If you have a passion for the outdoors, a bit of camping experience, are moderately fit, and at least 19 years of age, you are ready for an amazing 100-day experience.
Seriously, no experience is necessary to succeed at COLT. We teach every activity from the basics while providing challenges to accommodate different skill levels and progression. The biggest advantage in every aspect of the course is fitness, both mentally and physically.
On the surface, COLT is about tying knots and handling a boat, but graduates say they learn more about leadership, cooperation and enduring hardship, traits that are applicable anywhere and everywhere.
What attributes do I need?
When we look back over 40 years of running the Canadian Outdoor Leadership Training a few ideal attributes stand out. You look at the natural world with awe and wonder. You embrace adventure. You are open minded, easy going and fun. And you’re probably a bit of an outlier.
Learn more about Strathcona Park Lodge and COLT’s 6 Core Values.
Specifically, here’s what we look for in a COLT student:
- Passion: You love the outdoors, camping and wild spaces. Learning, trying new things and change excites you.
- Grit: You have the resilience and determination to get through the hard days. You don’t let a fall, mistake, wrong turn or four days of rain get you down.
- Team Player: You may be alone in the kayak or making the climbing move, but you are also part of a group. You know encouragement, a positive attitude and helping out go a long way.
- Perseverance: Sometimes it’s going to suck. You rise to a challenge and tough it out because you know struggle always leads to the greatest rewards.
- Presence: Extravert, introvert, quiet or boisterous, it doesn’t matter as long you step up, be present and play a role. You’re in it to get as much as you can from the program.
- Emotional Intelligence: Everyone has good days and bad days. You will get tired, frustrated and irritated, but you also know how to deal with your emotions and play nice with others.
What skills do I need?
Nothing. Really! Every time we start a new activity, it will be someone’s first time. We begin everything from a beginner level and build from there.
But you are about to spend 30+ nights sleeping under the stars. If this is your first timing carrying your home on your back COLT will be tough. Almost everyone comes into the course with at least some backpacking or canoe tripping under their boots. And speaking of, make sure you get familiar with yours before you arrive. Trust us, you don’t want to be working in your new hiking boots on the first trip.
How fit do I need to be?
We find the fitter a COLTy is when they show up the more they get out of the outdoor school experience. You’ll have more energy to get the most out of every day. As a guideline, we think you should be able to carry a heavy pack for a 15-kilometre day hike. General upper body fitness will help with all the paddling and help prevent injuries. It’s also a good idea to get out for a multi-day backpacking trip before you start the course.
What gear do I need?
We provide all the group and technical gear. That includes tarps, tents and stoves, climbing protection, ropes and anchor material, boats, spray decks and PFDs. You need to bring all your personal gear.
We recommend splurging on a couple items: anything you put on your feet and rain gear. You will spend a lot of time in your boots and shoes. Put in extra time and effort to get a perfect fit and then invest even more in working them in before you come to COLT. You and your feet will appreciate it. As for the rain gear, Vancouver Island is a temperature rainforest. We time COLT to avoid the wettest time of the year, but you can still expect to spend some time in the rain. Excellent quality rain gear will keep you drier for longer which translates into warmth and comfort.
Download the equipment list PDF which includes everything you need to stay warm and comfortable on land and water trips and during your time at the lodge.
How much money do I need?
- The tuition cost for the program is $9,000.
- Accommodation and food are another $7,500.
That’s $16,500 or about $165 per day.
Your course fees include three meals a day and a warm bed every night. We also cover all fees for transportation, camping, park access and ferries while on COLT trips. You will probably want to budget extra money for a few meals out, occasional celebratory drinks and for personal expenses that inevitably come up.
Other costs vary. Factor in buying at least some equipment and clothing – see the equipment list above. The cost will vary depending on how much you already own. Shopping for used gear, either online or at a used sporting goods store, can save significant money. Then you need to get yourself to Strathcona Park Lodge and then home at the end of the course.
What should my goals be?
We developed COLT to train outdoor educators, people who know how to pass on their love and knowledge for wilderness places. All the outdoor guide certifications cross over well to aspiring instructors and guides who see COLT as a fast track to making the outdoors a career. But we’ve also had people take COLT for lots of other reasons. Professionals use it as a sabbatical, a chance to unplug and recharge from high-pressure jobs. Students use it as a GAP year, a break between years of studying and a way to build soft skills, like leadership and perseverance, that will serve them wherever they end up. Military veterans find it a good transition from service to civilian. And some just do it for fun.
As long as you show up every day with an intention to get as much as you can out of the program, COLT will pay you back. And then some.