Becoming an Outdoor Adventure Program Trip Leader

Group of outdoor staff wearing backpacks in winter in snow covered forest next to frozen lake

The Outdoor Adventure Program seeks to offer a variety of safe and fun outdoor trips to the UMass Lowell Community. We offer trips that meet every person's skill level in order to challenge each person to grow through experience. We encourage teamwork, skill development, personal growth, and appreciation of the outdoors through trip experience. OAP is a well established part of the Campus Recreation Department, and has been in existence since 2007. The mission of the program is to support the development of healthy, balanced lifestyles for the UMass Lowell community through outdoor recreation and education activities. Trips include day hikes, paddling, biking, climbing, backpacking, cross country skiing, winter hiking, and more.

OAP-Staff-Recruitment-eventsOAP Staff Recruitment Events

Recruitment events vary depending on the semester and staffing needs. You can always stop by the Outdoor Center on weekdays to speak to Kate Ford if you have any questions about being a trip leader.

Man wearing backpack standing near stream pointing at camera with smile Image by Daniel Cremin

What Does It Take To Be A Leader?

Our trip leaders are excited to be outdoors and share the experience with others. Their duties and responsibilities are dynamic and broad. Our staff always keep the group's safety as the number one priority. They have strong communication and leadership skills, administrative abilities, experience in a variety of outdoor activities, a can-do attitude, and a welcoming spirit! Leaders typically start with some experience and knowledge in at least one to two of our core activities: mountain or road biking, hiking, paddling, backpacking/camping, climbing (indoor or outdoor) and winter sports experience (hiking, skiing, winter camping). They have effective people skills, engaging with participants in a friendly, encouraging, and supportive manner. Responsibility and good judgement are extremely important. We do not expect every trip leader to come to us with every skill, and we provide continual training for the right people with the right attitude! Campus Recreation emphasizes inclusivity and welcomes all diverse applicants!

What should I do before I apply?

  • We first encourage anyone interested in applying to be an OAP Trip Leader to participate in at least a few OAP trips of different varieties. This will give you the best idea of the kinds of trips we lead and the expectations for a trip leader. Talk to the trip leader while you're on the trip to learn more about the experience of being a trip leader for the Outdoor Adventure Program.
  • Participate in our Outdoor Leadership Class! During Fall 2022, most meetings are on a regular weekday evening during October and November, plus a one-night camping trip to round it out! This is a great class, where you will learn solid skills, build leadership ability, and have a fun time! More details at our Outdoor Leadership Class webpage
  • If offered, attend one of our Staff Recruitment Meet & Greet events (details above at OAP Staff Recruitment Events).
  • If you are able, get certified in Wilderness First Aid or a Wilderness First Responder. See our Instructional Workshops page for more details. Talk with us about your intentions, as well!
  • Additionally, consider working at the Kayak Center in the summer for more experience and training! For more details, talk to Kate Ford by email:

What kinds of trips does each trip leader lead?

We host a variety of trips, and our most important goal is safety. We will always staff each trip in a manner that provides for safety ratios and appropriate knowledge and experience for the group. We try to schedule each leader for some trips that they are really excited about and will excel at, as well as some trips that will add to their knowledge base. Most trips have 2-3 leaders for approx. 9-20 participants.

What is the time commitment to be a trip leader?

Trip leaders attend a two-hour staff meeting every 1-3 weeks. They average 8-22 hours of work for 1-2 weekends per month for trips. Of that, about 2-6 hours per week is doing pre-trip preparations and clean-up. On weeks without trips, there may be no hours worked. 

Depending on trip enrollment and staffing, each trip leader will lead about 6-10 trips per semester, some being evening events, some being full day activities, and some being overnight camping trips.

What does training look like?

We have staff training just before the beginning of each semester, usually for 4-5 days in the fall and 2-3 days in the spring, and typically involving one or more overnight. All staff will be provided First Aid and CPR/AED certification. Trip leaders are all expected to get certified in Wilderness First Aid within their first semester of working (full or partial scholarships available). We also strongly encourage our trip leaders to get certified in Wilderness First Responder within their first year and a half, typically available at UML during Winter Break (partial scholarships available).

Are trip leaders paid?

Yes, trip leaders are paid to go on awesome adventures! It is a great job, and also one with a lot of responsibility. We consider OAP trips to be a very important part of the Campus Recreation Department, and we expect a lot from our leaders. Work Study is not necessary to be hired, but is welcome.

Trip leaders get professional development as they participate in staff training, lead more trips and gain new skills or refine existing skills. We also offer full or partial scholarships for staff to be certified in Wilderness First Aid or Wilderness First Responder. 

Additionally, trip leaders have access to gear owned by the Outdoor Adventure Program, a discount for any Bike Shop and Outdoor Center purchases, as well as pro-deals for new gear.

Group of trip leaders looking through lighthouse glass with ocean and lighthouses beyond Image by OAP

What are the benefits of being a trip leader?

  • Full staff training, including reduced cost Wilderness First Aid or Wilderness First Responder
  • Gain leadership skills
  • Learn new activities and skills
  • Enjoy adventure
  • Have fun
  • Learn risk management skills and practice safety

This is an excellent opportunity for students to develop leadership skills and experience that you can later apply to their chosen career. You will be part of an exciting and active community of student outdoor leaders and professionals. Besides growing leadership, other valuable skills include working effectively with others, understanding risk management, and practice with maintaining a safe environment. Being a trip leader will also set you up for enjoying continued outdoor adventure for the rest of your life. This is an unforgettable experience you will look back on and treasure for a lifetime!

A wide shot of a beautiful canyon with hikers walking along a trail through it.

Where do trips go?

We go to some GREAT locations! Some of our trips are in or near Lowell, like kayaking on the Merrimack River or biking in Lowell-Dracut State Forest or Great Brook State Park. Most weekend trips travel about an hour or two by van to a great location, often in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. During winter or spring breaks, our trips often go much farther afield, like kayaking in Florida or backpacking in the south or west! Student trip leaders lead all of these trips. On bigger trips, professional staff generally lead, as well.

How can I apply to be a trip leader?

Applications open in JobHawk usually in July for a fall semester start, or in October/November for a spring semester start. You can always reach out to Kate Ford, Outdoor Programs Coordinator, by email at: for more information.