2. Outdoor Skills

Course Director:  Wes Riggins

Purpose: The normal mission of a search & rescue (SAR) team is to perform the LAST function; to Locate, Access, Stabilize and/or Transport persons from an activity in an outdoor, non-urban setting. The lost (or injured) person's ability to survive the experience is often dependent on their ability to make the right choices and decisions during, and sometimes before, their "encounter with nature". 

The goal of this course is to make you aware of the nature of these choices and situations, and to develop the skills and knowledge needed for you to operate safely and comfortably, unassisted for 72 hours, in most outdoor situations in California.  A secondary goal is to introduce you to the search & rescue processes and procedures as followed in California, and the actions expected of you as a search & rescue "ground pounder" during a SAR operation.

In any type of major disaster or emergency, it is likely that many of life's normal comforts and amenities will be lacking. You and your family must be prepared to be self-sufficient for a period of time during the early days of the event, minimally defined as 72 hours, and probably significantly longer. Outdoor Skills is designed to acquaint you with these issues and to prepare you to work through these situations. You can become part of the solution instead of part of the problem by acting as a lifeline to others around you in times of need.

Format: 2 day field exercise. (~16 hours)

When & Where

Saturday 10/13 8:30 AM - Sunday 10/14 2:30ish PM

Memorial Park, San Mateo County. (see training locations section below)

Training Cal-ESAR.org



  1. Complete Intro Night Forms and
    1. email the scanned copies to records@cal-esar.org
    2. Receive acceptance into the training program from the Training Director.
  2. Pay training fees by October 1st.

Skills Emphasized

  • Shelter building and site selection (tarps, rope and stakes provided)
  • Fire building
  • Clothing care & selection
  • Food selection, storage, preparation & transport
  • Elements of a SAR base camp
  • Radio fundamentals
  • Basic navigation techniques
  • Beginning SAR techniques (hasty search and carry-out)
  • Personal sanitation
  • Minimum impact camping
  • Basic knots
  • "Rule of 3s" and Survival priorities
  • Important Plants (Friend and Foe)

Gear List For Outdoor Skills


  • Boots/Hiking Shoes
  • Day Pack
  • Sleeping bag and pad
  • Sturdy bowl, cup, and spoon
  • Pocket knife optional but recommended
  • Headlamp, or small flashlight
  • Hydration bladder or Nalgene
  • Camp Chair
  • Note taking material
  • Optional extra items:
    • Wool or Synthetic  Stocking Cap or Balaclava
    • Chapstick
    • Sunglasses
    • Sunscreen
    • Neckerchief and/or Microfiber Towel
  • 'Cotton kills'- A rather dramatic statement, but cotton is a terrible fabric for outdoor use. You'll learn why in this class and it's use is not allowed on any ESAR outdoor activity or mission. That means jeans and T-shirts are a no go.
  • Candidates that received uniform pants at orientation wear'm. 
  • Uniform pants will be provided at start of training weekend to those that did not receive them at Orientation. 
  • Clothes appropriate for cold-weather hiking and potential rain...
    • Shell- rain jacket/poncho
    • Insulating layer (fleece, jacket, 
    • Socks- 2 pairs (wool or synthetic), 
    • Base layer- 2+ T-shirts, long sleeved shirt, 
    • Pants- 1 lightweight as backup.
    • Hat.
    • Note: Many light layers of clothes are preferred to a few layers of heavy clothing.
  • Toiletries: toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, soap
  • Small bottle of hand sanitizer (1 or 2 oz bottle size is fine)
  • Personal Meds (if needed)

  • Enough food for two lunches and snacks. Lunches should be able to be eaten on the go, and require no refrigeration. Dinner and breakfast will be provided
  • If you have a food sensitivity please let the Training Director and/or Operations section chief know. 
  • If you already have a backpacking stove, feel free to bring it along and use it, meals will be a group activity and will be a good opportunity for everyone to share ideas and demo equipment and techniques.
  • At least two filled 1 liter bottles of water and/or CamelBack-style bladder

Misc helpfull links

Boot Lacing tips (Thanks Scott Yacko)

Ham radio License- Want to get you ham radio license? Here's a link to find test exam locations and dates

    Guest and Pet Policy

    This weekend is a training weekend for members of Cal-ESAR. Pets or non-registered guests (e.g. siblings, significant others, friends) will detract from the training and cannot attend the weekend. Sorry, this is a matter of liability and unit policy.


    Click here to login to the Trainer's Site and gain access to training materials and course notes.  If you have access problems, let us know!