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, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please have the student's name, course number, course start date and balance due when using this payment option.
In most cases, a $500 deposit has been paid when you applied. Please refer to your Registration Email to confirm your balance*. If you are unsure of your balance due, please call (828)-239-2376 or email email@example.com.
If your payment is not received by the due date listed in your Registration Email, you will risk losing your position on the course and your $500 deposit. Please review the Application & Cancellation Policies.
|Remaining Balance Due*:||$1,995.00|
In addition to the expedition itself and all of the skills and learning associated with it, Outward Bound’s time-tested curriculum includes education on the many aspects of personal growth and learning that can be found in each activity you undertake. You will learn four important Outward Bound Core Values:
You may find that the most important lessons you take home are learning about yourself and your community while acquiring backcountry skills and having an adventure.You’ll learn to protect and appreciate the unique, unspoiled environments through which you travel.
Successful completion of your course demands mastery of skills, trust, 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.
This tab houses ALL of the COVID-19 information for your course. Please refer to the following resources and information for any questions you may have about COVID-19 and your course.
VOBS COVID-19 Practices Page This includes all our COVID-19 policies and expectations.
VOBS COVID-19 FAQ's Page If you have a question about anything related to COVID-19 review the FAQ's.
Big Bend region, Texas
The Texas course area, one of the most remote and geologically interesting in the Outward Bound system, lies along the US-Mexico border in southwestern Texas. The Rio Grande River carves a huge sweeping bend through the area earning its namesake, Big Bend National Park. This 750,000-square acre wilderness is an ideal setting for desert backpacking, canyoneering and rock climbing. Delicate desert flowers exist alongside fossilized trees millions of years old, mountain passes give way to steep-walled canyons and cliffs.
The Chihuahuan Desert of Texas is usually dry, warm during the day and cool at night. Students may encounter hot sun or a snow shower. Desert temperatures vary widely. Night temperatures are often cooler, averaging 20 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
In Texas the temperatures vary between 15-70 degrees during the winter. Typically there will be little to no rainfall during the desert portion of your course, though an occasional storm will happen. You may encounter hot sun or even a brief snow storm!
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.
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.
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 spend one night or even just 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 to the whole group. 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 often 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 and Solo often becomes one of the most memorable parts of their Outward Bound experience.
Desert Backpacking - Students backpack through rugged desert up to the mountainous terrain – elevations range from 2,500 to 7,500 feet. During the expedition, instructors will help you learn safe desert travel, teaching how to plan the expedition around water management strategies. The group will navigate “from tinaja to tinaja” – desert water sources vital to desert life. Following trails or traveling cross-country, the group will explore wide open expanses and encounter water-sculptured canyons. Here it will be necessary to scramble around boulders, climb low walls, or give packs or companions a boost.
Students will grow accustomed to backpacking over rough terrain and become familiar with balancing and shifting weight while carrying a pack. Each student carries his or her own personal gear, some group gear, and four to six liters of water in an internal frame pack. Packs weigh at least 50 lbs., sometimes considerably more. Students often choose to redistribute weight according to physical strength. Courses are designed to be challenging. Outward Bound requires that groups travel together for safety and peer motivation and form a blend of everyone’s backpacking styles and needs.
Final Expedition – Outward Bound believes that an appropriate amount of independence is a powerful educational tool. In order to deliver that benefit, Outward Bound purposefully and gradually transfers certain leadership responsibilities to the students culminating with our “Final Expedition.” Near the end of course, if you and your group have demonstrated the necessary leadership, team problem-solving and wilderness living skills, you may be given the opportunity to travel without your instructors immediately present. Students on courses designed for ages 16 and older may travel without instructors immediately present (although they will be near the group for safety reasons) for one to five days depending on course length, student age, staff assessment of students’ abilities, and terrain. Many of our students feel this phase of the course is the most rewarding as the group learns to work together, problem solve, and accomplish a goal independently while utilizing all the skills they have acquired.
Course End – All courses end with a shower, graduation ceremony and celebration dinner. Shower facilities are available at the basecamp.
Please utilize the resource below to physically and mentally prepare for your course. The more preparation you do, the better your experience will be!
The following is an example of what your course itinerary may look like. Your actual itinerary will vary according to weather, student skills and abilities, and instructor preferences. On Texas backpacking courses, there is the possibility of canyoneering, but it is weather and group dynamic dependent.
Day 1: Meet your group in El Paso, then travel in the Outward Bound van to the Outward Bound offices in Redford, TX, tucked between the mountains of Texas and Mexico. The journey takes about 5 hours and meanders through low and high desert grasslands and small towns like Marfa and Presidio. Local families have lived in Redford for centuries and Spanish is more commonly spoken than English. Upon arrival in Redford you’ll meet your Outward Bound Instructors, organize your equipment, eat dinner and sleep in tents on the banks of the Rio Grande.
Days 2-4: Enter the vast expanse of Big Bend National Park and begin backpacking. Learn to set-up camp, cook over camp-stoves, and navigate with a map and compass.
Day 5: Spend the day preparing for and participating in an overnight solo activity. Take time to rest and reflect at your own little campsite. Your Instructors will check on you occasionally.
Day 6: Begin the final phase of the expedition. Work with your group to navigate to the course-end location with less oversight from your Instructors.
Day 7: Spend the day climbing at a gorgeous wilderness rock climbing site. Spend the evening cleaning-up your expedition equipment, showering, and attending a graduation ceremony before enjoying a final banquet celebration.
Day 8: Eat an early breakfast and depart for the airport to travel home.
To participate on Outward Bound, each applicant must submit all requested medical information, the signed liability release form, and, if applicable, be interviewed by a student services representative. You will receive these forms, as well as any additional forms that may be required of you, via email. Refer to your Registration Email for all your paperwork information, including DUE DATES.
Wilderness travel means you can and, for your comfort, should carry a lot less than you do in the regular world. Most experienced wilderness travelers will tell you that they bring about the same amount of gear on a three-day trip as they would on a three-week trip. This packing list has been refined over 50 years of Voyageur Outward Bound School expeditions. Please stick to it closely. It is designed to ensure that you have everything you need to be safe and comfortable during your expedition.
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 the Required Clothing and Gear 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
2 Washable Cloth Masks- Must cover nose and mouth, and be secured either around the back of the head or behind the ears. These masks will be worn at different times throughout the course to mitigate the spread of communicable diseases. This is a required item. Please talk with your Course Advisor if you have any questions. See more detailed mask info here: Mask Information
Toiletries & 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.
Some 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.
Due to the heavy loads and rugged terrain that are part of backpacking in Big Bend it is crucial that you have a sturdy pair of heavy-duty hiking boots for this trip. The most important consideration when buying boots is to find a pair that fit comfortably and do not rub on any part of your foot. This will look different for every student, so make sure you are trying on boots and breaking them in before your course.
Boots must have strong ankle support, a thick sturdy sole (almost rigid), and a durable outer layer to protect your feet from the many sharp hazards of the desert ground. Full leather boots are ideal for this part of your course, but if you are buying boots last minute DO NOT get full leather boots- you will not have time to break them in. Trails are rough and rocky, and are often lined by sharp-spined plants. Because the desert floor is so rough and unforgiving, it is especially important that your boots provide strong ankle and foot protection.
You should expect that these boots will serve you well for a long period after your course.
Here is a list of boots that work well on Voyageur Outward Bound School backpacking courses. If you have questions about a boot that’s not listed here, consider the essential requirements – your boots must be sturdy with a strong, protective sole, have full ankle protection (high-top), and provide protection from cactus spikes. If you still have questions about a boot not listed here, send an email to your Course Advisor for their input; include a link so they can view the boot online.
Leather boot option: Vasque Talus Pro Boots
Leather and mesh option: Keen Targhee Boots
Mesh Option: Merrell Moab Boots
Start by trying on at least two or three different boot options. Put the first choice on one foot and the second choice on the other. Make sure that you’re wearing the same type of wool socks that you plan to wear during the expedition (refer to the packing list for more detail) and fully lace-up the boots. Start by standing on a downward slanting slope and try to jam your toes towards the front of the boot. Next, take a walk around the store.
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 course or you think they will be of great assistance to you during the course. You may be asked to leave these items behind depending on pack-size and weight restrictions.
i-pods, MP3 players, computers, i-pads, and GPS devices?
Cell phones, tablets, GPS devices and all other electronic devices (exception-digital cameras) are not permitted on course. Electronic devices can be distracting and disruptive to the wilderness experience. Stepping away from these devices encourages participants to focus on their experience and their crewmates.
You are, however, more than welcome to travel to and from your course with whatever technology you choose. When you arrive, we’ll have you turn off all electronic devices and leave them in your luggage. Your luggage will then be locked in a secure area during your course. At the end of your course, you’ll get everything back. Additionally, please do not bring any emergency response technology. Your instructors will carry emergency communication devices.
Cameras are welcomed at Voyageur Outward Bound School. We recommended waterproof disposable cameras. If you elect to bring a non-disposable camera, we advise that you store it in a small “dry bag” or plastic zip-lock bag. Our courses are rigorous and there is a risk of losing or damaging your camera.
For digital cameras, we ask that the memory card(s) be blank; please back up your photos and erase your memory cards prior to arriving for course. Cell phone cameras, tablets, and any other Wi-Fi enabled electronic devices with built-in cameras are not permitted on the course.
my cell phone and use it as a camera?
No, if you’d like to take pictures, please bring a camera that does not have cellular capabilities. No cell-phones will be allowed on the expedition.
Unless it’s a natural history identification book, we’d ask you to leave books at home. You’ll be very busy during your expedition and will want to spend your downtime with other group members, sleeping, and just relaxing in nature. Books also get damaged easily. You can bring a book for your travel days but don’t plan to bring it on the expedition.
a pocket knife?
Please do not bring any knives with you to your course-start. Your instructors will provide knives as they are needed throughout the expedition.
my own camping gear (sleeping bag, tent, etc.)?
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.
over the counter medications?
Voyageur Outward Bound School Instructors carry an extensive First-Aid kit with ample supply of over-the-counter medications like pain relievers and antacids, among other supplies. Instructors also carry prescription epinephrine injections in case of an anaphylactic emergency. You shouldn’t need to bring your own OTC medication. However, if you frequently take something specific, please consult your course advisor to discuss whether you should bring it or not.
tobacco, drugs, or alcohol?
Tobacco, drugs, and alcohol are NOT permitted on course, this includes both time spent in the wilderness and at basecamp.
Please also DO NOT bring valuables, jewelry, makeup, candy, gum, or large amounts of money.
Location: El Paso International Airport
*If you're arriving by car, and you can get there early, please try to arrive between 10:30 - 11:30 AM. This will help us get you checked in and avoid a rush right at 1:00 PM.
If you cannot find a flight that arrives in El Paso by 1:00 PM on your course start day, you will need to arrive the night before and stay in El Paso. Please see the Pre & Post Course Accommodations Tab for information about hotels in El Paso. If you arrive the night before, you will still meet the group at the airport by 1:00 PM on your course start day.
*Throughout 2021 we have found that there are fewer flight options overall, and far fewer connecting flights into El Paso, TX. Many families have had a more positive and stress-free travel experience if they arrive the day before the course, spend the night in El Paso, and meet the group at the airport the next day. While not required, this can be a nice option to consider as you make your travel plans.
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 they will drive the 5 hours to our basecamp in vans.
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 plan with you.
Students will be transported back to the El Paso International Airport at the end of their course. If you are picking up your student you may meet them there between 12:00 and 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 COURSE START DAY (DAY 1) – 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.
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 432-652-6003 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.
Please follow this link to read VOBS' Essential Eligibility Criteria.
VOBS regularly evaluates its programming. Students may be asked to complete 1-2 surveys at the end of their course to assist us in this evaluation. These surveys may include:
1. We ask all participants to complete an anonymous survey at the end of programming. Participants are asked to answer the survey items and to indicate their race/ethnicity, gender, and birth year. Completing the survey is optional. No identifying information is included as part of the survey or in any reporting. We also ask participants to provide a reflection of their course and other feedback. This information is used by the organization for reporting on program outcomes and for program improvement purposes.
2. Outward Bound is partnering with The PEAR Institute (Partnerships in Education and Resilience) on a research project to promote our students’ positive social-emotional development. As part of this effort, Outward Bound staff may invite you/your child to complete a brief survey at the end of your/their Outward Bound course. The survey includes PEAR’s Holistic Student Assessment (HSA) plus several additional questions about the student’s social-emotional development and experience while on the course. You/your child’s responses will be kept confidential, results will be reported as a group, and names will never be used in any reports related to this research. Data from this survey will be used for research and educational work and only designated Outward Bound staff and Outward Bound’s research partners will have access to the results.
For more information, including the opportunity to opt-out of the survey, click on the following link/s to download the English Language, English-Spanish Language, or English-CapeVerdeCreole Language versions of the consent form opt-out and return a signed copy to your Course Advisor.
Tick-borne disease is a risk in the areas 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 the information provided below.
Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease, but is not the only risk. Some of the other common tick-borne diseases reported 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!
*Lyme Disease Incidence Rates by State 2010- 2019 http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/stats/chartstables/incidencebystate.html
You should include this with your child if it is on the course packing list. Insect repellent containing DEET will also be supplied on all courses where there is a significant chance of vector-borne illness transmission.
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.
There are other vectors in addition to ticks that inhabit the areas VOBS travels in, mainly mosquitos. Some vectors may be capable of transmitting West Nile Virus, LaCrosse Encephalitis, Jamestown Canyon Virus, Lyme’s disease, Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichiosis, Powassan Virus, Tularemia, and Swimmer’s Itch.
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.