NCOAE Blog

Adult Education Courses & Adventure Vacations

By NCOAE Headquarters September 23, 2022

Adult Courses

Taking a well-deserved adult vacation offers joyful predictability. There’s time off to do what you want, visit places that you’ve maybe never seen before, and return home with some great photos of friends and family. Then, for most of us, it’s back to a predictable grind. By mid-week, we’re back to being the same employee or boss that we were when we packed up and headed out for vacation. 

What The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE) offers outdoor enthusiasts — including adults who are curious about backcountry travel — is an alternative to your typical adult vacation. We prepare, set up, and guide life changing adventure-based adult education courses for anyone looking to learn new skills — or those sharpening existing skills in the outdoors, enabling them to return to daily life with new insights into leadership and how to protect our natural resources. 

We can even help you pitch your trip as a benefit to your employer. Who knows? Adventure-based education may be the future for your organization’s workplace employee engagement. (more…)

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Concussion Recognition and Treatment in the Backcountry

By Kate Javes September 9, 2022

Wilderness Medicine Training

Concussion recognition and treatment has gotten a lot of attention over the last decade, mostly in the context of youth and professional sports such as tackle football and soccer. It’s even a topic for those who serve in our armed forces. However, confusion over its prevention, diagnosis, and treatment remains widespread. 

In an interview with a reporter from the Chicago Sun Times, former National Football League quarterback Brett Favre, who was knocked out cold only once in his 20-year career, claimed that “probably 90 percent” of the tackles he endured left him with a concussion.

He’s most likely correct in that estimation. After all, the definition of “concussion” is broad: “A concussion is a brain injury, a disturbance in brain function induced by traumatic forces, either from a direct blow to the head or a transmitted force from a blow to the body.” It disrupts brain function at the cellular metabolic level but does not result in major structural damage. Conventional MRI or CT scanning will not show evidence of a concussion.

So, how do you know if you or someone else has suffered a concussion while in the backcountry? And, after having made that determination, what should be done? Having clear answers to these two questions is essential for successful recovery and to prevent long-term cognitive and psychological complications. This is true no matter where the concussion takes place, but especially in the backcountry where medical treatment from a full-time team is unavailable. (more…)

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Avoiding Target Fixations and Incident Pits in the Backcountry

By Stephen Mullaney August 29, 2022

Risk Management

“Look where you want to go!” 

I have conveyed this message to wilderness course participants countless times, shouting, screaming, and using hand signals when necessary. Sometimes I’m yelling above the roar of a set of rapids or the sound of an adjacent waterfall. 

“Look where you want to go!”

I emphatically issue the same advice while watching climbers rappelling down a cliff, or verbally guiding a student on a mountain bike through a sketchy section of trail. In each case, the point of my shouting is to get the students to stop looking at the obstacle. 

“Look where you want to go” really translates as “Stop looking at the obstacle! Don’t fixate on the hazard!”

And it doesn’t matter if you’re a Wilderness First Responder approaching the scene of a backcountry incident, or a student on a wilderness course attempting to navigate a perceived hazard or obstacle, looking too closely at a hazard you want to avoid can be very dangerous.

At first glance — no pun intended — you might think it wise to actually look closely at the hazard you want to avoid. No argument there. You absolutely need to identify obstacles, especially in the backcountry and other places considered Wilderness. In fact, identifying an obstacle is a key factor in remaining safe. 

But here’s the thing: (more…)

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Most EMS Terminology Comes Down to Initials, Abbreviations and Acronyms

By NCOAE Headquarters August 12, 2022

EMT Training

A few years ago, we ran a three-part series on slogans, slang, and terminology as it applies to a trio of human-powered outdoor recreational activities. If you recall, we started out with some “gnarly” surfing terms, then we “tied in” to a conversation about climbing, finally pulling a “wet exit” on the language of paddling.

You can review these three articles using the links below: 

There was quite a bit of word whimsy in those articles, and we made sure to remind readers that successfully lassoing the linguistics of a particular activity was no guarantee you were mastering that particular sport professionally. 

Today we’re taking a more serious look at language, this time highlighting the terminology used by members of the Emergency Medical Service (EMS) community. That’s because one of our areas of focus here at The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE) is emergency medicine training and education. And whether you’re an EMS, medical professional, or wilderness first responder (WFR), these terms are most often employed when these professionals find themselves managing a medical emergency. 

First off, you might notice that most of these terms come in the form of acronyms, abbreviations, and initials, and the reason for that is to enable first responders to quickly communicate and react with each other and the patient in the field.

The source for these acronyms comes from the NCOAE Wilderness Medicine Field Guide (ISBN 978-0-578-87449-4). 

Here, we present them in alphabetical order: (more…)

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When it Comes to Wilderness, Is it an Adventure or Experience?

By Stephen Mullaney August 3, 2022

Outdoor Education

Years ago, I was working in wilderness-based setting with a group of gang members who were attempting to break away from the often-violent lifestyle in which they found themselves. During a break our programming, I asked a loaded question.

“Anybody want to tell me about their tattoos and what they mean?”

The 30 or so gang members, hailing from a variety of organizations — MS-13, Bloods, Crips and Latin Kings — stared up at me. Hard. One participant in the back shouted, “Nobody gives a shit about our tattoos!”

When I burst out laughing, I was met with even harder stares, I realized an explanation was in order. I told the participants that everyone wants to know about their tattoos. They’re just too afraid to broach the subject.

I said that if we were to put a person covered in tattoos from head to toe on a scale, and then somehow remove all that ink on their skin and weighed them again, the weight change would probably be undeterminable.

If, however, that same tattooed gang member walked into a job interview, the weight of those tattoos — what they represented — would be a thousand pounds. So again, I asked them to tell me the stories and histories behind their tattoos. What followed was an enlightening experience. The curtain was pulled back and these folks opened up and shared the significance behind their body art. 

My point is this: Words and images have weight. 

Words and Images Have Weight

I tell you this because a leading outdoor industry retailer — REI (Recreational Equipment, Inc.) — recently announced an adjustment to their marketing, based on patterns they say are cropping up in our culture today. REI’s announcement that the company is rebranding its tour business from REI Adventures to REI Experiences caught many people I know off guard, myself included. 

It’s an effort, they say, to increase their participant base to three million clients a year. The company’s officers and administrators fear the word “Adventure” is getting in the way of its effort to grow the business.

So, what is it we think when a brand that builds a $3.7-billion-a-year business around catering to adventurers decides to change the word to experiences instead? Is adventure too heavy of a word? Is the term adventure dangerous? Are we — both consumers and outdoor community members — becoming soft?

What comes next? Will the (more…)

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The Role of the Wilderness First Responder During Water Rescues

By Kate Javes July 22, 2022

Wilderness Medicine Training

It may surprise you to learn that drownings — along with heart attacks and falls — are among the leading causes of death for those who venture into the wilderness for recreation or education in the United States.

Statistics show that there are nearly 4,000 fatal drownings each year in the United States, with a little more than 8,000 nonfatal drownings. These figures include boating-related drownings. In fact, the threat of drowning is so prevalent that the first edition of the NCOAE Wilderness Medicine Field Guide devotes an entire section to Environmental Submersion and Drowning Injury.

Of course, it’s during the spring and summer that most outdoor explorers are on the water, including those participating in backcountry expeditions. Lakes, rivers and streams provide much-needed relief in the backcountry on a hot August afternoon and are sought-after destinations for many outdoor enthusiasts.

For those training to become Wilderness First Responders (WFR) and those participating in Wilderness First Aid (WFA) training, a major consideration is assisting with medical emergencies that occur on or near the water.  (more…)

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