion of the training takes about 15 hours to complete, and students have a year from enrollment to complete this coursework. Water training takes several weekends, so give yourself enough time to complete your training before any dive trips. Once certified, students will be issued an Open Water Diver card that is accepted worldwide.

Go Off-Road

Ever dream of four-wheeling in the backcountry, but not sure how to approach huge obstacles or how to handle getting stuck? Several driving schools around the country put you behind the wheel and teach you the skills and finesse needed to expertly handle vehicles in demanding situations. Outlaw Jeep Adventures teaches drivers the skills needed to navigate the Mars-like landscape of Moab, Utah. Drivers are given instruction on the operation of their Jeep, then gradually challenged to tackle seemingly vertical drops and features in the Utah backcountry. On the East Coast, Northeast Off-Road Adventures in New York combines classroom work with tackling downed trees, huge drops and mud bogs along their 75-acres of private track. Survive Off Road teaches off-road safety and survival techniques in Utah, Arizona and Colorado, and Overland Experts teaches recreational and tactical off-road driving and recovery skills in Connecticut.

Learn to Get Where You're Going

All of the new GPS technology on the market is worthless if you don’t know how to use it, and nothing beats a traditional compass and map for dependability in the wilderness. REI offers map reading and orienteering courses throughout the country, as well as courses on how to use GPS. Colorado Outward Bound School has its online Backcountry Navigation seven-part course that covers both compass and GPS unit navigation. There are also many basic, free tutorials available online.

School of Rock

Rock climbing is one of the fastest growing adventure sports in the country, and one where proper education is fundamental. Several courses throughout the country will get you from Instagram to the crag, including Eastern Mountain Sports Schools in New Hampshire, New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts, and Mountain Skills USA in New Mexico and Nevada, and Colorado Mountain School in Boulder. Other rock climbing classes around the United States and Canada are listed here.

Set Sail

Want to experience the rush of sailing but don’t have a clue as to what a clew is? Sailing courses throughout the country offer introductory to advanced classes, such as Offshore Sailing School throughout Florida and Island Sailing School in Portland, Oregon. The American Sailing Association offers a free online course and also lists ASA certified courses here. NauticEd International Sailing School offers online courses as well. Surprisingly, many sailboat rentals don’t require their clients to have certification, but they will quiz renters on practical sailing knowledge before handing over the tiller.

Rally Racing Schools

Learn to corner like an ace and drift muddy corners at a rally racing school. DirtFish Rally Racing School in Snoqualmie, Washington, has a two-hour FUNdamentals class that gives a taste of what it takes to be a rally racer and its three-day, all-in classes include one-on-one coaching for those ready to race for real. Skills taught include how to slide around loose-dirt corners, how to handle bumps at speed and other techniques that are useful whether you’re rally racing or just driving in poor weather or road conditions. Team O’Neil Rally School in Dalton, New Hampshire, offers several multi-day classes on its 583-acre campus. At The Firm driving school in Starke, Florida, learn advanced skills such as vision management, hand brake turns and other techniques used in European-style rally driving.

Avalanche Courses

An avalanche course is a must for anyone interested in playing in the winter backcountry. Avalanche.org lists many of the available courses in the West, and other avalanche schools including the Mount Washington Avalanche Center in New Hampshire, and the American Avalanche Institute based in Jackson, Wyoming, that offers classes throughout the U.S. The American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) shares a roundup of avalanche schools as well, including Maine’s Acadia Mountain Guides Climbing School. Don’t live near a class provider? Check out avalanche basics here.

Learn to Backpack Properly

Backpacking is a little more than throwing a bunch of stuff into a bag and hitting the trail. Aim Adventure U has several online backpacking courses that include Backpacking 101, thru-hiking, ultralight backpacking, gear repair and other topics. REI offers backpacking classes at its locations nationwide, and The Mountaineers has an intensive Conditioning Hiking series in Seattle and Olympia, Washington.

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