You’ve made your big decision. You’ve chosen to embark on an Outward Bound expedition. Congrats! Now, let’s get ready.
You’ve considered dozens of exciting destinations across the United States. You’ve debated between kayaking, canoeing, backpacking, sailing, rafting, canyoneering, mountaineering, and rock climbing. You’ve convinced your parents that you’re ready for an outdoor adventure that’s more than just a summer camp. Your paperwork is done. Your tuition is paid. And now you wait. You watch the days tick by until the sun is on your face; until your expedition has begun.
It’s not too early to start getting ready! Below are some important tips to begin preparing yourself for one of the greatest adventures of your life and to help you get the very most out of your Outward Bound experience. You’ll find that planning pays off as you start out on your expedition on the right foot from day one.
On an Outward Bound course, you’ll be pushing your physical and mental limits. You don’t have to run marathons over mountains to be ready for course, but it does help to start building up your physical readiness for carrying a pack, loading gear and impromptu dance parties. Start at your own pace – getting active a few times a week goes a long way. Walk or jog around the neighborhood for 25 minutes – and gradually work up to 45 minutes or an hour. Walk a few miles with a backpack on – and throw a bunch of water bottles or heavy books in it. Start a squat contest with your best friends or a push-up contest with your little brother. The key here is to get regular physical activity. Get your heart rate up. Sweat. Get the air moving through your lungs. When you are on the trail with a backpack full of gear and a team of crewmates behind you, your lungs (and heart and muscles) will be grateful you put in the training.
Check out the blog: How To Get in Shape for Your Outdoor Adventure for more tips.
Take care of yourself.
During an Outward Bound course, students are encouraged to be proactive about taking good care of themselves. This means drinking plenty of water, wearing sunscreen, washing hands before every meal, and carefully monitoring your well-being. At home, you can start good self-care habits early. Start by drinking plenty of water. Carry a reusable water bottle and challenge yourself to drink and re-fill it 3-4 times throughout the day. You can add citrus or fruit to the water to add some flavor– and keep up the hydration motivation. Find a sunscreen that you like – and get used to putting it on every morning, re-applying in sunny situations, and carrying it with you for easy access. Be careful and consistent about washing your hands – even at home. Clean hands will be especially important in the wilderness when you’re helping prepare food for the group. Also, get in tune with the way you feel. How do you feel when you go to bed at 3 AM versus 10 PM? How about when you don’t get enough water or when you forget to put on sunscreen? If you dial in your habits now, you’ll be well-hydrated, well-rested, and armed with good habits to keep you happy and healthy on course.
For more outdoor hygiene tips, check out this blog: 10 Tips to Stay Clean in the Outdoors
For an Instructor’s tips on self-care, read here: How to Practice Self-Care from an Outdoor Educator
Outward Bound will provide most of your gear, but you’ll still need some personal items. Your course advisor will provide you with information on gear that will be provided by Outward Bound as well as a comprehensive list of what you’ll need to bring with you. These lists are created specifically for the geographical area you’ll be traveling in – and for the activities you’ll be doing during your course. You may already have a few items on the list, but you’ll likely need to find some new gear, too. Get it on your parents’ calendar. Arrange a trip to an outdoor store like REI or EMS. Go bargain-hunting at a secondhand sports equipment store or an army navy store. Wherever you go, bring your list, pay attention to the details, and ask plenty of questions to ensure you are getting the right stuff. If you plan to order gear online, leave plenty of time for shipping, returns and exchanges, and shipping again.
And don’t forget the shoes! Your course advisor will advise you on exactly what kind of shoes you should bring. Though they likely won’t name a brand, they will be specific about things like ankle support and degree of waterproofing. When it comes time to purchase your shoes, pay careful attention–the guidelines have been selected just for your course area and expedition style. And you’ll want to buy them early enough to break them in before course (more on that in a few).
With the right equipment, you’ll be comfortable, well-prepared and ready for anything on your Outward Bound outdoor adventure.
Check out these additional resource guides:
New or Used? Your Guide to Buying Outdoor Gear
30+ Outdoor Apps, Groups, Classes and Resources Every Outdoorist Should Utilize
During an Outward Bound course, you’ll share your time and space with a group of peers. Though you’ll often carry your own clothing and personal items, you’ll also be responsible for group items. And you certainly don’t want to be the person who loses the peanut butter! At home, figure out how you can improve your organization skills. Are you always losing your flip-flops and leaving your sweatshirt at a friend’s house? Now is the time to develop a good system for keeping track of all of your items. With a good system, and an awareness of where all of your stuff is, you’ll be in a much better position to find your rain jacket before the downpour begins.
Keep reading: How to Pack a Backpack
These boots are made for walking.
Your boots will be on your feet for the majority of your expedition, dependent on your course type. So you’ll want to break them in. The more hours they are on your feet, the more they’ll mold to your particular toes, heels, ankles and arches, and the more comfortable you’ll be. Wear your boots to school. Wear them around the park. Walk around the mall in them. Take a tour of downtown in your boots. No matter what you are doing, you should be wearing your boots! Blisters can be real challenge – and a challenge that can literally stop you in your tracks if you haven’t broken in your footwear. Avoid them by breaking in your boots. This is an easy one.
In a few short months, you’ll find yourself in a brand new landscape. Researching ahead of time is one way to begin your adventure now! Before you get there, find out as much as you can about where you’re going. Are there any cool geologic formations you should be on the lookout for? Are there petroglyphs in the area? Learning about the local plants and animals in the area is not only fun, it might also be useful when you’re out with your crew. And when the birds wake you up at dawn with their unique songs, you can be the one to identify which bird is the earliest riser. Learn the names of the mountains, rivers, and coastlines of your course area. Take a look at some maps to start orienting yourself. Which peoples are indigenous to the area? What can you learn about them, their history, and their traditions? Though you might not become an expert, it can be enriching to have knowledge about the area’s history, geography, people, and natural features. This will be your first taste of the outdoor education that’s to come during your Outward Bound course.
Keep reading: What to Expect on an Outward Bound Expedition: The Natural Environment
Keep an open mind.
You’re about to be in a new environment, surrounded by crewmates you’ve never met, and guided by Instructors who have so much knowledge to offer. This will be an experience to remember. And you might never be the same afterwards! Though your expedition will most certainly be rewarding, it will also be challenging. On an Outward Bound course, your most valuable asset is an open mind. The more willing you are to accept and adapt to a variety of circumstances, the more likely you are to enjoy your experience. Start applying an open mind far before your course begins. Think about how you might approach a problem at home with an open mind. How might it help with your homework or a difficult coach or teacher? If you start this practice now, you’ll be primed for learning – and laughing – when you arrive on course.
Half of the fun of going on any trip is the anticipation of it all! Keep a calendar and cross off the days as they approach. Start a countdown clock! You’re about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. And you’ve done an excellent job getting ready for this moment. Now it’s time to put all of your preparations to the test – get out there – and enjoy the great outdoors. And remember, this is going to be fun. Check the to-do’s off your list, relax, and enjoy!
Did you know that ‘fun’ is an important part of learning? Check it out here.
If you haven’t yet signed up for a course, you are missing the first step! A life-changing outdoor adventure awaits you. To find the extreme and wonderful place that’s right for you, go to www.outwardbound.org or call 866.467.7651 to speak with an admissions advisor today.
One of our favorite parts of an expedition is a crew’s opportunity to connect with and learn from each other—an experience that positively impacts everyone involved. Similarly, as an outdoor education organization, we gain a lot by listening to and learning from other voices in our industry. As you gear up for your adventure with us, we encourage you to explore outside perspectives on topics you’ll probably encounter while on course. Here’s a starting place.
When it comes to connecting with your crew, check out this Guide to Outdoor Allyship from Danielle Williams and Melanin Basecamp.
Explore the Native Lands you’ll be visiting with Native Land Digital’s interactive map.
Learn more about the impacts of climate change by listening to the five-part series Your Guide to Climate Solutions hosted by Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson.
When it comes to getting outside both respectively and responsibly, check out The New Top Ways to Go Outside written by José González, illustrated by Krystal Quiles, and published by High Country News.
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