Update: Travel and Coronavirus Notice
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, Rachel Hedlund, at (218)-491-6804 or email@example.com.
The tabs above will give you a overview of the course. Feel free to review it now, and know that additional details may be added in the coming weeks.
Wilderness Invitational Expeditions
4-7 day Invitational expeditions take place in a variety of locations in Minnesota and Texas. Each expedition focuses on a particular mode of travel suited to an amazing wilderness location. Invitational expeditions are designed to bring VOBS friends, family, and champions together for community and Outward Bound adventure. Participants travel in a crew, just like our traditional students, learning through the group and for the group, progressing through Outward Bound’s Theory of Change:
Learning > Leadership > Responsibility
Each participant has an opportunity to learn and execute a unique role each day in support of safe and successful group wilderness travel. Seasoned VOBS Instructors facilitate the Expedition and provide an authentic and accessible Outward Bound experience for all. Participants develop character and community together-- becoming more resilient and compassionate people, for a more resilient and compassionate world.
All Wilderness Expeditions develop key social-emotional skills across four Domains of Thriving, leading to vital character outcomes for success.
Domains of Thriving:
Belonging Courage Physical Engagement Reflection
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 mile 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.
Voyageur Outward Bound School Basecamp, Texas
The Voyageur Outward Bound School Texas basecamp is located in Redford, Texas at the edge of the Western edge of the Big Bend Ranch State Park. Situated between the mountains of Big Bend to the North and the Rio Grande to the South, the Voyageur Outward Bound School basecamp provides an ideal location for launching/ending paddling and backpacking trips in Big Bend.
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.
Rio Grande Canoeing - After learning basic whitewater strokes in calm currents, participants begin the expedition. The group will spend five to six days traveling downriver through sections of calm currents and whitewater. The whitewater of the Rio Grande offers beginning paddlers a progressive challenge, and a perfect place to learn and hone skills.
When the group reaches a set of rapids, the group will stop to read the current, deciding whether to run the rapids or portage around, examining the river for obstacles and current patterns. As a group, you'll decide the best route, and then plan and assign roles for a river safety system. While two paddlers maneuver a canoe through the rapids, other group members observe, ready to activate the safety system and paddle after floating gear, should a canoe dump or tip over.
Solo – Weather and time permitting, an Outward Bound Solo experience provides an important break from the rigors of the expedition and gives participants 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 group. Participants on a 3-week course typically spend 2-nights on Solo while those on a 1-week course may spend one night or even just a few hours on Solo. Regardless of Solo length, all participants 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 participants spend the majority of their Solo time alone, Instructors do check on each individual as often as needed, usually 1-4 times per day, to ensure that each student feels safe and comfortable. Instructors work with each participant individually to structure a successful, unique Solo experience that meets their specific needs. Solo is purposefully scheduled near the end of the expedition so participants have plenty of time to acclimate to their new environments beforehand.
Participants may have mixed feelings leading up to Solo. Inevitably, participants feel some nervousness and hesitation but are also excited to rest, reflect and test their new skills after spending many days in the wilderness. Participants 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.
Course End – All courses end with a shower, graduation ceremony and celebration dinner. Shower facilities are available at the course end location.
Day 1: Travel to El Paso, check into the Best Western Plus, and plan to meet your group in the lobby at 3:30 PM for a briefing by your VOBS instructors. Plan your flights accordingly. After the briefing, join your group and instructors for a fun dinner out at a restaurant in El Paso.
Day 2: Travel to Redford, work with your instructors to get your personal and group gear organized and travel to your first campsite on the river.
Days 3-5: After learning basic paddling and water safety skills, you'll spend the next few days paddling and exploring the Rio Grande. There will be time for a solo experience, along with exploratory hikes along the canyon rims.
Day 6: Paddle the final stretch of the Upper Canyons of the Rio Grande--Santa Elena Canyon. This jaw-dropping landscape is an incredible way to end your adventure on the Rio!
Day 7: You will be transported to the Lajitas Golf Resort where you'll spend the night and enjoy a celebratory dinner.
Day 8: Say goodbye to Big Bend and the Rio Grande! Depart the resort at 6:00 AM in order to make the long drive back to El Paso in time for flights departing anytime after 2:00 PM.
NOTE: VOBS will organize/book all hotel rooms and meals. We will place couples in rooms together. Individuals will have their own rooms. Participants are responsible for booking their own flights.
Welcome! You will need to register and complete some paperwork if you'd like to participate on this course. The first step is to complete the online medical form; you can do so here. Upon completion of your online medical form, you will receive an email from your Course Advisor, Rachel Hedlund. Rachel will share some additional paperwork with you that you'll need to complete and return to her. She'll also provide you with an invoice so you can make your payment for the course at your convenience.
After Rachel receives all of your completed paperwork, she will contact you to schedule a short phone interview. This is your opportunity to learn more about the course and ask questions. It's also Rachel's opportunity to get to know you a little better, share important information, and clarify any outstanding questions from your medical paperwork.
It's important to note, not everyone is automatically approved to participate on an Outward Bound course, but we're usually able to accommodate most people. Rachel will let you know if she has any concerns about your participation and work with you to understand how we can make this Outward Bound experience as safe and successful as possible for the whole group.
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.
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.
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 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.
You will need to travel to El Paso on the first day of your course by 3:30 PM. We will book a room for you at the Best Western Plus El Paso Airport Hotel as it is the meeting place for the course start.
Please meet in the lobby of the Best Western Plus in El Paso, Texas at 3:30 pm the day before your course begins. Look for OB staff with Outward Bound signs.
Outward Bound will transport you back to the El Paso International Airport on the last day of the course, arriving by 1:00 PM. To ensure adequate time to check-in and navigate security, please do not book any flights departing before 2:00 PM.
MEALS AND MONEY ON ARRIVAL/DEPARTURE DAYS - Please bring a little cash for meals during your travel 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.
Click through the tabs below for more details regarding your invitational at VOBS. Please reach out if you have any questions regarding the information below.
A note as you read through the Essential Eligibility Criteria:
At the Voyager Outward Bound School, the health and safety of our students and staff are a top priority, along with the educational quality of the course experience. 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.
We uphold these same principles on our Invitational expeditions to ensure our guests health, safety, and enjoyment!
While you do not have to be a gifted athlete or in peak physical condition to attend an Outward Bound course, you do have to prepare for the challenges of Outward Bound.
There are two kinds of strength necessary to complete your course; physical and mental. Your body needs to be strong, but you must also come with an open mind, willing spirit and a cooperative attitude. Whether you paddle a canoe or kayak for six or eight hours, expedition with a 50+ pound pack for 10 miles or mush a dogsled, you will be pushed and rewarded on many levels.
If their is a family emergency while you are in the wilderness, your family should contact the Voyageur Outward Bound School Big Bend Base at this number: 432-652-6003 and listen to the voicemail message for instructions.
Please follow this link to read VOBS' Essential Eligibility Criteria.
Tick-borne disease is a risk in the wild 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 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.