FAQs

Outward Bound FAQs

Why Outward Bound?

  1. Why should I choose the Voyageur Outward Bound School?
  2. What are the differences between various Voyageur Outward Bound School courses?
  3. What can I/my child expect to gain from a Voyageur Outward Bound School experience?
  4. What qualifications do VOBS Instructors have?

 

Struggling Teen and Young Adult Programs – Intercept

  1. What are the differences between a Struggling Teen/Young Adult course and a Classic Outward Bound course?
  2. It sounds like my teen is a Struggling Teen/Young Adult applicant. Why should I choose an Outward Bound Struggling Teen/Young Adult program over a different Therapeutic program?
  3. How are parents/guardians involved in the Struggling Teen/Young Adult program and who should attend the Family Seminar at the end of the course?
  4. What can we expect upon completion of our Intercept course?
  5. General payment terms and conditions for Struggling Teens and Young Adult courses.

 

How to Apply

  1. I have more questions before I apply. How can I get answers?
  2. How do I apply for an Outward Bound course?
  3. What is the application process like and how long does it take?
  4. Is it possible that I won’t get accepted for my Outward Bound course?
  5. Does Voyageur Outward Bound School provide scholarships and/or payment plans?
  6. When is the final payment due?
  7. How do I get to/from my Outward Bound course?
  8. Do I need to travel with my child to drop them off/pick them up?
  9. What do I need to bring for my Outward Bound course?
  10. Can I participate on an Outward Bound course with my friend or family member?
  11. Can I sign-up my teen for an Outward Bound course without their knowledge?
  12. Can Outward Bound accommodate my food allergy?
  13. Can I use tobacco during my Outward Bound course?

 

Wilderness Travel

  1. What is wilderness travel like?
  2. What does a typical day look like?
  3. What are these various course elements like?
  4. What kind of camping skills will I learn?
  5. What kind of food will I eat?
  6. How will I stay clean?
  7. How does Outward Bound manage risk in the backcountry?
  8. How does Outward Bound manage supervision?
  9. How does Outward Bound manage medications?
  10. What’s the role of my Course Director?
  11. What if my family has an emergency while I’m on my course?
  12. Can I communicate with my friend/family member during their Outward Bound course?
  13. Can I get mail during my expedition?

 

Living with a Group

  1. What is it like to live and work with a small group?
  2. What will the other students be like?
  3. Will my group be single or mixed gender?

 

Outward Bound’s Expectations of Students

  1. What does Outward Bound expect of me?
  2. How do I mentally prepare for my Outward Bound course?
  3. How do I physically prepare for my course?

 


Why Outward Bound?


Why should I choose the Voyageur Outward Bound School?

The Voyageur Outward Bound School (VOBS) has been a leading provider of wilderness expeditions in the United States for over 50 years. VOBS has a strong safety record, highly trained professional staff and a commitment to providing more than just any summer camp or outdoor experience. Outward Bound (OB) is a character development school. Yes, Outward Bound teaches students technical skills, wilderness savvy and a love of the outdoors, but more importantly, Outward Bound gives students an opportunity to develop greater self-confidence and accomplish more than they ever thought possible.

Alumni, looking back at their VOBS experiences, often say it was the best time of their life, but probably not because it was always fun or easy. Outward Bound expeditions are profound and valuable precisely because they’re so physically, emotionally and socially challenging. Inclement weather, long periods of silence, physical discomfort, beautiful wilderness settings, sore muscles, meaningful friendships, and tons of easy, care-free fun provide the catalyst for great conversations and personal reflection.
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What are the differences between various Voyageur Outward Bound School courses?

Originally Outward Bound was developed as an alternative education option to better help youth develop character strength, leadership, teamwork skills and grit. Over time Outward Bound USA recognized a growing need for programs that served specific groups of people. Outward Bound now offers programs for struggling teens and young adults, United States Veterans, those interested in careers in the outdoors, youth grieving the loss of a loved one, and adults going through family, career or other life changes.

Regardless of the population, many Outward Bound students experience similar outcomes: increased self-confidence and motivation, higher levels of empathy and compassion, deeper understanding of personal responsibility and a love of the outdoors. Still, Outward Bound recognizes that working with a 14 year old is not the same as working with a 17, 25 or 50 year old. For this reason, the Voyageur Outward Bound School offers a variety of courses that serve varying age-brackets and populations. Instructors change their program objectives based on the group.
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What can I/my child expect to gain from a Voyageur Outward Bound School experience?

All Voyageur Outward Bound School students can expect to be physically and emotionally challenged by their Outward Bound experience. In many cases, Outward Bound may be the hardest thing a student has ever done. Outward Bound philosophy maintains that by facing adversity in the wilderness, students emerge physically and mentally stronger, with an increased mastery of expedition skills as well as a better understanding of one’s own capabilities and how to make a difference in the world. Students develop greater self-confidence, motivation, and leadership skills. Time and time again, Outward Bound sees that the payoff is well worth the work, but students should be aware of what they’re getting into and excited about tackling big challenges.

Successful completion of an Outward Bound course demands trust, mastery of skills, fitness, confidence, tenacity, leadership, initiative and compassion. The promotion of these qualities, and the discovery of what one is truly capable of achieving, is the purpose of Outward Bound.
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What qualifications do VOBS Instructors have?

Voyageur Outward Bound School Instructors are some of the most highly trained professionals in the outdoor industry. All Instructors must be a minimum of 21 years old and as a leading organization in the experiential education field, Outward Bound Instructors are accomplished outdoor educators, with extensive experience and training in technical and facilitation skills. Thanks to the high retention rates at the Voyageur Outward Bound School all instructors receive on-going training in technical skills, safety, and risk-management. Additionally, the Voyageur Outward Bound School provides continuous professional development training to staff in areas including, but not limited to, leadership, facilitation, teaching, and managing group dynamics. Those who are selected to instruct Struggling Teen and Young Adult courses receive additional training specific to working with struggling youth and facilitating conversations with their families.

Typically, new members of the Voyageur Outward Bound School staff arrive with a wealth of experience in the outdoor industry and they complete an 8-week intensive training before instructing their first Outward Bound course. All Instructors must be a minimum of 21 years old and most staff complete 1000 or more hours as an Assistant Instructor before being promoted. In addition to the countless hours of training every course in the field is accompanied by at least one Instructor who has received 80 hours of training in wilderness medicine, is certified in CPR, and is a certified Wilderness First Responder or EMT.
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Struggling Teen and Young Adult Programs


What are the differences between a Struggling Teen/Young Adult course and a Classic Outward Bound course?

Families tend to find Outward Bound’s Struggling Teen and Young Adult program when looking to redirect their child before risky behaviors lead to severe, negative life-consequences. Some risky or problem behaviors parents often describe include: poor performance at school, lack of motivation, poor decision making, over/misuse of technology, conflict within the family, promiscuity, and/or experimentation with drugs and alcohol.

Being a teen/young adult today is not easy and most young people will probably struggle at some point as they transition to adulthood. So, at what point should you choose the Struggling Teen and Young Adult program over a Classic Outward Bound course? There are three main ways that the Voyageur Outward Bound School assesses an applicant’s appropriateness for a Struggling Teen and Young Adult course vs. a Classic course: the applicant’s motivation to participate, the family’s desired outcomes, and the parent’s willingness/ability to be involved throughout the program along with their child.

  1. The typical Struggling Teen/Young Adult applicant is often, not always, less motivated to attend Outward Bound than the typical Classic course applicant. Parents tend to play a larger role in getting a Struggling Teen/Young Adult student signed-up for an Outward Bound course. Students who are not intrinsically motivated to participate will not be considered for a Classic course but may still be considered for a Struggling Teen and Young Adult course.
  2. The Struggling Teen and Young Adult program will spend more time addressing each student’s specific problem behaviors and work with them to create short and long term goals to improve their relationships with their family and community at home. Struggling Teen and Young Adult courses provide a higher level of individualized attention.
  3. Struggling Teen and Young Adult courses require parent involvement throughout the course in order to most effectively support the student’s growth, learning and successful transition home after the course. Parents of Struggling Teens/Young Adults are expected to complete a daily workbook during their child’s course and participate in a 3-day Family Seminar at the end of the course. Because of the additional Family Seminar, Struggling Teen and Young Adult courses are longer than most Classic courses.
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It sounds like my teen is a Struggling Teen/Young Adult applicant. Why should I choose an Outward Bound Struggling Teen/Young Adult program over a different Therapeutic program?

Outward Bound’s Struggling Teen/Young Adult program is not a Wilderness Therapy program. Our Instructors are not licensed therapists or psychiatrists. An Outward Bound course is an adventure, an incredibly unique life-experience, and it should be fun. An Outward Bound Struggling Teen/Young Adult course is not a punishment, it’s an opportunity, and while some teens/young adults do not understand this in the beginning, many alumni appreciate their courses for being “life-changing” in the end.

Struggling Teen and Young Adult course are designed for students who lack motivation, battle low self-esteem, become easily frustrated, have difficulty communicating, demonstrate poor decision making skills, and have difficulty connecting their actions with consequences. Outward Bound Struggling Teen and Young Adult courses provide a rite-of-passage type experience that guides students to better understand how their actions affect their relationships and equips them with tools to more gracefully navigate greater adulthood responsibilities.

Outward Bound’s Struggling Teen and Young Adult courses are not appropriate for those with histories of chemical dependency, violent behaviors or some psychiatric conditions.
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How are parents/guardians involved in the Struggling Teen/Young Adult program and who should attend the Family Seminar at the end of the course?

Parents/guardians of students on Struggling Teen and Young Adult courses must be highly invested and involved in their child’s Outward Bound course from the very beginning by participating in a 45 minute phone interview during the application process. Upon acceptance to the program, parents/guardians receive a Struggling Teen/Young Adult course workbook and are required to complete “homework” during their child’s expedition. The Struggling Teen/Young Adult course workbook is designed to prepare parents/guardians for the Family Seminar at the end of the course. It asks parents to examine their relationship with their child, how it’s important to them, how it’s been compromised, their personal responsibility for state of the relationship, and what they’re willing to do to fix it. Many of the same lessons and tools that students learn during the expedition are also outlined in the workbook, along with descriptions of the typical expedition experience and progression. Parents/guardians complete various sections of the workbook up until the Family Seminar at the end of the course.

A 3-day Family Conference is held at the end of every Struggling Teen and Young Adult Course. Most conferences happen in El Paso, Duluth, or Ely, Minnesota, while some are held over the phone. Outward Bound strongly encourages all parents or guardians who live with the student to attend the Family Conference, but only one parent/guardian is required to attend.

During the first day of the Family Conference, parents participate in lectures, interactive lessons and activities, and in-depth conversations with one of their child’s Outward Bound Instructors. The purpose of the first day is to equip parents with a better understanding of their child’s Outward Bound experience, where he/she struggled and thrived, what progress he/she made, and how he/she may struggle after transitioning home. By the end of the day parents will have also learned the same communication and decision making lessons that the Instructor’s taught their child during the expedition, giving families a common vocabulary to use the following day.

Students do not participate in the first day of the conference but everyone reunites in the morning on the second day. The student group gives a short presentation about their experience and families participate in some activities together before students prepare and share an expedition style lunch with their parents. Individual family conferences are scheduled throughout the afternoon and each family sits down to have a conversations facilitated by one of their Instructors. Families reconnect and make a plan for the student’s transition home.

The Family Conference culminates with a Graduation Ceremony on the final day of the course and families travel home together.
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What can we expect upon completion of our Intercept course?

Intercept courses are designed to promote improved communication, increase students’ sense of self-efficacy, connect actions with consequences, and equip students with the tools that can help them navigate their lives with a greater sense of responsibility and self-respect. Our goal is to create a clear and thoughtful transition plan during the Family Seminar that helps each family member commit to a set of agreements that will guide actions and behaviors in the future.

However, we know that every individual, every family, and every set of circumstances is unique. Challenges are not likely to magically dissipate after a few weeks in the wilderness. It takes hard work, and in families, this hard work means that every family member must commit to continuing to grow, learn, and make changes for the better. It’s not always easy, and it’s not always possible without support.

Voyageur Outward Bound School is committed to supporting the students and families who participate in our courses. Because we know that so many of the lessons learned during Intercept courses have the power to create long-lasting change if they are successfully applied at home, we have partnered with PRN for Families (www.prnforfamilies.com) to provide a customized, transition support program for Intercept families. PRN for Families is a well-regarded, industry expert in providing home-based support to families with teens and young adults who are struggling. The VOBS/PRN for Families collaboration includes 30 days of home-based transition support. You can learn more about this program on the PRN for Families website, by contacting their admissions department (888) 762-5973 or admissions@prnforfamilies.com, through direct inquiry of your Course Director, as well as in additional material which you will be provided during your Intercept course.
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General payment terms and conditions for Struggling Teens and Young Adult courses.

Outward Bound’s general payment terms and conditions for Struggling Teens and Young Adult courses are based on our investment in planning, staffing and delivering our courses. These expenses are not recoverable, therefore penalties may apply.

ENROLLMENT PROCESSING FEE
The Outward Bound application process is extensive in order to best ensure that students are appropriate and prepared for their Outward Bound experience. In order to reserve a spot, either through the website or over the phone, applicants are required to complete a short Health History Questionnaire and pay a $500 deposit that is applied toward the total cost of the course. This deposit includes a $150 non-refundable enrollment processing fee. At this time a Voyageur Outward Bound School Course Advisor will contact the applicant and provide additional documents, including a more extensive Application to be completed within a specified time-frame, typically two weeks. The applicant may also be required to return supplementary documents completed by their Doctor, Therapist or other Reference. Upon receipt of the completed application, a Course Advisor will call/email to schedule a phone interview if s/he has any questions (both parent/guardian and student interviews are mandatory for Struggling Teen and Young Adult expedition applicants). The whole process typically takes 2-3 weeks but can take longer if all pieces of the application are not returned in a timely manner.

Tuition
The total cost includes all tuition and fees for the course. Tuition covers the cost of food, instructors, permits, gear, and equipment while on course. Not included in this total cost are personal expenses such as clothing, insurance (health and travel), airfare, and baggage fees. Full payment is due 60 days before the course start date. Be prepared to pay the balance due at this time even if you have yet to submit your completed enrollment packet or have yet to be cleared to participate on the course. If your payment is not received by the deadline, this may be considered a cancelation and you will risk losing your spot on the course and your $150 non-refundable Enrollment Processing Fee.

Tuition & Fees Refund Policy
In the event your enrollment packet is not cleared for participation on the course, Outward Bound will refund your payment for the course with the exception of the $150 non-refundable enrollment processing fee. The $150 enrollment processing fee can only be refunded if you formally decline a scholarship offer or a spot does not open up if you are on a waitlist.

Cancelation Policy
Outward Bound cannot refund the cost of the course in the event that a student is unable to attend or complete the course due to an unexpected event, illness or injury. There are no penalties if a student cancels more than 90 days before the course-start date. With the exception of the $150 non-refundable enrollment processing fee, Outward Bound will refund $350 of the Deposit fee and 100% of the Tuition fee payment.

A graduated penalty system applies to cancellations less than 90 days before the course-start date.

For cancelations between:

  • – 89 to 75 days from the course-start date, Outward Bound will retain the full $500 deposit and refund the remaining balance.
  • – 74 to 60 days from the course-start date, Outward Bound will retain the $500 deposit and refund 75% of the remaining balance.
  • – 59 to 45 days from the course-start date, Outward Bound will retain the $500 deposit and refund 50% of the remaining balance.
  • – Less than 44 days from the course-start date, Outward Bound will not issue a refund.

OTHER CONDITIONS

Waitlist Policy – Updated as of 4/17/2015
If the course you selected is full, you may have the option to be waitlisted. If waitlisted for a course, in addition to submitting the enrollment form and $150 Enrollment Processing Fee to maintain your waitlist spot, you will be required to submit a completed enrollment packet.

If a spot becomes available, it will be offered to the individual who returned their completed enrollment packet first; not to the individual who enrolled on the waitlist first. This individual will have 24 hours to decide to take the open spot.

If a spot does not become available, or you elect to be removed from the waitlist due to not having a spot on the course, Outward Bound will refund the $150 Enrollment Processing Fee. If a spot does become available on the course and you elect not to take it, the $150 Enrollment Processing Fee will not be refunded.

Course Transfer Policy
You may transfer from one course to another one time for no penalty provided it is more than 60 days from the course start date. A $100 Transfer Fee will apply to subsequent transfers less than 60 days from the course start date.

For transfers less than 60 days from the course start date, 50% of the payment is transferrable and you will forfeit 50% of your payment. Outward Bound will not issue refund for any transfers less than 30 days of the course start date.

Protection Plans
Outward Bound can provide additional information about purchasing plans to help protect individuals from penalties associated with certain types of cancelations. These protection plans intend to safeguard your Outward Bound investment against unexpected events, illness or injury. Information regarding your options for protection is provided in your enrollment packet materials.
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How To Apply


I have more questions before I apply. How can I get answers?

If you still have questions after reading this FAQs document, contact the Voyageur Outward Bound School Student Services and Admissions office at 828-239-2376 or submit an inquiry online at www.vobs.org. A Voyageur Outward Bound School Course Advisor will be happy to answer any additional questions you may have and help you get enrolled on a course.
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How do I apply for an Outward Bound course?

There are two ways to begin the Outward Bound application process. Interested applicants can search for courses, learn more and enroll online at www.outwardbound.org, or simply call 866-467-7651 to speak directly with an Outward Bound representative and enroll over the phone.
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What is the application process like and how long does it take?

The Outward Bound application process is extensive in order to best ensure that students are appropriate and prepared for their Outward Bound experience. In order to reserve a spot, either through the website or over the phone, applicants are required to complete a short Health History Questionnaire and pay a $500 deposit that is applied toward the total cost of the course. This deposit includes a $150 non-refundable enrollment processing fee. At this time a Voyageur Outward Bound School Course Advisor will contact the applicant and provide additional documents, including a more extensive Application to be completed within a specified time-frame, typically two weeks. The applicant may also be required to return supplementary documents completed by their Doctor, Therapist or other Reference. Upon receipt of the completed application, a Course Advisor will call/email to schedule a phone interview if s/he has any questions (both parent/guardian and student interviews are mandatory for Struggling Teen and Young Adult expedition applicants). The whole process typically takes 2-3 weeks but can take longer if all pieces of the application are not returned in a timely manner.
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Is it possible that I won’t get accepted for my Outward Bound course?

Not all applicants are accepted to the Voyageur Outward Bound School. Outward Bound courses are designed to serve a wide variety of students at different points in their lives. However, the Voyageur Outward Bound School does expect that each applicant puts time and thought into their decision to attend Outward Bound. It is a unique program, unlike typical summer camps, and not everyone is prepared for the challenges that a true wilderness expedition presents. At a minimum, Outward Bound applicants must be willing and able to fully participate without risk to their physical or emotional safety, and committed to their own personal development.
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Does Voyageur Outward Bound School provide scholarships and/or payment plans?

Our Scholarship Program is guided by a single principle: Every person should be given the opportunity to experience adventure and challenge, develop character and compassion, and learn leadership skills and service ethics, regardless of financial ability.
Moreover, we bring together diverse groups of students to instill cultural understanding and teamwork skills that enable them to become principled leaders.

Thanks to generous donations from alumni, parents, corporations, foundations, and others, Outward Bound awards up to $3.7 million in scholarships to 6,000 students each year.

The Voyageur Outward Bound School scholarship program is need-based and in order to be considered, applicants must first enroll on a course, pay a $500 deposit and check a box noting that they are interested in a Scholarship. The deposit payment is applied toward the total cost of the course and includes a $150 enrollment processing fee (usually non-refundable). After the applicant enrolls, a Course Advisor will send them a Scholarship Application along with the other enrollment materials. The applicant is required to submit a copy of their most recent 1040 tax return along with the completed Scholarship Application. The average scholarship is 15-30% off of the posted fee. If the applicant receives an Outward Bound scholarship but it’s not enough for them to participate, Outward Bound will refund their $500 deposit, including the $150 enrollment processing fee.

In some cases, applicants can schedule a payment plan with the Voyageur Outward Bound School rather than paying for the whole course in one lump sum. In cases of payment plans, final balances are due at least 90 days prior to the course-start.

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When is the final payment due?

Final payment is due 90 days before the course-start date or upon enrollment if the course is already less than 90 days away.
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How do I get to/from my Outward Bound course?

Once enrolled, a Course Advisor will provide a Travel Information document that will help student’s schedule their arrival and departure.

MN Courses:  In most cases, but not all, Voyageur Outward Bound School students meet in the Duluth International Airport baggage claim at 1:00 PM on the first day of the course. Students typically return to the Duluth International Airport around 11:30 AM on the last day of the course and should plan to fly out any time after 1:00 PM to account for check-in and security clearance.

TX Courses:  In most cases, but not all, Voyageur Outward Bound School students arrive in El Paso, TX the day before their course officially begins.  Students spend the night in a local hotel (not included in course-cost) as directed by their Course Advisor. Students typically return to the El Paso International Airport around 1:00 PM on the last day of the course and should plan to fly out any time after 2:00 PM to account for check-in and security clearance.

Explicit travel directions will be shared with you after you enroll on a course.  Students should refrain from making travel plans prior to being approved for their course and receiving travel details for their specific course as the exact details may differ slightly from the directions listed above.
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Do I need to travel with my child to drop them off/pick them up?

While parents are welcome to travel to/from with their child, it is often not necessary. With proper preparation and motivation, navigating the airport can simply be another facet of the adventure. Outward Bound will have representatives at the meeting place on the first day of the course to receive each student upon their arrival. Outward Bound will also ensure that students make their return flight or shuttle at the end of the course. If a student requires additional travel support, parents may consider purchasing the Unaccompanied Minor service provided by the airline. In this case, an airline attendant accompanies the child from departure, through any connecting flights and ensures their safe arrival with Outward Bound.
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What do I need to bring for my Outward Bound course?

Students receive a thorough packing list after enrolling on their Outward Bound course. In general, Outward Bound provides sleeping bags, sleeping mats, rain gear, and all group cooking, camping and traveling equipment. Students need to provide their own clothing, footwear, toiletries and a few other items, like a headlamp and water bottle.
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Can I participate on an Outward Bound course with my friend or family member?

In general, Outward Bound discourages friends and family from participating on the same course, unless the course is specifically designed for families. Outward Bound’s goal is to ensure a quality experience for each participant, and we have discovered that people in established relationships, however positive, have expectations and mental images of one other. An Outward Bound course is an opportunity to leave behind any preconceived ideas about oneself and discover new strengths and talents. An environment free of expectations is an important part of this process. When students attend with someone they know, they risk forfeiting much of the value of an Outward Bound experience. In addition, pre-existing relationships sometimes negatively impact group interactions. We therefore encourage friends and family members to enroll on separate courses so each student can experience the full measure of an Outward Bound experience.
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Can I sign-up my teen for an Outward Bound course without their knowledge?

Yes, but we encourage parents/guardians to speak with their child about Outward Bound as early as possible. All students who attend Outward Bound are required to willingly attend and fully participate in all activities. If an applicant is unaware of the program or unwilling to complete the application materials, s/he will not be allowed to attend.
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Can Outward Bound accommodate my food allergy?

Yes, the Voyageur Outward Bound School can accommodate most food allergies. We put a lot of energy into creating menu plans that work for people with a variety of food allergies or preferences, including people who do not eat meat, dairy, gluten, tree nuts, and peanuts. We’re even able to accommodate students with severe peanut allergies. In some cases we may ask students to provide some of their own food supplements.
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Can I use tobacco during my Outward Bound course?

The use of tobacco, drugs and alcohol is prohibited on all Outward Bound courses. Students who use tobacco are encouraged to begin cutting back long before their course begins. These students may also consider consulting a doctor to discuss tobacco alternatives to employ during their Outward Bound course.
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Wilderness Travel


What is wilderness travel like?

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, rushing rivers, or choppy lakes. Travel will require perseverance, grit and humility. Navigating, fire-building, and dealing with physical discomfort are all very real challenges to be expected during wilderness travel. Even when the weather is brutal, groups will rarely take rest days, so students should be prepared to push on even when it seems unbearable. When groups get to camp in the evenings and are hungry from a big day’s travel, it still takes over an hour to gather enough firewood, boil water, chop vegetables, cook and serve the meal. Groups master the art of tarp set-up and knot tying to ensure they’re protected from the elements each evening. Every action of the day requires energy and investment, from the moment groups wake-up until the moment they fall asleep each night. Rest assured though, it will be worth it in the end, or at least that’s what most Outward Bound alumni would tell prospective students. There is nothing as spectacular as the northern lights on a clear evening, or a moose swimming across a narrow channel just 20 feet in front of the canoe. Moreover, few experiences compare to the sense of accomplishment students feel upon completion of such an epic adventure.

Wilderness travel challenges students to compare what they have at home with what they actually need to survive on the expedition. Hot running water, padded furniture, hot food in seconds and flat sidewalks are not a part of the wilderness experience. Students are asked to leave non-essentials like deodorant, make up, electronic devices, and books behind. These can be difficult sacrifices at first, but in the end, students learn to embrace the rare opportunity to live minimally, finding contentment with less stuff and more substance. When students find their expedition rhythm they often see that life in the wilderness and life at home are both ultimately about food, clothing, shelter and one another.
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What does a typical day look like?

A typical day usually means getting up early, making breakfast over a fire or camp-stove, packing up camp, mapping a route, and heading out on the trail or water, depending on the course-specific activities. Students travel all day, taking breaks to rest, eat, swim, and enjoy the view, but generally cover lots of ground. When groups reach camp each evening, they divide-up chores like preparing food and setting-up tents. After dinner groups usually sit around the fire, share thoughts on the day, discuss the next day’s plans, laugh and enjoy one another’s company before crawling into their sleeping bags for a well-deserved rest.
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What does a typical day look like?

A typical day usually means getting up early, making breakfast over a fire or camp-stove, packing up camp, mapping a route, and heading out on the trail or water, depending on the course-specific activities. Students travel all day, taking breaks to rest, eat, swim, and enjoy the view, but generally cover lots of ground. When groups reach camp each evening, they divide-up chores like preparing food and setting-up tents. After dinner groups usually sit around the fire, share thoughts on the day, discuss the next day’s plans, laugh and enjoy one another’s company before crawling into their sleeping bags for a well-deserved rest.
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What are these various course elements like?

Canoeing
Because all Voyageur Outward Bound School canoeing courses are un-resupplied, groups paddle with absolutely everything they need for their entire expedition, allowing students to journey deep into the wilderness. This type of extended wilderness experience, along with highly-trained Instructors, helps students develop and refine new expedition skills, cultivate a deep connection with the environment, form meaningful friendships, and develop a better understanding themselves through challenge and discovery.

During Voyageur Outward Bound School canoeing expeditions, students learn a variety of paddling skills to contend with diverse weather and waterway conditions as they canoe from campsite to campsite. Wind speeds tend to increase around noon and sometimes remain strong throughout the day. For this reason, groups often rise early to take advantage of flat waters in the morning and then enjoy a longer lunch break as they wait for the windiest part of the day to pass. Paddling partners work together to steer and power their boats through rivers, swamps and lakes, usually traveling between 8 and 20 miles a day. Students also learn how to portage, navigate with a map and compass, cook over a fire or stove, and employ Leave No Trace® wilderness ethics.

Portaging
Groups work as a team to carry packs and canoes over portage trails when transitioning from one lake to another or around challenging rapids. Portage trails are rugged and often rocky or hilly. They vary in length from 10 yards to a mile or longer. Pack weights also vary depending on the length of the trip, and how much personal equipment each group member brings along. Personal packs weigh at least 40 pounds and sometimes considerably more. Food and equipment packs usually weigh between 50 and 70 pounds. Each canoe is outfitted with shoulder pads on the center thwart, and when turned upside down, can be carried on one person’s shoulders. Canoes weigh 75 pounds.

Backpacking
On a Voyageur Outward Bound School backpacking expedition, students hike within dense forests, across wide-open ridge-tops and through exquisite canyons, tracing rivers that plummet to Lake Superior. Groups work together to carry everything they need in large backpacks while hiking from campsite to campsite, anywhere from 3 to 10 miles a day, depending on terrain. Groups tend to camp near pristine rivers and lakes each evening to resupply with water. Students learn how to filter and purify their water for drinking and cooking, prepare meals over a fire or stove, set-up shelters and navigate with a map.

Sea Kayaking
During a Voyageur Outward Bound School sea kayaking expedition students learn a variety of paddling, landing, rescue, and navigation skills to contend with the diverse weather and water conditions that may be encountered. Wind speeds tend to increase around noon and sometimes remain strong throughout the day. For this reason, groups often rise early to take advantage of calmer water in the morning and then enjoy a longer lunch break as they wait for the windiest part of the day to pass. After paddling anywhere from 0 to 20 miles in a day, groups camp just inland from sandy-beached bays or rocky shorelines. Students spend their evenings learning general camp craft, how to cook over a fire or stove, and employ Leave No Trace® wilderness ethics to preserve Lake Superiors shoreline ecology.

Dogsledding and Cross Country Skiing
During a Voyageur Outward Bound School Dogsledding and Skiing expedition, students travel over frozen lakes and rivers while learning how to manage teams of huskies, cross-country ski, navigate with a map and compass, check ice-conditions, process firewood, and generally stay comfortable in potentially sub-zero temperatures.

The group usually consists of 9 people, 7 students and 2 Instructors, and splits into two smaller groups each day. Half the group travels on cross-country skis and is responsible for breaking trail, navigating, scouting for hazards, and checking for safe ice conditions. The other half of the group follows on dogsleds, transporting most of the equipment, and food. Mushing is not a passenger sport and, depending on the snow conditions, often requires mushers to push the sled or run and walk along with the dogs. If the skiing group encounters particularly rough terrain or steep hills, they wait for the mushers to arrive and assist in maneuvering the heavy dogsleds. Upon reaching camp each evening, everyone helps take care of the dogs, set-up camp and process fire-wood for cooking and warmth.

Winter Camping
Winter weather in Minnesota varies dramatically from harsh, cold wind to bright, less-cold sunshine, but in general it’s always cold. Temperatures tend to range from -40 to 20 degrees in the heart of the winter (December through February) and -20 to 50 degrees as spring approaches in March. Living outside during a northern winter requires the right equipment, skills, and teamwork, but it can be done comfortably. Instructors teach students how to mitigate cold weather risks, dress appropriately, and manage body temperature with food and exercise.

In order to minimize environmental impact, groups cook and sleep directly on frozen lakes. For this reason, groups always look for a sheltered bay out of the wind each evening. Upon reaching camp, groups divide camp chores to setup camp efficiently. Students learn to take care of sled dogs, set up sleeping shelters, cook meals over a fire, and saw and split firewood. If the weather is particularly cold or wet groups might setup the wall-tent, a large canvas tent with a woodstove. The wall-tent gets very warm and is large enough to fit the entire group inside.

Solo
Weather and time permitting, an Outward Bound Solo experience provides an important break from the rigors of the expedition and gives students the opportunity to reflect on their Outward Bound experience. The duration of Solo depends on the course length and type as well as the competency and preparedness of the student group. Students on a 3-week course typically spend 2-nights on Solo while students on a 1-week course may only spend a few hours on Solo.

Regardless of Solo length, all students receive sufficient food, water, and shelter to keep them safe and healthy during Solo. Instructors choose solo sites to offer as much solitude as possible while retaining some proximity. While students spend the majority of their Solo time alone, Instructors do check on each student as often as needed, usually 1-4 times per day, to ensure that each student feels safe and comfortable. Instructors work with each student individually to structure a successful, unique Solo experience that meets their specific needs. Solo is purposefully scheduled near the end of the expedition so students have plenty of time to acclimate to their new environments beforehand.

Students tend to have mixed feelings leading up to Solo. Inevitably, students feel some nervousness and hesitation but are also excited to rest, reflect and test their new skills after spending many days in the wilderness. Students often find that Solo provokes profound and powerful learning in a short period of time.

Some Outward Bound Family expeditions offer Duo experiences, rather than Solos, to allow parents and children to have a shared experience and deepen their relationships.

Rock Climbing
At one or two different points during the expedition, students have the opportunity to climb at a stunning, outdoor rock climbing site. Outward Bound chooses rock climbing sites that provide a number of different route options including cracks, sheer faces, and chimneys. Regardless of a student’s rock climbing background, everyone is sure to find something that will both challenge and encourage them. All Outward Bound rock climbing experiences are heavily supervised and employ safety systems that are compliant with national standards.

During climbing days, students learn about general rock-climbing equipment, safety and etiquette before practicing how to belay. Students have many opportunities to climb, belay, and rappel throughout the day. Rappelling involves stepping over the edge and controlling one’s own descent.

High Ropes Course
The Voyageur Outward Bound School High Ropes Course is an incredible obstacle course set 30-feet in the air. Students look out over the top of the boreal forest as they swing from Tarzan ropes, walk on a tight-rope wires, and climb a cargo net before jumping off the zip line for a smooth ride back to solid ground. Most groups have an opportunity to test their nerve on the ropes course if their course incorporates a short stay at the Outward Bound basecamp, usually before or after their field expedition.

Service
Service is an integral part of the Outward Bound curriculum. In addition to practicing Leave No Trace® ethics on all Outward Bound expeditions, Outward Bound also coordinates service projects with land management agencies like the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, local land trusts, and social service agencies like nursing homes and hospitals. Most Outward Bound students have an opportunity to participate in at least one service project during their course. Courses for Struggling Teens and Young Adults always include 2-4 days of community service.

Personal Challenge Event
Time and weather permitting, Voyageur Outward Bound School courses end with a Personal Challenge Event (PCE), a final individual physical push. In the summer, the PCE usually includes a triathlon-style paddle, portage, and run or a rock-climbing event. In the winter, the PCE involves a distance ski, sauna, and polar plunge.

The PCE is non-competitive. Students set their own time goals for completion and work toward them to see how their mental and physical stamina has grown as a result of their wilderness expedition. Students celebrate the completion of their wilderness expedition and PCE with a final banquet and graduation ceremony.
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What kind of camping skills will I learn?

Because this is not a guided trip, all group members pitch in to do camp chores, including cooking, washing pots, setting up tents and hanging food bags (to keep them safe from animals). Groups find that as the expedition progresses, their mastery of these camp craft skills enables them to operate more efficiently and effectively around camp. In the end, students become very well versed in all aspects of camp-craft required to travel safely and comfortably in their course-area.
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What kind of food will I eat?

Groups learn to cook tasty and nutritious meals over portable gas stoves or camp fires. Meals are primarily vegetarian and include grains, pastas, dairy, nuts, beans, cereals, and other light, dehydrated foods. A typical breakfast might be granola or oatmeal; lunch might include tortillas and cheese or peanut butter, trail mix and dried fruit; dinner might be macaroni and cheese or beans and rice. An expedition diet usually includes less fat and more protein (depending on the season and the environment) than a student’s diet at home.
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How will I stay clean?

Instructors teach their groups about the available bathing options and general backcountry hygiene. Every course environment has different techniques and environmentally appropriate practices for going to the bathroom and bathing. Students learn how to dispose of human waste in latrines, cat holes, or other wilderness-area specific methods. Groups carry soap and hand sanitizer for hand washing. Showering and washing hair are typically not options on the course. However, on most Voyageur Outward Bound summer courses students travel on water every day and swimming is a daily practice when temperatures allow. At the end of the expedition students have access to indoor plumbing and showers before returning home.
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How does Outward Bound manage risk in the backcountry?

Living and traveling in a remote wilderness setting has inherent risks. The Voyageur Outward Bound School believes that those risks enable students to gain insights and perspective unavailable anywhere else. With that said, the physical and emotional safety of our students is always our number one priority. Over the last 50 years the Voyageur Outward Bound School has developed a highly effective series of safety policies and emergency response procedures that allow us to respond quickly and effectively to prevent and respond to unsafe situations.

Outward Bound programs are annually assessed by outdoor professionals from within and outside of the Outward Bound organization in order to identify and plan for potential hazards. Outward Bound has been a national leader in wilderness safety for over 40 years and frequently advises as well as assists other organizations in outdoor adventure risk management.

Voyageur Outward Bound School instructors are trained to identify and manage the risks of travel in remote areas and are regularly reviewed by senior level staff. Instructors receive regular technical skills training as well as training to better understand and navigate local wilderness environments. Most Voyageur Outward Bound School Instructors are certified as Wilderness First Responders or Wilderness Emergency Medical Technicians or the equivalent. They are trained in First Sid, search and rescue and emergency management. In the field, each group carries a cell or satellite phone for emergency communication.

Risk and uncertainty are central to the concept of adventure. The intent is not to avoid activities involving risk but to embrace them and manage the risk appropriately. Risk is a platform upon which Outward Bound creates meaningful opportunities for personal growth, physical fitness, leadership and teamwork.
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How does Outward Bound manage supervision?

Voyageur Outward Bound School supervision practices are based on the premise that, once aware of the necessary skills for wilderness living and travel, students will cooperate, respect their leaders and follow safety instructions with or without direct Instructor supervision. The Voyageur Outward Bound School maintains high staff to student ratios (approximately 1:4) but there are rare occasions on every expedition when students are not directly supervised by their Instructors. These situations may include: parts of the Final Expedition, time around camp when groups are split-up doing different chores, cooking, setting up tarps, sleeping and the solo experience.

Students on courses with a maximum age of 18 or younger sleep in single gender groups with the instructors nearby. All other activities occur in co-ed groups with varying degrees of Instructor supervision, depending upon the activities, age, and length of the course. Some 18+ and Adult courses may work-up to an Independent Travel experience where they travel and camp without their Instructors for a short period of time.
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How does Outward Bound manage medications?

All prescription medications must be approved by the Admissions Department prior to the course-start and are administered by Instructors if the student is 21 years old or younger. Students should bring their prescription medications in the original containers, and bring back-up doses in case the first set gets lost or damaged while on the expedition.
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What’s the role of my Course Director?

An Outward Bound Course Director is one of the most experienced members on the Outward Bound team, having spent many years instructing and facilitating safe, quality programs for Outward Bound. Course Directors oversee Outward Bound Instructors in order to ensure high quality program delivery. They manage expedition logistics, risk management and emergency response from the front-country. Each group is assigned a Course Director, and this person often picks-up the group on arrival day, facilitates their rock-climbing and high-ropes course experiences and generally connects with them throughout their course.
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What if my family has an emergency while I’m on my course?

If a student’s family experiences an emergency and needs to contact their child while he/she is in the wilderness, the family should contact their designated Course Director or the emergency response number at 828-239-2368 and listen to the voicemail message for instructions. Each student has a designated Course Director and their contact information is emailed to the student shortly before the course begins, Students should share these important phone numbers with their family before their course begins.
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Can I communicate with my friend/family member during their Outward Bound course?

Unless there is a specific reason why parents/guardians need to communicate with their child, or Outward Bound has pre-scheduled a phone check-in (typically only for Pathfinder and Semester-length Struggling Teen and Young Adult courses) students will not be able to communicate with their friends/family during the course. Families may receive periodic updates from their Course Director, but in general, no news is good news. If families do not hear from Outward Bound, it means that things are going smoothly.
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Can I get mail during my expedition?

Students on courses that are 14 days or longer can receive mail. Because students are in the wilderness for most of their expedition, mail is not distributed until the last day of the course. If families need to share important information before the last day of the course, they should contact their Course Director.

Addressing Mail:
Student Name/Course Number
Voyageur Outward Bound School
PO Box 450
Ely, MN 55731

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Living with a Group


What is it like to live and work with a small group?

Living and working with a small group is an opportunity to make lifelong friends and enjoy memories that will last a lifetime; it also has the potential to be a source of friction and challenge. Instructors act as teachers, guides and coaches as students develop both leadership and teamwork skills. Groups consistently build upon their strengths and work on their shortfalls in order to travel effectively, have fun and enjoy one another’s company. Evening discussions help students process course-events and highlight real-life lessons that travel with students both during and after their expeditions. Discussion topics often include leadership, decision making, responsibility, compromise and compassion.

Each student begins their course with varying levels of motivation, fitness, fear, and doubt. Once the trip starts, even the most eager students may encounter bigger challenges than expected. Students may feel frustration or annoyance with the team or themselves as the group learns to work together, make decisions and overcome very real challenges. Compassion is one of Outward Bound’s core values and students should come prepared to both offer it to and expect it from others in the group. Students may be asked to compromise for the well-being of the entire group. It is important to remember that in such a small group setting, each students’ attitude and actions affect everyone. Each member of the expedition must be committed to working-out differences within the group, sharing insights from personal challenges, and laughing together as often as possible.
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What will the other students be like?

Outward Bound students come from all over the world and range in age from 12 to 70. They have diverse backgrounds, unique interests, and varying levels of experience in the outdoors. Applicants choose Outward Bound for the adventure. They often express a desire to learn more about the outdoors, meet new people, challenge themselves, and/or highlight a transition from one phase of life to another, like Junior High to High School, High School to College or College to the work-force, or a later work/life change.

Students are typically divided into courses by age and sometimes by gender. All Outward Bound applicants are thoroughly screened and Outward Bound makes every effort to ensure that each participant is capable of fully participating in their Outward Bound course. Different students inevitably affect the group experience by being more/less physically fit, articulate or pleasant to be around. This diversity is imperative to the Outward Bound experience.
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Will my group be single or mixed gender?

All courses are mixed-gender unless specified otherwise. However, there is no guarantee that every course will attract a mixed-gender group. Students can contact their Course Advisor to learn about the gender-mix on their course. If for some reason a student ends up being the only male/female in their group, that student will be given the option to stay in the current course, transfer to a different course or cancel. The Voyageur Outward Bound School has facilitated many successful courses where groups only had 1 male or 1 female, but understand that not everyone feels comfortable in this situation.
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Outward Bound’s Expectations of Students


What does Outward Bound expect of me?

Outward Bound applicants do not need to be in peak physical condition to attend an Outward Bound. However, all Outward Bound courses are both physically and mentally rigorous and students will enjoy their experiences more if they are prepared ahead of time. Simply put, students who’ve done some upper body and core strength training leading up to their course will inevitably find much more enjoyment in a long day of paddling. Similarly, students who arrive with an open mind, willing spirit and can-do mentality will more easily acclimate to their new environment, community, food and daily routines.
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How do I mentally prepare for my Outward Bound course?

One of the greatest challenges on any Outward Bound course is breaking out of established routines and habits. The shock of entering a totally new environment with a group of strangers can be a difficult, and exhilarating, transition. Students can prepare for this transition by incorporating new experiences into their lives well before their Outward Bound course starts. Developing habits that foster a healthy appreciation for new experiences will help students sustain a positive attitude and open-mind throughout their expeditions. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Try new foods.
  • Get up earlier, even on the weekends.
  • Join an intramural team or club with a group of strangers.
  • Regulate your body temperature by adding/subtracting layers of clothing instead of using the AC or heat.
  • Have a difficult conversation with someone you trust, maybe your parents. Share something you’re learning about yourself. Ask them for feedback on your words and actions.
  • Explore a new place once a week.
  • Keep a journal. Contemplate how your daily actions reflect your values.
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How do I physically prepare for my course?

Adopting a daily exercise routine can be challenging, to say the least, but every minute of physical preparation pays-off during an Outward Bound expedition. Before starting any fitness program it is always a good idea to consult a physician. Outward Bound recommends 30 minutes of aerobic activity (running, bicycling, skiing, etc.) at least three times a week for 2 to 3 months before course begins. Aerobic exercise increases the heart and circulatory system’s ability to supply blood and oxygen to organs and tissue. Don’t forget to stretch to maintain flexibility. If students are already working out three days a week, they may consider building up to five or six days a week or increasing the length of their workouts by 10%.

Consider specific training techniques to prepare for specific course activities. For example, Yoga and upper body weight training will help strengthen core and upper body muscles, and be especially beneficial on paddling courses. If a student is enrolled on a multi-element course that involves backpacking, they may consider training with a weighted backpack. Building core and lower body strength may be more beneficial for backpacking students. A strong commitment to physical preparation will not only increase a student’s enjoyment of their Outward Bound course, it will dramatically reduce their risk of injury during the course.

No matter what course type, the following tips will help:

  • Arrive at your course-start well rested.
  • Reduce consumption of fatty foods, excessive alcohol, and caffeine. These substances require a lot of water and oxygen to metabolize.
  • Eat plenty of unrefined carbohydrates (i.e. whole grains).
  • Drink more water than usual, 1/2 to 1 gallon of water per day.
  • Stop using tobacco.
  • Don’t overdo it. Some people, novice and experienced alike, complain of tired and aching bodies, the result of believing that the harder the body is pushed the faster it will improve. In fact, the opposite is true. Training moderately while adequately increasing one’s heart rate, promotes the fastest progress. The most common mistake people make is going too fast, too soon—quickly joining the ranks of the stiff, tired and discouraged.
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