Instructor:       Mark Wagstaff                                                Office:             Waldron 139  

Email:                                    Phone:             831-7724        

Office Hours:  M - F 10:00 - Noon and by appointment 

Class E-mail:


A.  Catalog Entry


RCPT 331.  Outdoor Living Skills (3)

Three hours lecture/laboratory.  Lab and field experiences in camping, backpacking and orienteering.  A strong emphasis is placed on environmental/wilderness ethics, education and philosophy. Field trips are mandatory in order to maximize the learning experience.  Course is required for students specializing in the outdoor recreation concentration.


B.  Detailed Description of the Content of the Course


In this course students will cover the following topics related to outdoor living:


§  Hiking, camping and backpacking

§  Survival techniques and skills

§  Map and compass (orienteering) skills

§  Leave No Trace techniques

§  The use, care, repair and maintenance of camping/backpacking equipment

§  Individual and group safety        

§  Group dynamics

§  Accessibility

§  The leadership and programming of outdoor living skills.


Students will have the opportunity to camp and backpack in a variety of outdoor settings, particularly the national forest, national recreation and wilderness areas, which enclose or contain sections of the Appalachian Trail within Virginia.


C.  Detailed Description of the Conduct of the Course


An interdisciplinary and environmental approach to outdoor living skills has been incorporated in this course.  Students will learn the so-called “hard” or technical skills of outdoor living, as well as the “soft” or facilitation skills necessary for effective group functioning.  This approach also emphasizes the leave no trace or wilderness ethic:  how to travel in the outdoors while minimizing or eliminating physical impact on the environment.  In addition, the experiential learning cycle/model is integrated into this course, particularly regarding field trips.  The basic components of this model are goal setting, the process of debriefing of field trips, the “full-value” contract (to establish and maintain safe norms for the group), challenge by choice, and the conscious transfer of learning from the field trips to school and home.  Lastly, field trips are sequenced throughout the semester to be more challenging in terms of physical rigor as well as adaptation to cold weather environments.


The methods utilized in this course can include:  lectures, case studies, labs, readings, use of the internet, simulations, small-group activities and discussions, guest lecturers and field trip leaders, slide-tape and video presentations, peer group teaching/learning, and field trips.


Students have the opportunity to obtain a Leave No Trace Trainer Certificate upon the successful completion of this class. An additional student presentation based on an LNT principle is required for certification. These presentations are conducted the final two weeks of the semester.


D.  Course Goals


The students will be able to:


1.  demonstrate the basic techniques and skills pertaining to wilderness-style leave no trace camping;

2.  apply basic outdoor living skills to a variety of outdoor settings and modes of travel;

3.  demonstrate an understanding of the function and appropriate use of backpacking equipment;

4.  demonstrate essential components in the planning and delivery of professional outdoor trips;

5. distinguish between personal and professional standards in the application of outdoor living skills.

6. obtain a LNT Trainer Certificate


E.  Assessment Measures


Assessment is based upon grades for two exams, attendance, assignments, quizzes, the demonstration of lab competencies, and the demonstration of the basic activity skills of hiking, camping and backpacking.


F.  Other Course Information


1.  The safety standards and guidelines for the adventure practices utilized in this

course are consistent with those practiced by RU Outdoors and other leading educational organizations such as the Wilderness Education Association (WEA).

2.  Field Trips:  All RU policies/rules apply to all field trips.  All trips are programmed as

     professional development experiences and students are expected to approach and

     participate in a way that is concurrent with this parameter.  NO ALCOHOLIC

     BEVERAGES or DRUGS PERMITTED.  See Student Handbook for RU’s alcohol policies.

3.  Students will be briefed about specific policies/procedures appropriate to each

     lab/field trip.  It is essential to the quality and the safety of these experiences that all

     guidelines discussed prior to and during the adventure activity be adhered to by all


4.  Students are expected to transport themselves to and from the field sites. Students are also

expected to obtain trip food and personal equipment needed for the field trips.

5.  By accepting admission to Radford University, each student makes a

     commitment to understand, support, and abide by the University Honor Code

     without compromise or exception.  Violations of academic integrity will not be

     tolerated.  This class will be conducted in strict observance of the Honor Code.


G.  Course Readings


Drury, J.K., Bonney, B.F., Berman, D. & Wagstaff, M.C.  (2005). The Backcountry Classroom: Lessons, Tools, and Activities for Teaching Outdoor Leaders. (2nd Edition). Falcon Press.


H.  Course Requirements and Evaluation


1.  Exams and Quizzes:   Mid-term = 10%. Comprehensive final = 10%.  Exams will cover class

     material, text book information and trips.


2.  Trip Plans: Each student is required to submit a comprehensive trip plan for each required field trip based on the GO PREPARE method. Trips plans should be bound and contain all critical elements. Each trip plan is worth 10% of the final grade.


3.  Trip Proposal: Camping groups will research and submit a trip proposal to the class proposing possible options for the second field experience worth 5% of the final grade.


4.  Hiking, Camping and/or Backpacking Trips:

§  Mandatory minimum:  two weekend backpacking/camping trips. Each trip is worth 20% of your final grade.  Students will be graded in terms of competencies fulfilled, and the demonstration of a professional attitude manifested through appropriate behavior during the trip. Two trips will be offered through this class: February 25-27 and March 25 – 27. Students are also required to submit a written evaluation of each experience worth 10% of the final grade.

§  Alternative Experiences: (if you cannot attend weekend trips)

§  If unable to attend class trips:  For full credit, alternative trips must be led by safe, organized, legitimate, environmentally sound, and professionally involved and recognized outdoor leaders. These trips must be approved before attending for credit. Personal trips do not typically meet criteria for credit.

§  Experiential PD activities do not typically include travel time or sleep. Within a week of the PD activity each student must document involvement including verification (as appropriate) by the instructor/supervisor of the PD activity and a photojournalistic record of the activity. That record includes the following: the nature and location of the activity; date(s) and times; the level of skills acquired; the instructor(s) and/or supervisor(s); the “value-added” to your existing knowledge/skills; overview of experience and activities and your personal reflection on the PD experience. Include a comprehensive trip plan based on the GO PREPARE method. Non-experiential PD activities will be evaluated in a manner appropriate to the nature of the activity. Skills check list requirement still applies. A trip plan must also be submitted based on the criteria established in class.


5.      Attendance:  Regular and on-time attendance is expected.


6.      Equipment Presentation: At the beginning of the semester, each student will be assigned an essential piece of outdoor equipment to research. Findings will be presented in class. Worth 5% of the final grade


I.  Course Grading


                        Exams                                      20%

                        Equipment Presentation                       05%

                        Trips                                        40%

                        Trip Proposal                           05%

                        Trip Evaluations                      10%                            

                        Trip Plans                                20%


TOTAL                                   100%



Additional Resources and Class Handouts:

1.      Fabric Table

2.      Personal Clothing List

3.      Group Gear List

4.      GO PREPARE Assignment

5.      Medical Form

6.      Waiver Form

7.      Expedition Behavior Relationships

8.      Time Control Plan (TCP) Examples

9.      Stove Information and Safety

10.  Trip Evaluation Assignment

11.  LNT Information

12.                        Hypothermia Information

13.                        Food and Ration Planning

14.                        LNT Presentation Schedule

15.                        Outdoor Leader Paradigm Shift Power Point

16.                        First Trip Overview

17.                        Second Trip Overview


2011 Teaching Schedule:

January 21 – Clothing (Mark)

January 24 – Sleeping Systems and Headlamps

January 26 – Boots and Cooking Equipment

January 28 – Maps (Time/Energy Control Plan)

January 31 – Trip Preparation – Decide on groups – present trip plan assignment

February 2 – Tents and Shelters

February 4 – Water Treatment and Human Waste Disposal

February 7 – Backpacks

February 9 – Compass & GPS

February 11 - Stoves