Where to Learn Outdoor Skills in Canada

This page lists organizations and businesses offering courses and workshops on outdoor skills. It covers wilderness first aid, paddling, hiking, navigation, foraging, bushcraft, camping, mountaineering, avalanche training, and outdoor leadership.

This list is by no means exhaustive and I can’t vouch for all of the providers. That said, if you are looking to upgrade your skills, it’s a great place to start your research.

A woman walks along the Richibucto River in New Brunswick.

Wilderness First Aid

Wilderness First Aid introduces students to common outdoor scenarios that require medical attention. It differs from First Aid training because it is tailored to wilderness and remote areas where medical personnel are not easily accessible. The following organizations offer certification in Wilderness First Aid:

Rescue Canada – Rescue Canada offers Wilderness First Aid certification and courses in swiftwater, ice, boat, and helicopter rescue.

Red Cross – Red Cross provides certification in Remote First Aid, Wilderness First Aid, and Wilderness First Responder.

Canadian Wilderness Medical Training – Canadian Wilderness Medical Training has courses in Wilderness First Aid in the Ottawa Valley region.

Adventure and Safety Atlantic – Adventure and Safety Atlantic partners with Red Cross to offer Wilderness First Aid training at the Halifax Search and Rescue Headquarters. They also provide swiftwater rescue and navigation courses.

Paddling Skills (Canoe and Kayak)

Paddle Canada – Paddle Canada is a not-for-profit organization with links to several paddling schools and over 2700 instructors. If you need to find a canoe or kayak instructor, chances are you can find one through their website.

Madawaska Kanu Centre – The Madawaska Kanu centre is located on the Madawaska River in Ontario. They offer weekend and week-long canoe and kayak instruction, guided trips, and women-only workshops.

Canoe Kayak NB – Check out Canoe Kayak NB to find courses throughout New Brunswick. You’ll find links to skills development training, instructor training, and canoe dance workshops.

Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of BC – Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of BC has courses and certifications for those looking to become sea kayaking guides.

Ontario Recreational Canoeing and Kayaking Association – This Ontario association offers courses in canoeing and kayaking.

Outward Bound Canada – Outward Bound Canada has courses on the West Coast of Canada and in Ontario. It has funded courses for Indigenous Youth.

Hiking

Hike Ontario – Hike Ontario teaches people how to hike safely and hosts navigation workshops.

Hike Nova Scotia – Hike Nova Scotia offers courses on hiking, snowshoeing, leave no trace, and navigation. They also have safety courses that teach you what to do if you encounter wildlife.

Navigation

Many of the organizations and businesses on this list offer navigation courses. I recommend trying orienteering out as a way to learn and maintain your map and compass skills. Orienteering is a sport where you navigate a course with a map and compass.

Orienteering Canada – Orienteering Canada links to orienteering groups across the country. These groups often have workshops and volunteers to help beginners learn the sport and navigation.

Foraging

Cod Sounds – Learn about foraging in Newfoundland from chef Lori McCarthy and her team. Their workshops cover coastal foraging, fall berries, wild game, and ice fishing.

From the Wild – From the wild offers medicinal, boreal, and river foraging walks in Alberta and Northern Saskatchewan. They also have a video series about foraging that you can check out on Vimeo.

Full Circle Adventures – Full Circle Adventures leads hikes in the forests of Kananaskis, Alberta. These foraging hikes teach you all about the native and edible foods of this area.

Wild Muskoka Botanicals – Wild Muskoka Botanicals takes you on foraging hikes in the Muskoka region. These workshops are free for the BIPOC community.

Swallow Tail Canada – Swallow Tail Canada offers workshops on edible and medicinal plants in the Vancouver area. They also have wild mushroom workshops.

Bushcraft and Outdoor Survival

Canadian Bushcraft – Caleb Musgrave, owner of Canadian Bushcraft, teaches outdoor survival skills, basket weaving, natural cordage, and canoe making. Caleb is located in Hiawatha First Nation, Ontario.

University of Calgary – The University of Calgary hosts a weekend outdoor survival workshop. It covers survival psychology, emergency response, clothing and equipment, shelter-building, and fire skills.

Niko Wilderness Education – Niko Wilderness Education offers coed and women-only bushcraft courses that include winter camping, fire, and shelter making. They are based in Beaver County, Alberta.

Camping

Parks Canada – Parks Canada has Learn-to Camp activities in major Canadian cities. Their website also has free resources including a packing checklist and information about equipment, campfires, wildlife, and safety tips.

Mountain Equipment Coop – Mountain Equipment Coop hosts an assortment of camping workshops including winter camping, knot tying, backcountry navigation, and snowshoeing. Many of these workshops are offered free of charge to members.

Mountaineering

Canadian Rockies Alpine Guides – Canadian Rockies Alpine Guides teaches a 5-day mountaineering course and offers guided ascents. They are located in Canmore, Alberta.

Canada West Mountain School – Located in North Vancouver, Canada West Mountain School has a number of courses including mountaineering, Wilderness First Aid, wilderness survival, avalanche training, and ice climbing.

Yamnuska Mountain Adventures – Yamnuska Mountain Adventures teaches mountaineering, ice climbing, rock climbing, and avalanche training in Canmore, Alberta.

Cloud Nine Guides – Cloud Nine Guides has a 6-day beginner mountaineering skills course. They also provide women-only courses and guided ascents.

Avalanche Training

All of the mountaineering courses listed above provide some avalanche training. For more options check out:

Canadian Avalanche Association – The Canadian Avalanche Association trains people in avalanche mapping, operations, incident management, and weather.

Hangfire Avalanche Training – Hangfire provides avalanche training for snowmobilers, skiers, and snowboarders based in British Columbia.

Outdoor Leadership Degrees

There’s a number of colleges and universities that offer degrees in Outdoor Leadership. I’ve highlighted two here, but you can find a full list from the Outdoor Council of Canada.

Algonquin College – Algonquin College has a 2-year diploma in Outdoor Adventure which prepares students to lead outdoor adventure trips and teach outdoor skills.

Capilano University – Capilano University offers a 2-year Outdoor Recreation Management Diploma. Students will learn about adventure tourism, community and outdoor recreation, parks and conservation.

Happy Learning!

I hope this list is a useful resource to help you find workshops and courses in your area. It’s always a good idea to improve your outdoor skills if you spend a lot of time in the wilderness.

Drop me a comment below if you have any recommendations to add to the list.

Other posts that may interest you:

Building a Lean-To Shelter with Natural Materials

Backcountry Meal Plan

Foraging Stinging Nettle

The Ten Essentials: What to Bring on a Day Trip

How to Safely Cross a River

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