Outdoor Skills


The goal of this course is to develop the skills and knowledge needed for you to operate safely and comfortably, unassisted for 72 hours, in most outdoor situations in California as a SAR boots on the ground resource. 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.


  1. Apply to training program, following the process here

  2. Receive acceptance into the training program from the Training Director (via email).

  3. Pay training fees by October 1st

When & Where

Current Cal-ESAR Candidates and Members: Please log in to the Member Portal for schedule and location details

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

  • Daypack

  • Sleeping bag and pad

  • Sturdy bowl, cup, and spoon

  • Headlamp, or small flashlight

  • Optional

    • Pocket knife

For class

  • Camp chair

  • Note taking materials


Clothes appropriate for cold-weather hiking and potential rain. No cotton (reasons for this will be covered in training.)

  • 1 Rain jacket / poncho

  • 1 insulating layer (fleece jacket)

  • 2 pairs socks, wool or synthetic

  • 1 base layer

  • 2+ T-shirts

  • 1 long sleeved shirt

  • 1 pair pants

  • Optional

    • Wool or synthetic stocking cap or balaclava

    • Sunglasses

Note: Many light layers of clothes are preferred to a few layers of heavy clothing.

Toiletries, etc.

  • Toiletries: toothbrush, toothpaste, comb or hairbrush

  • Small bottle of hand sanitizer (1 or 2 oz bottle size is fine)

  • Personal medications (if needed)

  • Optional

    • Chapstick

    • Sunscreen

    • Bandanna, neckerchief and/or microfiber towel


  • 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.

  • At least two filled 1 liter bottles of water and/or CamelBack-style bladder

  • 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.

Additional resources

Boot Lacing Tips

Detailed article on how you stay warm / cold, and on heat and cold injuries

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