How has COVID-19 impacted the Wilderness Basics Course?

The Wilderness Basics Course is a program of the Sierra Club San Diego. The National Sierra Club has suspended all in person activities until February 28, 2021 and will resassess at that time. Therefore, the 2021 Wilderness Baiscs Course has been postponed to 2022. As information is available we will post. Read more.

How often do you offer the Wilderness Basics Course (WBC)?

This course is offered once a year, starting in January for ten weeks. In 2020, the course started on Tuesday, January 14th. The 2021 Course will be postponed to 2022.

Where can I learn more about the Wilderness Basics Course (WBC)?

Visit the home page on our website where we have a video that provides you with an overview of the course and outlines the various course activities. For more detailed in class information, please take a look at the schedule.

Where is the Wilderness Basics Course held?

The course has been held at the Scottish Rite Event Center in Mission Valley. We are looking for a new location in 2022 as the Scottish Rite Event Center has been sold. There is also a course held in Escondido at San Pasqual High School. The North County course runs separately from the San Diego WBC and you will need to contact them to get more information about their course.

What time does the class start?

The course starts at 7:00PM every Tuesday night and lasts until 9:30PM. On several class nights there are additional (optional) activities for students starting as early as 6:00PM. These include the WBC Swap Meet, Community Night, discussions with the WBC Leaders, Sierra Club Sections, etc. You may arrive early if you like, the doors open at 6:00PM. We also recommend that you come early the first night of class.

Can I pre-register?

Yes you can. Registration opens in November. You may register online. Prior to November 1st, you can sign up for the registration email reminder.

How do I sign up for the Wilderness Basics Course?

Registration opens on November 1st, please visit the registration page to sign up.

Can I use my credit card to pay?

Yes, we accept VISA, Mastercard, AMEX, Discover, PayPal and check through PayPal. If you need to pay by cash, you will need to wait and sign up on the first night of class. Registration is on a first-come basis and after we reach our class maximum of students that have paid, registration will be closed and a waiting list will be created. In the past five years, we have not had space on the first night of class.

Is the Wilderness Basics Course open to minors?

No, the San Diego Wilderness Basics Course does not accept anyone under the age of 18 years old. However, the North County WBC does accept students 14 years old and in their first year of high school with their guardian. Please contact the North County WBC for more information.

What does the Wilderness Basics Course cost and how can I pay less for the class?

The 2020 Wilderness Basics Course is priced at $255. If you are a Sierra Club member, you will receive a $15 discount on class registration. The discount will be provided to students in the form of a cash reimbursement after class has begun, as we are unable to process this via registration on the website. Become a member.

Are there fitness requirements in order to take the Wilderness Basics Course?

Yes, this class requires a solid base of physical conditioning, because you will be carrying a backpack weighing anywhere between 30-40 pounds for three of the four outings. Before our first campout, we will have a mandatory day hike at Iron Mountain in Poway. The hike is roughly 1 3/4 - 2 miles with 600 feet elevation gain/loss. We require all students to complete the hike from the parking lot to the saddle (where the sign appears at the T-intersection) in 50 minutes while carrying 15 pounds in your daypack. If you need more time than 50 minutes, we will strongly encourage you to take more time to further condition and return for class next year. To condition for the class, we recommend that you hike two to three times a week. You should aim for hiking 2 - 2.5 miles per hour, carrying 10 pounds in a daypack while being able to hold a conversation, then increase the difficulty and time you hike. Don't want to train on your own? If you want to start hiking with others, sign up for the Sierra Club Outings Newsletter or check out the Meet Up group. If you have any questions about conditioning or the above, please feel free to contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

What if I do not complete the Wilderness Basics Course the first year; will I still graduate?

No, you will not graduate. All classes and outings must be completed for you to receive a graduation certificate. We will be offering outings on alternate weekends and make up trips in April if you missed an outing. If you do not complete the course the first year you are welcome to register and pay to take the class again to complete any trips you have missed.

How many outings are there?

There is one short day hike up a local mountain and four overnight trips. We have a Car Camp weekend outing, a Mountain/Desert backpack weekend outing, a Land Navigation backpack weekend outing, and a Snow Camp backpack weekend outing.

Will the registration fee cover all these outings?

The registration fee covers your participation in all of the outings excluding meals and transportation. An additional fee is charged in the years that Snow Camp is held in Mammoth. For those years, we bus the class up to the Mammoth Lakes area where each student will learn how to camp in the snow and how to snowshoe or cross-country ski with a backpack. In 2020, the fee for this outing is $75.

Who provides the gear?

Each student provides their own gear including their own tent, clothing, stove, backpack, and sleeping bag. Each student will also provide their own food. We strongly encourage all students who do not own their own gear to either borrow or rent their equipment during class. It is better to test out rented equipment for the trips and wait to purchase gear until after class so that you will have greater knowledge of what types of equipment you will need. We also encourage students to share stoves, tents and to carpool to cut expenses. However, each student is required to wear hiking boots on each outing.

Can friends, family members or pets join me on the outings?

No. Only registered students, staff members and WBC leaders are allowed to participate on outings.

Does the Wilderness Basics Course insure each student?

No student or leader is insured through WBC. Each student is required to provide their own medical insurance. If a student is injured on any outing or in the classroom, their own medical insurance and/or medical provider needs to be contacted at the student's cost. If a student is hurt on an outing and the leader feels the student must be evacuated or rescued, then the student is responsible for these charges also.

How long has the Wilderness Basics Course been in existence?

The Wilderness Basics Course started in 1957 in cooperation with the City of San Diego under the umbrella of the Sierra Club San Diego. Eventually WBC separated from the city and have been running as a community service ever since.

Are there additional costs?

Each student should plan on spending the registration fee for the class. On top of this, each student should also budget money for gear rentals, gas to the outings, and any miscellaneous costs including food, fuel, or special clothing (if they are not able to borrow from friends). Depending on how much gear each student has and how much they still need to acquire, the amount spent could vary dramatically from student to student. A lot of students are able to find "camping" clothing or gear at thrift stores which helps cut costs dramatically. The WBC also has 1-2 swap meets before the regularly scheduled classes where used gear can be purchased. When a student registers for the WBC class they are also given discount cards provided by local merchants. In the past the following merchants have offered discounts to WBC students: Adventure 16, and Nomad Ventures In years the class travels to Mammoth for Snow Camp there is an additional fee of $75 to cover the costs of bus transportation and lodging.

Where can I find the dates for the outings so I can enter them into my calendar?

The schedule is posted on our website in the Course Details section.

When do I receive my certificate of completion?

Certificates of completion are given out at our annual WBC Reunion weekend in the spring. The Reunion is held at different venues each year. On the last night of class, each student takes the written test and turns in their signed-off outings card. If you have completed all four outings, and pass the test, you will graduate from the course. During the Reunion weekend, guest speakers give presentations, and hikes are organized to explore the local area. The WBC sponsors this weekend event for a small charge (~$10). If any student is unable to attend the Reunion, their WBC graduation certificate will be mailed to them after the Reunion.

How many students are on each trip?

Each trip will have a maximum of 13 students and two leaders: a main leader and assistant leader.

What information is taught at the Wilderness Basics Course?

The WBC teaches a wide range of information and skills, presented by an array of guest speakers. Speakers use props or PowerPoint presentations to explain their subject matter, and subjects include conditioning, first aid, foods and cooking, wilderness ethics, flora, weather, staying warm, packing a backpack, encounters with animals, land navigation and comparisons of different types of gear, to name a few. Check out the schedule for more details.

What if I miss one of the scheduled trips?

If you miss one of the trips during class, we often have "make-up" trips offered in April at the end of the WBC course. Sign ups for these trips will be held before the last night of class. If you miss the Car Camp outing you may substitute a backpack trip for that outing if you choose. These "make-up" trips are offered on a first come basis. If the "make-up" trip does not fill to capacity with students who need the trip to graduate (and the leader authorizes it), other WBC students may sign up for the trip even though they do not need it to graduate. Depending on the location for Snow Camp, there may be no "make-up" trips for Snow Camp.

How many times may I graduate from the Wilderness Basics Course?

You may attend and graduate from WBC any two times within the past seven years.

What is the Wilderness Basics Course Refund Policy?

We understand that there are times when you may register for a course such as WBC and then life gets in the way.

In the past, we have had a waiting list. If we are able to fill your spot with a paid registration, we would be happy to do so and refund your registration fee, less a $25 cancellation fee. In order to do this, you must let us know that you'd like to cancel by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we will put you on our cancellation list. There is no guarantee that we will have a wait list.

If you have a sudden, unexpected medical condition that can be verified by a medical doctor's documentation prior to the second class, we will be able to provide you with a refund. We will not be able to provide refunds after the second class.

The WBC book, compass, and UTM grid will have to be returned before receiving a refund.

There will be a $25 cancellation fee imposed on any registration that is refunded after December 1.

What is the Wilderness Basics Course Policy?

View our course policy.

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