Questions You Should Ask When Hiring a Guide

  • Does the guide(s) maintain current CPR & First-Aid certification? Surprisingly, the state of Maine does not require guides to keep their certification current when they renew their license every 5 years. A professional guide will keep it current regardless of the state’s lax requirements. 
  • How many years of experience do you have guiding this type of trip/activity?
  • What is your policy on wearing PFD’s while on the water? I’m saddened to admit this, but I’ve witnessed a number of unsafe situations on guided trips that involve people not wearing a PFD. If a guide does not require clients to wear a PFD on the water it’s a statement about how serious they take the safety of their clients.
  • What is the guide’s EAP (Emergency Action Plan) if someone gets hurt or becomes ill? In remote areas without cell service, guides should carry a satellite phone or In Reach device. A list of emergency contact call numbers should be with the first-aid kit for the warden service dispatch for the area their guiding in.
  • What is the maximum and minimum group size? What happens if they don’t get the minimum number of sign-ups? Will you receive a full refund? How far ahead will you be notified? I would recommend a maximum group size of 8 guests.
  • What is the contingency plan in the event of either very low or very high water, or other extreme weather conditions?
  • How many guides will be on the trip? My recommendation is a 1:4 or 5 guide to client ratio. There should be 2 guides for any group over 5 guests. 
  • Is the trip owner guided, or does the outfit subcontract out to other guides? Generally speaking, owner-guided trips maintain higher levels of quality, consistency & safety. 
  • There should be a frequently asked questions page on the guide’s website that may answer many of the above questions. 

Checklist of Info a Guide Should Provide

  • What’s included/not included in price of the trip (i.e. lodging, transportation, specific equipment, etc.)
  • Detailed list of equipment/clothing guide supplies and a personal clothing/gear list that participants are expected to provide.
  • Clearly written and fair cancellation/refund policy
  • The guide should ask you to fill out a short medical form and sign an assumption of risk form. The guide should know if you have any allergies or pre-existing conditions that could affect your ability to participate in the trip. The guide should have liability insurance, and all insurers require participants sign a risk form.

Bio- Kevin Slater is a Master Maine Guide and co-founder of Mahoosuc Guide Service with 40 years of experience guiding in Maine, Alaska, Nunavik and Nunavut. He served many years on the Oral Exam Board for Maine Dept. of IF&W, which tests new guide candidates. His diverse guiding background includes canoeing, fishing, mountaineering, hunting, & dogsledding. He has also done pro-bono safety reviews & risk assessment for non-profit outdoor programs nationwide.