Editor’s note: This review is not a paid promotion for AIM Adventure U—our writer was fully ready to trash the course if it wasn’t up to snuff. But because we chose to recommend the program, AIM Adventure U has offered our readers a coupon code. Use the code GIANTS20 to score a 20% discount off any course. The offer will expire on October 31 or after 100 students use it.
Backcountry navigation is a skill best learned in the field. If you really want to learn it right, your best option is to track a hermit to his mountain cabin, bring him a gift of whiskey and gunpowder, and beg him to take you under his wing.
If he agrees, follow him for years as he tracks his lonely path through the wilderness. Learn his strange ways. Become like him—silent and resolute, one with the stones, the moss and the trees.
If he shoos you away, just throw on your PJs and register for an online course with AIM Active Adventure U.
That’s right: there’s now an online school that teaches outdoor adventure skills. It’s a new project from Active Interest Media, the company that publishes Ski, Climbing, and Backpacker magazines. It offers several courses on a wide variety of topics, from outdoor photography to camp cooking to trad climbing.
Most are priced somewhere between $145-199, which, if I’m being honest, is a lot of money for a freelance writer to drop on anything. So I emailed over my “media card,” and got access to AIM’s Backcountry Navigation course for this review. (Full disclosure: I never actually tried the hermit’s apprentice thing.)
In my review, I tried to answer three basic questions: Is the course complete? Is it effective? And, finally, who is it actually for?
1. Is the course complete?
In a word, yes.
I’d say the whole course takes anywhere from 8-12 hours to complete (excluding the “homework” assignments, which usually involve going for a hike with a compass or something like that). In that time, students work through 48 lessons on seven topics: reading maps, using a compass, route planning, using digital devices, traveling on and off trail, handling common navigation challenges, and getting “un-lost.”