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How to Convince Your Boss to Let You Take a NOLS Course

By Erica Nelson on 3/15/18 10:37 AM

Photo by Craig Muderlak

When I heard from NOLS’ staffing office that I’d been accepted on the River Instructor Course, I was beyond stoked. I ran to tell my boss the great news. Expecting her to be happy, instead she said, “We can’t afford to lose you this time of year.”

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Topics: Expedition Prep, Live the Dream, leadership

What to Do When You Hook Yourself: Removing a Fishhook

By Ben Lerman on 3/14/18 10:55 AM

Photo by Brad Christensen.

It's the first fair-weather Saturday of the month. Most people are sleeping in—but not you. It’s time to fish!

Typically, you fish a barbless fly because you know it's easier to get the hook out of the fish’s mouth, but today you and your buddy are trying to catch your limit for a fish-fry later. You choose an obnoxiously large streamer with the biggest, nastiest, barb you have in your fly-box.

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Topics: wilderness medicine, Wilderness First Aid, fishing

4 Strategies Leaders Use to Make Better Decisions

By Molly Herber on 3/7/18 10:06 AM

Photo by Betsy Winston.

Imagine this: You’re trying to figure out the best way to cross a river with your group of four friends. Even though you’ve crossed rivers on your own before, you’ve never led a group while doing it.

You’re wracking your brain trying to remember any acronyms that might help you, scrambling around the riverbank trying to guess the river’s speed, and weighing the equally strong temptations of “just going for it” and staying put, making camp, and coming back to the decision in the morning.

When you’re on the verge of total frustration, your friend shouts, “Hey, I found a log! Let’s use it to cross the river!”

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Topics: decision making, Live the Dream, leadership

Case Study: What to Do about Snakebites

By Tod Schimelpfenig on 2/26/18 12:22 PM

The Setting

You and a friend have been rock climbing at the local limestone climbing area outside of Lander, Wyoming. While walking along the base of the cliff, your partner drops a piece of climbing gear and reaches to retrieve it. You hear a buzzing noise, a cry of surprise, and then your partner falls backward and tumbles down the sloped hill.

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Topics: wilderness medicine, Wilderness First Aid, case study

Quiz: First Aid for Eyes, Ears, Nose, and Teeth

By Ben Lerman on 2/14/18 8:26 AM


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Topics: first aid, wilderness medicine, quiz

Lessons from Escalante's Desert Canyons

By Erin Phillips on 2/13/18 8:33 AM

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

—David Wagoner

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Topics: Semester, Semester in the Rockies, Live the Dream

Lynn Hill on Mitigating Risk with Wilderness Medicine

By Jared Steinman on 2/8/18 7:51 AM

“To my knowledge, none of the climbers I was with were formally trained in the way of wilderness medicine and with only a medical kit and no radio communication, I felt very out there. I knew that if anything went wrong or if someone needed help, we couldn’t do much of anything.”

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Topics: Behind the Scenes, Wilderness First Responder, wilderness medicine

Sea Kayaking the Great Bear Rainforest

By Jonathan Brooks on 2/6/18 12:31 PM

Jonathan with bonsai island. Photo by Julie Bremner.

“This place is full of life on life on life!”

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Topics: Sea Kayaking, British Columbia, Live the Dream

New Courses for Summer 2018

By Molly Herber on 1/29/18 8:16 AM

Putting a new course together is good practice for tolerance for uncertainty. We try to answer questions like, will folks be excited about canoeing the Adirondacks this year? Or would they rather go on an all-girls backpacking expedition in the Olympic National Forest? In the end, we have to do the same thing we do in the backcountry—use the information available to make a decision, and then see what happens.

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Topics: Behind the Scenes, new courses

Case Study: Falling Through the Ice

By Tod Schimelpfenig on 1/24/18 9:08 AM

Editor’s Note: This case study is based on a real-life incident from the early 1980’s.

The Setting

You and three friends are on an early winter ski trip. To shorten the route, the group decides to cut across a lake, despite previously agreeing to avoid the lakes due to thin ice.

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Topics: wilderness medicine, case study, winter, NOLS Wilderness Medicine, hypothermia

Learning the Meaning of Teamwork in the Wilderness

By Wolf Johnson on 1/22/18 7:44 AM

I crested the top of the small mountain, ahead of the rest, for a brief moment of celebration on the top, all by myself. The view took my breath away, literally, but also emotionally. I could feel a tenderness and had a few tears in my eyes. These were happy tears. As the others, my coursemates, arrived on the mountain’s top, the sun was at an angle and beginning to set. We all celebrated, and we were also exhausted and laughing. In this moment I felt immense joy and pride, and, realizing we were now about one-fourth of the way through our 30 days in the wilderness, I thought to myself, I think I’m going to make it, and I think this is going to be amazing.

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Topics: Wind River Wilderness, Wyoming, Backpacking, Live the Dream

Quiz: Allergic Reactions and Anaphylaxis

By Ben Lerman on 1/17/18 8:31 AM


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Topics: wilderness medicine, NOLS Wilderness Medicine, quiz

Up Mountains and Down Rivers: Packrafting at NOLS

By Tim Kelley on 1/16/18 8:35 AM

I found packrafting in the summer of 2015 on a three-week trip in Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness. While I was already an avid whitewater paddler and backcountry hiker, packrafting clarified my love for the backcountry into something more simple. It was not just about the feeling of traveling with a river’s current or across eddy lines. It was not just the feeling of lactic acid in my legs after a steep climb. Packrafting was a synthesis of all I loved about exploration—a celebration of traveling through the backcountry by any means. It begged me to look further and it opened doors to adventures that were otherwise impossible.

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Topics: Behind the Scenes, Alaska, packrafting

Carbon Reporting at an Outdoor Nonprofit

By Kara Colovich on 1/12/18 8:56 AM

Climate change mitigation, the efforts toward reducing impacts of climate change, is a hot topic for organizations and governments around the world. The work that goes into these efforts requires the commitment of the entire organization and every sector of the economy, even the outdoor recreation economy, has work to do reducing climate change impacts.

The field of greenhouse gas (GHG) accounting continues to develop to support organizations’ climate change mitigation measures. This accounting legitimizes claims of GHG reductions and pushes organizations to report on relevant aspects of their operations, not only the highlights.

To put this all into perspective, we tell our own story here at NOLS and draw from the recent release of the NOLS FY16 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Footprint Report to explain the nuances of GHG reporting.

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Topics: nols sustainability report, Environmental Stewardship, sustainability, Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability

6 Reasons Why You Should Take A WEMT Course (And Tips for How to Prepare)

By David Laney on 1/9/18 9:58 AM

During the first multiple casualty scenario of my WEMT course, my team responded to a simulated flash flood incident. When we arrived at the scene, we found 6 mock patients in a river in varying levels of distress. One was complaining of leg pain. We rolled up her pant leg to see blood and bone ends exposed (the makeup was pretty convincing!). The team immediately got started using the training we had been learning and practicing.

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Topics: Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician, wilderness medicine, WEMT