We look forward to having you on course with us soon! If you have questions about the application process, submitting forms, or anything else, you may contact your student services representative directly, call the Student Services General Line, (828)-239-2376 or email us at, email@example.com.
We at Outward Bound are pleased that you will be joining us for the Alumni Service Week at Homeplace, our wilderness base near Ely, Minnesota. You will come together with other alumni who are familiar with the Outward Bound challenge for this unique blend of service work and community building.
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW)
Over 10,000 years ago, continental-sized glaciers scraped their way across much of Ontario and northern Minnesota leaving deep ruts, ravines, and holes in their tracks. Eventually, as the glaciers melted, these ravines filled with water, creating a seemingly endless interconnected web of lakes and rivers.
In 1964, the United States designated over 1-million acres of this Northern Minnesota landscape as a protected wilderness area called the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). Because no roads, power lines, or motorized craft may enter its borders, the BWCAW has remained relatively unchanged since the glaciers receded. The BWCAW extends nearly 150 miles along the Canadian border and encompasses more than 1,000 lakes and rivers. Over 1,200 miles of navigable routes lead to over 2,200 campsites and provide an unparalleled opportunity to travel by canoe and dogsled.
In the winter, the BWCAW transforms into an even more severe and remote wilderness. While more difficult, winter enthusiasts’ travel over frozen lakes and rivers by dogsled, cross-country ski and snowshoe. Winter in the Boundary Waters is mesmerizing, peaceful, and exhilarating. It is a place of spectacular extremes, trackless snow, bracing cold air, glowing warm embers, and powerful silence.
Homeplace, Voyageur Outward Bound School Basecamp, Minnesota
Homeplace is located at the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northern Minnesota. Situated where the Kawishiwi River meets Birch Lake in the Superior National Forest, the Voyageur Outward Bound School basecamp provides an ideal location for launching/ending BWCAW paddling and dogsledding trips, and practicing white water paddling skills. The surrounding boreal forest also makes Homeplace a great location for spotting moose, wolves, beavers, deer, woodpeckers, eagles and black bear.
Minnesota’s weather can be unpredictable with a wide range of temperatures. Fall brings red, yellow and bright orange leaves. It is cool and crisp and the forest is filled with peace and quiet. The weather can be unpredictable, ranging from bright sunshine, warm rain or sometimes snow. Average temperatures are cool, but can range from 30-70 degrees Fahrenheit. Evenings can be chilly but it’s typically sunny and very comfortable during the day. While you may experience the occasional thunderstorm or rain shower, most days are clear and comfortable.
Weather is always a factor when traveling in the wilderness and it adds an exciting element of challenge to each course. Learning to handle varying weather conditions is essential to a successful wilderness course.
The Alumni Service Week is not designed as a standard Outward Bound course, but as an opportunity alumni and us to benefit from each other's energy and enthusiasm. Participants will work with Outward Bound staff to prepare for the upcoming season. Work projects might consist of painting, staining, wood chopping, setting up cabins, landscaping, repairing waterfront docks, or repairing and reorganizing the equipment used during the previous season. We may also offer projects tailored to a participant's specific skills, such as computer or kitchen work.
Opportunities for fun are incorporated into the week. Activities might include rock climbing and rappelling, canoeing, an overnight expedition, saunas, or visits to local points of interest such as the International Wolf Center and North American Bear Center. Additionally, opportunities for reflection, renewal, and initiatives may be offered. Participants will have time to interact with the base staff through the various projects and community meals. As alumni, you become part of the community.
Day 1: The week begins at the Duluth Airport before transporting to the Voyageur Outward Bound School basecamp in northern MN. Meet your Outward Bound liaison, settle into your accommodations, eat dinner and enjoy getting to know the group.
Day 2: Review the list of basecamp service projects with your Outward Bound liaison. Meet current Outward Bound staff, sign-up for tasks and get to work.
Days 3-6: Participate in a variety of optional activities like Voyageur canoe paddling, rock climbing and hiking while also getting work projects done around the basecamp.
Day 7: Finish up work projects and enjoy a final banquet celebration.
Day 8: Eat an early breakfast and depart for the airport to travel home.
COURSE PAPERWORK: If you've enrolled on this course you should've received an email from your Course Advisor within 2 business days. That email asks you to complete some medical and liability paperwork and return it to your Course Advisor by specific due dates. In order to participate on an Outward Bound course you must submit all of this required paperwork and, if applicable, be interviewed by your Course Advisor by the listed due dates.
Refer to your Registration Email to determine what paperwork is required and when it is due.
All applicants must adhere to the due dates listed in their Registration Email for payments and forms. If due dates are not met, you risk losing your position on the course as well as your deposit.
Because our courses are characterized by unpredictable weather, obtaining the proper clothing is crucial. Please bring all the items as described on the "Required Clothing and Gear" list below. You can find these items at camping, outdoor, Army/Navy surplus, and thrift stores. Clothing and gear can be expensive—shop around before you buy and keep these helpful tips in mind:
Your choices should be governed by whether or not the piece of clothing or gear will meet our requirements, not if it is the best looking or newest! Consider leaving the tags on any new items you have purchased and saving the receipts; in the event that an item is not needed for your expedition or you do not use it, you should be able to return it when you get back home.
NOTE: When you arrive for course start, you will not have an opportunity to purchase forgotten items.
If you are looking to shop online, many students use the following websites to find their clothing and gear:
On the first night of the course, your instructors will issue you the equipment provided by Outward Bound and assess all of the clothing/equipment you’ve brought in order to ensure that it meets the requirements of the expedition. You’ll repack exactly what you need into packs provided by Outward Bound. Everything you don’t need during the expedition, including your shower supplies, clean clothes for the trip home, valuables, and electronics will stay in your luggage and be stored in a secure location for the duration of the course. These items will be returned to you at the end of the trip.
Outward Bound will provide you with these items:
You only need to bring what’s on this list, mainly your personal clothing, toiletries, footwear, and a few additional items. We strongly discourage the use of personal camping equipment on Voyageur Outward Bound School courses because of the heavy wear and tear. We feel confident that the equipment we provide will best serve your needs on the expedition; it will keep you safe, warm and dry. If you have questions about using a piece of personal equipment normally provided by Outward Bound, please contact your course advisor to discuss. If you do decide to bring a piece of personal equipment, your instructors reserve the right to inspect it and ensure that it will adequately serve your needs during the expedition. If they do not think it will work, you can leave it with your luggage at the basecamp during the expedition.
Our packing list is based on layering principles; dressing in several light layers rather than one heavy layer allows you more flexibility as the weather and your exertion levels change. When shopping or packing, it is a good idea to try on all of your layers at once to ensure that they fit over one another. Read the information below to get a better idea of what we’re talking about.
Head & Hands
Toiletries and Other Personal Items
Your Camp Shoes are worn each evening and morning at your campsite. They get packed away in a safe spot while you travel so they remain dry. Camp shoes should be lightweight, sturdy running shoes, not sandals. Full coverage shoes are required while you’re cooking and working around the campfire to protect your feet from hot embers and boiling cooking-water.
Voyageur Outward Bound School courses finish with a Challenge Event that often involves a running component, and some groups do morning runs or day hikes. You can use your camp shoes for these events. For this reason, you’ll need sturdy running shoes NOT fashion or skateboarding type sneakers.
None of these items are required and you will be fine without them. Please only buy them if you plan to use them again after your service week or you think they will be of great assistance to you during your stay.
Please arrive to the Duluth International Airport by 1:00 PM on the first day of the course. You will meet our staff in the baggage claim area. Look for Outward Bound representatives with Outward Bound signs.
Please eat lunch and make any final phone calls before arriving at the airport. Expect to be at the airport until your whole group has arrived, at which time we will transport you an additional 2-3 hours to your course-start location.
With so many people traveling on the same day, we anticipate some hiccups. If your arrival is delayed, don’t worry too much. Contact our Travel Coordinator and we will do our best to coordinate an alternative pick-up with you.
Outward Bound will transport you back to the Duluth International Airport on the last day of the course, arriving around 11:30 AM. To ensure adequate time to check in and navigate security, please do not book any flights departing before 1:00 PM.
MEALS AND MONEY ON ARRIVAL/DEPARTURE DAYS - Please bring a little cash for meals during your travel days. Outward Bound will provide dinner on the first day, breakfast on the last day, and some snacks on both of these days. There are minimal food options once you exit the security gate at the airport so plan to get something before you arrive or before you exit security. Remember to drink plenty of water throughout travel days!
MEDICATIONS – If you take a prescription medication, please ensure that you have enough to complete the entire course, and bring a back-up set if possible. If you use an inhaler or carry an Epi-pen, please bring 2 sets.
Remember to pack your medications and other important items (contacts, glasses, travel documents, money) in your carry-on luggage in case your checked bag is delayed or lost.
CLOTHING/DRESS ON ARRIVAL DAY – Please arrive at the meeting place already dressed in your expedition clothes. Your boots or tennis shoes, wool socks, quick-dry pants, underwear, t-shirt and warmer long-sleeved layer (accessible) work best on the first day. Please see the provided packing list for further information about appropriate luggage, clothing and layering principles.
If you are unable to arrive by 1:00 PM on the first day of the course, we advise that you arrive a day early. There are multiple hotel options in Duluth near the airport. Below are some of our partner hotels that offer a discount for Outward Bound students. You must call these hotels directly to ask for the Voyageur Outward Bound School discount.
Econo Lodge: 4197 Haines Rd., Duluth (800) 922-0569
Minors welcome - arrange with hotel
No shuttle – must use local taxi service
Country Inn & Suites: 4257 Haines Rd, Duluth (218) 740-4500
Minors welcome – Ages 14 and 15 need prior approval from your course advisor
Free airport shuttle
La Quinta Inn: 1805 Maple Grove Road, Duluth; (218) 722-0700
Minors ages 16 and up welcome
Free airport shuttle
If you stay at the Econo Lodge, we’d be happy to pick you up in the morning on the first day of your course; please indicate you would like pick-up when you complete the travel form provided upon approval. Otherwise, please use the free airport shuttle provided by the Country Inn and La Quinta; you should schedule your airport shuttle when making your hotel reservation.
Please familiarize yourself with the policies outlined in the Policies Page. By enrolling in Outward Bound you are accountable for and subject to the information contained on these pages.
If a student’s family experiences an emergency and needs to contact them while he/she is in the wilderness, the family should contact their designated course director or the emergency response number at 218-491-6799 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.
VOBS Essential Eligibility Criteria
Voyageur Outward Bound School (VOBS) backcountry wilderness expeditions range from six days in length to two-month semester programs with the goal of changing lives through challenge and discovery. The wilderness environments in which our expedition based programs take place are challenging, remote and exposed.
The health and safety of our students and staff are a top priority, along with the educative quality of the course experience for all participants. To achieve essential group goals, the individuals on each course must be fully capable of and committed to learning and using wilderness skills, meeting physical and social challenges, and taking care of themselves and each other.
VOBS values diversity and a positive learning environment but does not specialize in experiences for people with disabilities or with significant mental, emotional or behavioral challenges. VOBS instructors are not therapists and are not trained in adaptive wilderness or integrative teaching skills.
The Essential Eligibility Criteria (EEC) is applied to all students on VOBS wilderness expeditions that take place in a backcountry environment. A qualified person meets the general EEC for VOBS and the EEC for the specific program activities and program areas. If an applicant does not meet specific criteria, VOBS might be able to accommodate an applicant, but will not do so if it significantly alters the fundamental nature of the course activity, jeopardizes the health and safety of VOBS students or staff, or places an undue administrative or financial burden on VOBS.
General Eligibility Criteria
Rock Climbing/High Ropes Elements in Courses
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.
Student Name/Course Number
Voyageur Outward Bound School
PO Box 450
Ely, MN 55731
Tick-borne disease is a risk in the wild areas of northern Minnesota, where VOBS runs the majority of their courses. Fortunately, there are prevention steps that are very effective and, in the case of infection, treatment is relatively simple and recovery complete, so long as the diagnosis is made early. Students and their families should educate themselves on the risks, prevention measures, and signs and symptoms of tick-borne diseases by reading this letter from our Safety Director and the information provided below.
In 2014, the Lyme disease incident rate in Minnesota was .16 per 1,000 people.* Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease, but is not the only risk. Some of the other common tick-borne diseases reported in Minnesota include Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, Powassan (POW) virus, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Tularemia and Anaplasmosis. There are treatments available for these diseases, but prevention is by far the best and first step!
DO NOT treat base layers (long underwear tops and bottoms for example).
Signs and Symptoms
There are many symptoms associated with tick-borne diseases. Infected people may not have all of these symptoms and many of these symptoms can occur with other diseases as well. Some common symptoms of infection with tick-borne diseases include body/muscle aches, fever, headaches, fatigue, joint pain, rash, stiff neck and facial paralysis. Seek medical attention if signs and symptoms of a tick borne illness appear. Tick-borne diseases are diagnosed based on symptoms and the possibility that the person has been exposed to infected ticks. Most cases can be successfully treated with specific types of antibiotics.
*Lyme Disease Incidence Rates by State 2005- 2014, http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/stats/chartstables/incidencebystate.html
Safety is our number one priority. At all levels of our school, we demonstrate our dedication to participant safety by our words, actions and values. Outward Bound has been a national leader in wilderness safety for over 50 years and frequently advises and assists other organizations in outdoor adventure risk management. Living and traveling in a remote wilderness setting exposes you to risks different than those you may encounter in your daily life. We believe that accepting appropriate risks and training and preparing participants to manage those risks, provides invaluable life experience.
Regardless of precautionary measures, risk and uncertainty are central to the concept of challenge and adventure. The intent is not to avoid activities involving risk but to recognize, prepare for and successfully manage risk. In order to identify any potential hazards and update best practices, our programs are regularly reviewed by outdoor professionals from inside and outside the Outward Bound system.
Outward Bound instructors receive regular training in the activities and environments in which we deliver our courses. They are trained to anticipate and manage risks inherent in remote areas. They are also trained in first aid, search and rescue and emergency management. Our instructors are certified Wilderness First Responders; some are Wilderness Emergency Medical Technicians or equivalent. Outward Bound maintains a minimum staff-to-student ratio of approximately 1:6. Instructors work in teams of two or three with six to 12 students. Instructor teams are usually co-ed but balancing skills and teaching styles is our primary staffing focus. One instructor in every team is a lead instructor with multiple seasons of training and experience. The lead instructor has single point accountability for the safety and effectiveness of the course in the field as well as mentoring their staffing team.
For more information on our instructors, please check out our staff profiles page or our careers page for instructor requirements. As a participant, you must take responsibility for yourself by following instructions and practicing the skills taught by your instructors.