10 Technical tips for Outdoor Enthusiasts
Here are 10 tips that I think are quite useful for life as a professional outdoor instructor, beyond the basic skills. Anyone can pick these up, it’s the soft skills which are harder to find.
1) Everything will be fine in the end, and if it isn’t fine, then it isn’t yet the end
Be positive! Yeah you have a broken leg, and that was before your partner cut your rope and you fell into an ice crevasse. You don’t have any food or supplies and you have to crawl back to base camp which may or may not be there. Go on champ - you can do it! Joe Simpson did!
Fell into a hole in the middle of nowhere? Forgot to tell anyone you were going? Boulder squashed your arm and you’re trapped? Time to knuckle down and get business done. Your mindset is everything. Don’t worry about what you - or anyone else - can’t do. Focus on what they can!
2) Look after your feet
Every journey begins with a single step... and then a couple of thousand more. Uphill probably. Both ways, if you're unlucky. Either way, you're going to be on your feet a lot! Get a good pair of shoes, since feet problems can lead to a whole host of knee, hip and back issues. Insoles can really make a difference; I highly recommend the Granger’s range of insoles, which are very comfortable and effective.
3) Always have a treat nearby
Maybe it’s a cup of tea in the staff room... or a Mars bar at the top of the hill. Either way, having a sweet delicious light at the end of the tunnel is going to help keep you going - whether it’s overcoming that one guy that wants to tell you all about his uncle’s gardener’s son who went to Everest base camp, or it’s making a speed run attempt on the north face of the Eiger.
4) Look after your equipment
I’ve seen a lot of people throw out good equipment just because it wasn’t performing as it was when it was new. The thing is, a lot of gear can be made almost as effective as new with a bit of TLC. For example: down loses a lot of its insulation when it loses its loft, and waterproof jackets that no longer bead can make you cold and damp. I’ve bought top quality second hand equipment for very cheap and simply refurbished them by using a Granger's reproofer like their 2-in-1 Wash and Repel or a down cleaner like this. You can save a lot of money this way!
5) Person-centred approach
Treat all clients as individuals with their own unique strengths and weaknesses. Try not to bring in any preconceptions. This is particularly relevant when working with those with learning difficulties or disabilities. I have had parents, teachers and peers say a person cannot, never has, and never will climb up a wall. And of course the guy couldn’t, because they never even gave him a shot. With the best intentions in the world, they had stripped him of his confidence. So I set him up with a hoist rig on a long overhang so I took take his weight. And he fell. Lots. But because of the overhang he would just swing out and then back in for another try. The constructed world is not designed for people with disabilities, but you have the power to alter your environment even if it is only for a short time. It can make a life changing difference to someone with low self-esteem.
6) Be critical
Don’t take anything on face value. Always ask questions. As an instructor you will be responsible for a group's safety on a daily basis. I have certainly had this conversation a thousand times: Have you got water? Are you sure you have water? Where is your water? Show me the water. Go fill up the bottle!
7) Claim tax back for uniform costs
8) If you always do as you have always done you will always get what you have always got
Keep facing the same problem? CHANGE SOMETHING!!! Always improve, even only by a small amount. But it must be constant. The Japanese concept of Kaizen is an industrial philosophy that means good change. And you should apply it to everything you do, always.
Put your feet up. Relax. Put the kettle on. Not you champ. You’re resting. You earned it. It’s tempting to work round the clock and rake in the dosh. But if you don’t look after yourself, something will give. This counts for double if you are sick. It’s often a false economy, you may think you are being tough but it’s more than likely you will end up doing a rubbish job and be sick for twice as long.
10) Look after each other
For clients as well as colleagues. And I don’t mean just in a staying alive way. Some of the best outcomes I have seen are from just taking two minutes to get to know the quiet kid, and realise what’s going on in their lives. Or to help a colleague out who may be struggling to get their head around something. The outdoor activity is not about the wilderness. It’s about people. There is no adventure without people.
These tips and advice were constructed by Jadon Ortlepp, who is an experienced professional outdoor instructor and youth worker with a Msc in Psychology. Jadon is currently living in Worcestershire, where there is nothing he likes better than going on adventures with his friends - whether that means climbing, hiking, or messing about in the woods. When he finds himself indoors he likes to dabble in a bit of writing.