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Outdoor Fundamentals: Everything You Need to Know to Stay Safe

We may never need to know how to safely use the bathroom in the woods or build a fire out of next to nothing. But we don't want not to know, either.
Outdoor Fundamentals: Everything You Need to Know to Stay Safe is rated 5.0 out of 5 by 60.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent! That was excellent information! I am recently retired and looking to get out hiking and kayaking more often. Lots of new and useful ideas that now I don't need to learn the hard way. Really enjoyed the course.
Date published: 2024-04-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very informative. Great course. We are somewhat veteran campers. My wife and i grew up going camping backpacking. . As the old saying goes you learn something new every day. After watching this course, we picked up a few tips we can use. We put a few of them to test on our recent bike packing trip
Date published: 2024-03-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The More You Know...! My husband and I just finished watching this lecture series and found it to be incredibly helpful! Right afterward, we immediately ordered mesh bags for our sleeping bags. My husband also rearranged the camping gear he'd recently used so that he could wash it again and let it dry properly. There is lots of great information in this course and we definitely recommend for anyone at any level of camping or outdoor excursions.
Date published: 2023-11-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic class! I've been camping a lot, and I'm only a brief day-hiker (at best). I've learned a lot from Professor Andre and I've not finished the course, but wanted to leave a 5-star review. I did laugh at the "picking a campsite" information because I've had to learn the hard way not to do many of those things, or I had a friend learn them the hard way. Every lecture has very useful information, and after every one I'm very glad to have watched them. The instructor is engaging and very knowledgeable.
Date published: 2023-11-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from NEVER too late! My God, I wish I would have discovered this course and Professor Andre earlier! I've been watching YouTube videos on Bush-crafting, Camping, and Hiking for a long time now and have not received nearly as much information as I have from Professor Andre. My favorite quote is "Nylon is nylon and wool is wool. You might already have a lot of suitable clothing in your closet." Everything is delivered in a very understandable way and her references to her own misgivings and triumphs are sincere and believable. Now, Off to the woods! After I shop for a canoe of course. ;-) Thank you!
Date published: 2023-04-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Informative and a pleasant instructor This series gives some helpful suggestions whether one has been involved in outdoor activities a long time or a very short time. The instructor was engaging.
Date published: 2022-04-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best Course Here So Far! This has been the best and most useful course on this site so far. I took it right before a month and a half long trip with lots of tent camping and road-tripping. I was pretty far out in some instances and this course helped me implement many techniques that helped me enjoy and stay safe in the wilderness. Awesome instructor! Great course content that's useful in real life for anybody who wants to get outdoors!
Date published: 2022-03-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Inspiring Best Great Courses we have purchased this far! This will make our enjoyment of the Appalachian Trail even more enjoyable and safe!
Date published: 2022-02-03
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Re-discover the great outdoors with tips and tricks to make the most of your next adventure.


Elizabeth K. Andre

The outdoors can be for everyone. You just need the know-how to recreate responsibly and safely.


Northland College

Elizabeth K. Andre is an Associate Professor of Nature and Culture in the Outdoor Education Department at Northland College, an environmental liberal arts college on the South Shore of Lake Superior. She earned her MA in Outdoor Education from Griffith University in Australia and her PhD in Curriculum and Instruction of Science and Environmental Education from the University of Minnesota. She served for four years on the board of the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education (AORE), including one year as president. She is also an associate editor of the Journal of Outdoor Recreation, Education, and Leadership.

Dr. Andre has led more than 2,000 days of wilderness expeditions, field courses, and outdoor training in backpacking, mountaineering, climbing, canoeing, kayaking, ski touring, and dogsledding. Before working at Northland, she instructed field courses for Outward Bound in Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Maryland, Canada, Costa Rica, and the Austrian and Italian Alps, as well as for the Wild Rockies Field Institute in Utah and Texas. She also served on a technical rescue team based in the White Mountains of Maine.

Dr. Andre is a level-4 whitewater canoe instructor for the American Canoe Association and competes frequently at the Open Canoe Slalom North American Championships, where she has won medals in both solo and tandem races. As a consultant for the Outdoor Safety Institute, she conducts safety reviews of summer camp paddling programs and serves as an expert witness for paddling and river-related litigation.

Dr. Andre worked for two years with National Geographic explorer Will Steger to plan and execute a three-month dogsled expedition in 2007 across Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic to raise climate change awareness. She published a curriculum to support the expedition and joined the expedition team as the education coordinator, sending daily dispatches from the ice to classrooms around the world. Dr. Andre wrote additional curricula to support Steger’s 2008 expedition to Ellesmere Island, Steger’s 2009 youth contingent to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, and National Geographic explorer Jon Bowermaster’s Antarctic expedition of his OCEANS 8 project.

Dr. Andre has won the Northland College faculty award for teaching and has been the keynote speaker for numerous conferences, including the Outdoor Orientation Program Symposium; the Jewish Outdoor, Food, Farming and Environmental Education gathering; the Midwest Environmental Education Conference; the AORE Women’s Leadership and Mentor Institute; and the Student Outdoor Educators Conference. She has also published several chapters in textbooks on outdoor education and environmental philosophy.

By This Professor

Outdoor Fundamentals: Everything You Need to Know to Stay Safe
Outdoor Fundamentals: Everything You Need to Know to Stay Safe


The Call of the Wild

01: The Call of the Wild

We often think of “roughing it” in the outdoors—testing our mettle against the forces of nature and depriving ourselves of creature comforts. But it doesn’t have to be that way. In this introductory lecture, explore some of the many reasons to venture into the great outdoors. Find out how, instead of “roughing it,” you can “smooth it.”

31 min
Backpacking and Trip Planning

02: Backpacking and Trip Planning

A backpacking trip can be profoundly enjoyable, provided you plan ahead and pack a few necessities (and leave a few non-essentials at home). Learn how to stay hydrated, eat well, take care of your skin, and protect your feet on the trail. Gain a few safety tips for traveling in a group.

29 min
Canoe or Sea-Kayak Camping

03: Canoe or Sea-Kayak Camping

Glide into the backcountry or open ocean—in style! Paddling is one of the most serene ways to enjoy the natural world, but there are a few perils that come with canoeing or kayaking. From battling waves and weather to staying warm in cool waters, learn how to take on the world’s oceans, lakes, and rivers.

30 min
Campcraft: Selecting and Organizing Gear

04: Campcraft: Selecting and Organizing Gear

You don't have to spend much time with outdoor enthusiasts to learn it's all about the gear. From high-tech creature comforts to lightweight innovations, there's no shortage of ways to outfit your next overnight. What do you really need? How do you balance weight versus convenience? Start building your system of gear in this practical lecture.

28 min
Clothing and Footwear for Outdoor Adventure

05: Clothing and Footwear for Outdoor Adventure

Investigate the world of shell layers, synthetic materials, insulation, and ankle support to help you maintain a comfortable body temperature, manage moisture, and protect your skin. Whether it's a multi-day snow hike or car camping in the desert, Professor Andre shows you how to select just the right clothing and footwear for your next outdoor excursion.

25 min
Basics for Wilderness Safety

06: Basics for Wilderness Safety

Lions, tigers, and bears … well, your wilderness adventure might not bring you in contact with a tiger, but plenty of other risks abound, from snakes to stinging insects to, yes, black bears and mountain lions. See what it takes to stay safe on the trail, and how to stay healthy while you’re off the grid.

26 min
Weather Forecasting and Moon Phases

07: Weather Forecasting and Moon Phases

Cold fronts and warm fronts are more than meteorological mumbo jumbo. With a little training, you can look at cloud patterns and know whether rain is on the way—and what type of storm to expect. As you dig into the fascinating world of weather patterns, you’ll learn how to survive lightning, floods, tornadoes, and more.

26 min
Introduction to Navigation

08: Introduction to Navigation

For most of us accustomed to GPS directions and well-marked streets, it can be frighteningly easy to get lost in the woods. In this lecture, engage your senses—sight, sound, smell, and feel—to build mental maps of your surroundings. Find out how to measure time and distance on the trail.

26 min
Navigating with Topographic Maps

09: Navigating with Topographic Maps

Topographic maps tell you a great deal about the terrain—details that don’t much matter in the civilized world. Professor Andre teaches you how to read these helpful maps, and then she shows you how to use a compass in sync with your topographic map. With a little practice on the trail or on the river, you may never get lost again.

29 min
Assessing and Managing Risk in the Outdoors

10: Assessing and Managing Risk in the Outdoors

Risk management affects every aspect of our lives, but it’s especially critical when you don’t have instant access to shelter, medical supplies, and 911. Unpack the nature and likelihood of various risks in the outdoors, as well as our own cognitive biases, so you can make better—safer—decisions on the trail and off.

26 min
How Emotions Affect Your Decision Making

11: How Emotions Affect Your Decision Making

Life might be much simpler if we were all rational beings who always made highly calculated decisions. Alas, humans are emotional beings, and we make many of our most important decisions by feel rather than by thought. Learn to make better decisions by examining your emotions at play in the great outdoors.

27 min
Selecting a Campsite and Pitching Shelter

12: Selecting a Campsite and Pitching Shelter

As anyone who does it regularly knows, camping is fun. But to make the most of it, you’ll want to set up a good campsite. Find out what makes a good campsite and how to set up a tarp or tent to keep you dry and cozy. This lecture comes with a special “bonus instruction” on tying knots to help you secure a tarp.

34 min
Outdoor Kitchen Setup and Safety

13: Outdoor Kitchen Setup and Safety

Your campsite might not be a gourmet kitchen with all the amenities, but with a few adjustments to your cooking regimen, you can cook some amazing meals outdoors. Survey the best way to set up your campsite kitchen, the basics of stove safety, and how to keep your hands and dishes clean.

25 min
Building a Campfire

14: Building a Campfire

Storytelling by a campfire is one of life’s most enjoyable activities—and it’s as old as humanity itself. But building a good fire can separate the amateurs from the pros at the campsite. From gathering tinder to establishing a bed of coals, see what it takes to construct a good fire in the wild.

26 min
Safe Drinking Water in the Wilderness

15: Safe Drinking Water in the Wilderness

If you’re out in the backcountry for more than a day, you’re going to need to treat water to. Make it safe for drinking—removing sediment, bacteria, and other microorganisms that might make you sick. Reflect on your different options for filtering or purifying water, from boiling to chemical treatments, and the pros and cons of each.

27 min
Outdoor Menu Planning and Cooking

16: Outdoor Menu Planning and Cooking

Humans survived for millennia without refrigeration, but enjoying a good meal on the trail requires a few adjustments to our modern lifestyle. You'll want to triangulate your daily calorie needs, the weight of your gear, and the taste of your food. Examine the range of options available for your next trip to the wild.

28 min
Minimizing Your Impact on the Wilderness

17: Minimizing Your Impact on the Wilderness

Nothing spoils an outdoor adventure faster than stumbling onto a messy campsite or a vandalized forest. Minimizing your impact in the backcountry is part of an unwritten code of courtesy for enjoying the wild. Learn the major principles for being a good steward of the wilderness.

27 min
Hygiene on a Camping Trip

18: Hygiene on a Camping Trip

Germs exist in the wild same as they do in civilization, but without running hot water it can be a challenge to keep yourself clean. From shoes to camp soap to disposable wipes, see what gear you can bring and what steps you should take to mitigate the spread of disease. Your body, and your camp mates, will thank you.

26 min
Wilderness First Aid: Handling Emergencies

19: Wilderness First Aid: Handling Emergencies

It’s a good idea for everyone to have at least a basic understanding of wilderness first aid. The “wait-and-see” approach we might take in the front country could be deadly in the backcountry. In this first of two lectures, learn about first aid for the “big three”: circulatory, respiratory, and nervous systems.

32 min
Wilderness First Aid: Nonemergency Care

20: Wilderness First Aid: Nonemergency Care

Continue your study of wilderness first aid with a look beyond the “big three” life-threatening concerns. Find out how to make a splint for an injured limb, how to treat an open wound, what to do for burns, and more. Learn a few guidelines for when to hike out and when to call for help.

29 min
Navigating with a Compass

21: Navigating with a Compass

A compass is one of the most useful tools on the trip, but only if you know how to use it. See how to get your bearings and travel off trail or over open water with the aid of a compass. Then, travel with Professor Andre to the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota to practice your navigation skills.

27 min
What to Do When You’re Lost

22: What to Do When You’re Lost

Getting lost is one of the easiest things to do in the backcountry. Perhaps you wander off the trail to gather firewood, or perhaps you stop paying attention to your map and compass. Whatever the reason, you find yourself lost. What should you do? Keep moving? Call for help? Build a shelter? Learn the do's and don'ts in this insightful lecture.

28 min
Maintaining and Repairing Your Gear

23: Maintaining and Repairing Your Gear

The right gear makes all the difference in the wild, but only if you take care of it between expeditions. Even the most avid outdoor enthusiasts may neglect to wash their sleeping bags or shake out their tents after a long stint in the bush. Here, Professor Andre offers a checklist of common gear ailments and how to prevent them.

26 min
Connecting to the Wild within You

24: Connecting to the Wild within You

Preparation and caution are important for venturing into the wild, but your outdoor experience is about more than following a checklist and staying hydrated. Whether on water or land, getting outdoors can be breath-taking, as this final lecture makes clear. Now, get ready for your own next adventure!

31 min