Fantastic Dirtbag Careers to Fuel Your Adventures

When it comes to being a dirtbag, you’ve gotta find a way to fuel your lifestyle. We aren’t just trust-fund toting van dwellers – we work for a living! Here’s a look at some of the many different outdoor careers suitable for that dirtbag lifestyle.

Part Time, Full Time or Volunteer?

Dirtbags come in all shapes and sizes from all walks of life. Some of us are retired, others are just starting out in the adult hustle. Many of us have full-time indoor careers we love, but we still want to get outdoors. Others, live for the full-time experience.

We are business owners, seasonal employees, or even just taking some time away from the grind. Either way, careers are personal. Some of us have a passion for careers that aren’t as steady, and we need multiple jobs to make ends meet. Others really want to spend their time volunteering, while some of us work hard at a single career.

Whichever direction you choose, create a budget of your monthly expenses, weigh your passions, and decide what’s best for you. There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to discovering your outdoor career. The important thing is, you do something you love.

Be an Educator

The educational field is an excellent way to spend time outside. You not only get to teach others and pass on your valuable skills, but you also get to do it in an outdoor setting. Think back to your earliest memories of being outdoors. Where you at summer camp? On a backpacking trip learning to pitch a tent from your dad? Or maybe it was a unique field trip you took. Either way there are plenty of options for educators. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Work at a Challenge Course or Ropes Course to provide programming to school kids.
  • Manage an outdoor education program at a university.
  • Teach at an expeditionary school that focuses on learning through the outdoor experience
  • Teach at a nature preschool

“We believe it is essential to get students outside and to explore and see education in a different way. Our students have the opportunity to take a total of 8 overnight trips into the wilderness in various parts of Washington including the Cascades, the Olympic Coast, Yakima, The Rainforest, etc. All of the trips are led by our wonderful faculty and staff. It is a beautiful place to be!” Says Outdoor Pro Rob B, who works as the Dean of Student Life and Diversity at Billings Middle School in Seattle, WA.
” I am the Adventure Director for the Tahoe Expedition Academy in Truckee, CA. I love creating real world education and our focus on putting students in front of experts in their field from around the globe to discuss solutions to complicated problems and challenges.” – Jake B. Image courtesy of Jake B.

Give in to the Guide Life

Becoming an outdoor wilderness guide is a rewarding career. You not only get to share your passion for your outdoor sports with others, but you also pass down valuable skills to those who share your same passion.

Becoming a certified guide takes years of hard work, dedication, and a willingness to learn. There are several different guiding certifications available depending on your sport, location, and which type of certification you seek, so be sure to do your research.

However, you don’t just have to be a traditional mountain guide. You can guide hikes, backpacking trips, climbing, mountaineering, water sports, and more!

“Guiding is an amazing profession where you get to connect with so many wonderful people while being outside in magical environments. In a way, it’s the ultimate dirtbag dream job. Of course to be an AMGA trained and certified guide one must go through years of training and take many courses and exams.” – Outdoor Pro Mia Tucholke talks about her experience as an AMGA guide.

“I’ve worked as an instructor at a climbing gym for the past two and a half years, and starting this summer I’ll be guiding rock in the Gunks for the next year or so…I love any opportunity to be outside and to share my passion for exploring and adventuring in nature with others, and having a job in the industry makes that sustainable and gives me access I otherwise wouldn’t have.” – EJ R. Image courtesy of EJ R.

Become a Fire Fighter

Many firefighters in towns close to outdoor recreation areas specialize in wildfires and fire mitigation in our wilderness areas. Being on a fire crew is an active job with lots of opportunities to learn exciting skills such as helicopter rescue and more!

Seek Seasonal Opportunities

If you’re the kind of dirtbag that gets itchy feet, season jobs might be your jam! You can work for ski patrol or work several different jobs in a town that offers season fun like skiing or climbing. You don’t have to be a liftie, there’s a variety of jobs available for seasonal workers from guiding to cooking.

Outdoor Pro Reid P. loves to cook up tasty meals and shred snow, “I’m a chef for the casual fine dining restaurant and the best ski bar in the PNW, at Crystal Mountain.The hours are the same as most kitchen jobs but working nights is so much enjoyable when I can ski/snowboard everyday beforehand.”

Take Your Research to the Field

Got a knack for science? Join an outdoor research team and take your passion for nature to field. As a biologist, sociologist, anthropologist or any other type of scientist, there are endless opportunities to explore the great outdoors, research your favorite topic, and get paid to do it!

Amber B. talks about her work as a science tech in Fairbanks, Alaska. “Currently doing smolt trapping – some very exciting but super cute Chinook salmon. Spend every day on a boat. Wouldn’t give it up, even on the worst weather days.”

Work in Media

A lot of people have heard the term “digital nomad,” or someone who makes a living online. If you work as a freelancer or an outdoor company, you can choose to stay in one location or move around. Take me for example. I’m a full-time freelance writer and digital marketing specialist, but I have a home base. Outdoor Pro Roxy H. does something similar but lives in her van full time. Both lifestyles suit us perfectly and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

However, if hustling for your next paycheck isn’t your thing, you can work for an outdoor company and still enjoy the same outdoor lifestyle. Take Rachel D. for example, she’s an Outdoor Pro and copywriter extraordinaire!

“I’m the copywriter for Outdoor Research, which means that I write every word that leaves company doors – emails, ads, website, catalog, posters in REI, you name it! I wouldn’t be any good at my job if I didn’t DO ALL THE THINGS that we make products for. That means I’m encouraged to spend my out-of-office hours running, climbing, skiing, biking… and I take full advantage of that encouragement. […] I love working in-house for a brand whose values align with my own, and being part of a community that shares my passion for these sports.” – Rachel D.

Join an Adventure Travel Company (or Start Your Own)

Part guide and part educator, adventure travel companies and traveling instructors have the best of both worlds. You can help teach people about our natural environment in a fun-filled setting. Outdoor Pro Michelle B. travels full time with her daughter and horses, teaching Wilderness First Responder courses, while Ulyana N. runs an adventure science company called Science in the Wild.

“We take people on expeditions around the world, learning about and doing science. When I was working on a PhD on glaciers in Nepal (2011 – 2015), I had a lot of people (trekkers, climbers, locals) helping me out and I realized that I wanted to do this the rest of my life: show people the planet and why it’s so important to preserve its natural wonders!” – Ulyana N.

“I am a program lead for Little Bellas for our Vermont chapters and I’m ALL about getting more girls on bikes. We run programs for girls anywhere from 7-18 and made sure they have as much fun mountain biking as humanly possible. (I also have a real job but it’s not nearly as fun!)” – Gage O. Image courtesy of Gage O.

Become a Ranger

Serve the wild spaces you love most. Rangers have all different kinds of responsibilities, from running kids programs to maintaining your favorite trails. The world of forest rangers runs deep, and you can gain incredibly valuable outdoor career skills while working as a ranger.

Volunteer in the Outdoors

Don’t have time to tackle a new career? Give back to the spaces you love by volunteering. You can opt to join a one day trail cleanup, or volunteer on a more consistent basis. Either way you go, you’ll be giving back to the spaces we love the most.

Kaya L. has a day job, but she also spends time volunteering in Yosemite National Park as a climbing steward.

“My main priority as a Steward is to educate people and bring them into the rock climbing community. With Yosemite Facelift it is to keep the park clean and well protected! Both are ultimately about educating the public on safety and conservation.” – Kaya L.

Image courtesy of Kaya L.

When it comes to outdoor careers, we are just beginning to scratch the surface. Our Outdoor ProLink members love their careers and take pride in the stewardship they provide for not just the outdoor community, but the world at large.

About the Gear Tester

Outdoor Prolink Pro

Meg Atteberry is a full-time freelance writer and outdoor enthusiast. Her mission is to empower others to get outside and have an adventure. She loves a sunny crag and delicious trail snacks. When she’s not wordsmithing you can find her hiking, climbing, and mountaineering all over the world with her fiancé and adventure pup, Nina. To learn more about Meg, check out her blog Fox in the Forest. She’d rather be dirty than done up.

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