Outward Bound courses are demanding. It can literally take every waking moment to get from point A to point B. Travel may be on trails, "off-trail" over rugged, steep terrain, through forests, snow, tundra, narrow or rushing rivers, choppy lakes, or stormy seas. Travel will require perseverance and understanding of the environment. Route finding, navigating and dealing with bad weather are all very real challenges to be expected in wilderness travel. We rarely take rest days even due to inclement weather, so be prepared to push on even when it seems nasty outside.
Outward Bound's outdoor leadership program may be the hardest thing you have ever done. It will challenge you mentally, physically and socially. Outward Bound philosophy maintains that by facing the challenges the course will offer you, you will emerge physically and mentally stronger, with an increased mastery of expedition skills as well as a better understanding of your own capabilities and how to make a difference in the world. You learn how to work as a team and become a leader. We think that the payoff is well worth the work, but you should be aware of what you're getting into and excited about tackling the challenges.
Successful completion of your course demands trust, mastery of skills, fitness, confidence, tenacity, leadership, initiative and compassion. The promotion of these qualities, and the discovery of what's in you, is the purpose of Outward Bound.
A typical day usually means getting up early, making breakfast, packing up camp, mapping the route, and then hitting the trail or water, depending on your activities. You will travel all day - taking breaks to rest, snack, or enjoy a view - but you will generally be covering lots of territory. Once you reach camp, group members will divide and conquer to get food cooked and camp set up. After dinner you may meet to address the next day's plans, or to discuss leadership and teamwork methods before crawling into your sleeping bag for a well-deserved rest.
Becoming a Team
Throughout the course you will practice low-impact camping, learn basic outdoor living, environmental skills, as well as natural history. As you become more proficient and fit your group will be able to travel greater distances and take on more leadership. Your group will operate as a team of mutually supportive explorers. You will surprise yourself with what you are capable of.
Your attention will be focused both on the wilderness living and working as a team. Instructors will help on both counts, teaching practical skills and helping you work together; navigating with maps and compasses or charts as you make your way. At night, discussions will review personal and group challenges and difficulties encountered in the day's activities. Topics will include leadership, decision-making, responsibility and teamwork.
Living and working with a small group is an opportunity to make lifelong friends and enjoy memories that will last a lifetime. It is also a source of friction and challenge. You may feel frustration or annoyance with your teammates at times as you and your group attempt to meet your goals and make decisions big and small. Students will step off the bus with varying levels of motivation, fitness, fear, and doubt. Once the trip starts, even the most eager students may become reluctant to take a certain risk or try their best. Investing in working out differences in your group, sharing insights from your challenges and laughing your heads off over the most delicious rice and bean dinner you ever tasted (hunger is the best spice) are all part of why students walk away from their Outward Bound course with a deeper understanding of life, living, themselves and each other.
Because this is not a guided trip, all group members will pitch in to do camp chores, including cooking, washing pots, setting up tents and hanging food bags (to keep them safe from critters). You'll find that as the expedition progresses, your mastery of these camp craft skills will enable you to operate more efficiently and effectively around camp. Most groups also contribute by cleaning their gear at course end.
Your instructors will demonstrate any available bathing options and explain more about backcountry hygiene when you arrive. You will also learn how to dispose of human waste in latrines, "cat holes", or other wilderness-appropriate methods. "Bathroom" situations are dependent on the environment your course takes place in. Groups carry soap and/or hand sanitizer for hand washing.
You and the other members of your group will learn to cook tasty and nutritious meals over portable gas stoves. Our meals are mainly vegetarian and consist of grains, pasta, nuts, beans, cereals, and other light, dehydrated foods. A typical breakfast might be granola or oatmeal; lunch would include tortillas and cheese or peanut butter and jam on crackers; dinner might be macaroni and cheese or beans and rice. Our diets can have more fats and protein (depending on the season and the environment) than what you are accustomed to. To prepare, we suggest that you cut down on soft drinks, caffeine and junk food.
We can accommodate some special food needs (such as lactose intolerance or vegan diets), but only if we know well in advance. If you have a particularly unusual diet, we will ask you to bring some of your own specialty foods. Certain food or insect bite allergies may not be safely accommodated in a remote wilderness setting. We review applicants with food allergies on a case by case basis.
We maintain high staff to student ratios (approximately 1:5) but due to the nature of living and camping together there will be occasions on your course when you are not directly supervised by your instructors. We expect that all students will arrive with a willingness to learn skills, and after learning the necessary skills for wilderness living and travel, to follow safety instructions without direct instructor supervision. Those situations may include: travel (see Independent Student Travel below), time around camp, cooking, setting up tarps, sleeping and the solo experience (if part of your course).
Our staff does not sleep in the same shelters as students. Students on courses for ages 12-18 will be instructed and supervised to sleep in same-sex shelters. However, 16 -18 year olds on courses of 14 days or longer, may be eligible to participate in Final Expedition and travel independently (see below) from their instructors. If this is the case, there is the possibility that students could be in mixed gender tenting groups, without staff supervision. Students on courses with a minimum age of 18 will establish their own sleeping arrangements with instructor facilitation.
A core component of Outward Bound learning is for students to put into practice the skills they have learned. Our longer courses often culminate in a Final Expedition that for some students includes independent student time, or what we call "solo." On some courses of fourteen days or longer for students 16 or older, students who have demonstrated sufficient maturity and respect for the policies of Outward Bound and each other will have the opportunity to have solo time independently from their instructors. This may be on Final Expedition or might take place at other times on the course. Students are thoroughly briefed and instructors stay within 1-2 hours of the students (depending on age and the group) and meet up with the students throughout the solo. Depending on the age of the students, the length of the course and the assessment of the instructors, the students may be checked by the instructors every few hours, older groups on longer courses (18-22) may only be checked on once a day.
You don't need to bring camping gear like sleeping bags or backpacks. You will need to bring personal clothing, a few toiletries and footwear. Each course has a specific clothing list provided in the Course Details Document. If you already own camping gear and would prefer to use it for your course please check your clothing lists as to what is appropriate. Outward Bound does not allow I-Pods or cell phones on courses. Your instructors will carry emergency communication devices. We ask students do not bring emergency response technology; it can complicate or compromise Outward Bound's emergency response. You and your group will be charged for any Outward Bound issued equipment that you lose or damage.
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