Getting Started

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:

  1. Start at the thrift store.
  2. Buy last year’s model.
  3. Don’t worry about colors or style.

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. 

Equipment Provided by Outward Bound

Outward Bound will provide you with these items:

  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping mat
  • Backpack
  • Rain gear
  • All group camping, cooking, and traveling equipment

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.

Layering Principles

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.

  1. Inner Layer: This is usually called the wicking layer (long underwear, liner socks, and sometimes gloves) – Moisture is the enemy of warmth. Sweat from physical activity like backpacking, paddling, or climbing is your body’s attempt to cool itself off. Synthetic long underwear pulls moisture away from your body, so your sweat won’t cool you down too much and make you cold. This layer is worn next to your skin. Cotton items retain moisture and exaggerate sweat’s cooling effect, which is why we’ll sometimes ask you to avoid using cotton clothing.
  2. Middle Layer: This is usually called the insulation layer (fleece tops, wool socks, and sometimes fleece pants) – This layer should be thick and fluffy like a fleece or wool sweater that will trap and store the heat your body is producing. This layer is worn over the top of the base layer. Your packing list might require more than one “insulating layer” like a medium weight fleece and a heavier wool sweater. You can put on several "insulating layer" pieces at a time, so be sure to try them on over the top of your inner layer and over the top of each other to ensure you still have mobility and things aren't too tight.
  3. Outer Layer: This is usually called the wind/shell layer (jackets, pants, and rain gear) – Adding an outer windproof layer prevents the wind from stealing your store of built-up heat. The third layer is worn on top of the base and insulation layers. This layer will take the most wear and tear and look the most weather-beaten by the end of the trip.  For dogsledding courses, we provide all outer layers for you.  For all other courses, rain gear is provided.
Required Clothing & Gear

Head & Hands

  • 1 Warm Beanie. Used on colder days and evenings. No cotton.
  • 1 Sun Hat. At a minimum, it should shade your face like a baseball cap. Having a brim all the way around is even better. Made out of something that can get folded up and packed.
  • 1 Pair Work Gloves. Canvas or leather.
  • 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

  • 1 Buff. Versatile lightweight neck gaiter. Buff Example


Upper Body

  • 2 Light or Medium Weight Long Underwear Tops. These can be fitted (not restrictive) because it will be the base layer next to your skin.
  • 1 Long Sleeve Sun Shirt. Loose, lightweight, and light-colored for sun and bug protection. Instructors prefer old button down men's dress shirts.  Will get dirty.
  • 2-3 Short Sleeve Shirts. Work shirts that will experience a lot of wear and tear. Cotton or quick-drying fabrics are both absolutely fine. 
  • 2 Long Sleeve Shirts. For use in cooler wearther.  Work shirts that will experience a lot of wear and tear. Cotton or quick-drying fabrics are both absolutely fine. 
  • 1 Medium-Weight Warm Top. This can be a polyester or 100 weight wool or fleece shirt. Usually comes with a 1/2 to 3/4’s zipper and nylon/spandex cuffs, collar, and hem.
  • 1 Heavy Fleece or Synthetic Puffy Jacket. Must have good breathability and dry quickly when wet. The fleece can usually be found at a thrift store or Salvation Army.  Must fit over all other layers.
  • 1 Warm Coat. Anything that will keep you warm.
  • 1 Wind Jacket. Nothing fancy, basically an old-fashioned windbreaker. This can usually be found at a thrift store.  Must fit over all other layers.
  • 2 Sports Bras. Should be appropriate for athletic activity. Many women will use this as a swimsuit top with Quick Dry shorts. You do not need to bring a swimsuit if you plan on using this combination.


Lower Body

  • 2 Light or Medium Weight Long Underwear Bottoms. These can be fitted (not restrictive) because it will be the base layer next to your skin.
  • 1 Pair Quick Dry Pants. Lightweight nylon fabric wicks moisture, dries quickly, and is easy to pack. Should be loose fitting to aid in movement and protect against bug bites through the pants (no yoga-style or tight pants). No cotton.
  • 3 Pants. Jeans or work pants. Durable.  Will experience a lot of wear and tear.
  • Underwear - Quick Drying or Cotton. Bring what you’d like.
  • 1 Swimsuit. Ladies, you may choose to bring a swimsuit or use a pair of shorts and a sports bra for swimwear. No bikinis.



  • 4 Pair Heavyweight Hiking Socks. These socks are thicker than the medium weight and most likely will have expedition or mountaineering in the name.
  • 1 Pair Hiking/Work Boots. Boots that will be useful for day hikes or construction tasks.
  • 1 Pair Tennis Shoes. Lightweight, sturdy running shoes. Not fashion or skateboarding type sneakers. An old pair of running shoes is just fine. See “Footwear” for more details.


Personal Gear

  • 1 Pair Sunglasses w/ Keeper Strap and Hard Case. Essential for protecting your eyes in a highly reflective environment. Keeper strap is important so they don’t fall into the water and sink.
  • 1 Waterbottle. A 32 oz. wide mouth Nalgene-style bottle with a plain lid is recommended.
  • 1 Small Headlamp with Extra Batteries. This is a hands free flashlight. It is either an LED or halogen headlamp that uses a minimum of three volts (two or more AA- or AAA-batteries).  Halogen bulbs are bright but consume more battery power.  LED lamps are bright and consume very little battery power.  Bring one extra set of alkaline batteries per week of course.


Toiletries and Other Personal Items

  • 1 Sunscreen. Waterproof, SPF 30 or greater. 8-oz. bottle.  No aerosol.
  • 1 Lip Balm. 30+ SPF or greater.
  • 1 Toiletries Kit. Toothbrush, small toothpaste, comb or brush. Women: bring plenty of feminine supplies. Change in activities can cause irregular periods.
  • 2 Small bottles of Hand Sanitizer. 
  • 1 Digital Oral Thermometer. Small, battery-powered. 
  • Prescription Medications. If you use prescription medications, including inhalers, please bring enough for your entire stay. If possible, bring a back-up set. Outward Bound should be aware of any medications you are bringing, if not, please contact your course advisor immediately.
  • 2 Pair Glasses or Contacts, if needed. Both glasses and contacts are acceptable.  Stick with whatever you normally use.  Bring plenty of supplies and at least one set of back-up glasses either way.  
  • 1 Medical Insurance Card. Please bring your Insurance card, or a copy of the front and back of the card, if you are covered under any medical insurance. The actual card is preferred.
  • 1 Towel and Shower Supplies. You’ll have a chance to sauna and shower throughout your stay. Bring whatever shower supplies you normally use, ideally in travel sizes, and a towel (any cotton towel).
  • 2-3 Sets Evening Clothes. You’ll wear these in the evenings around basecamp, in Ely, during down-time and when you travel home. Don’t forget to include socks and underwear. Please bring clothing that takes into consideration cultural differences and social expectations. Also consider layers as nights can be cold in the fall. 



  • Money. Bring a little money if you think you’d like to purchase a sweatshirt, t-shirt, map, or cap from the Voyageur Outward Bound School store after your course.  The school store accepts cash or check only, no credit or debit cards.
  • Travel Information. Carry a copy of the Outward Bound Travel Information for your course (on the tab next to this one) with the Outward Bound phone number in case of travel delays. See this information for directions on what to wear to the start of your course.
  • Cell Phone and Charger. It’s a good idea to travel with a cell phone in case of travel delays.  



Camp Shoes

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.


Optional Items


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.  

  • Camera. Waterproof disposables (bring a few) are great and you don’t have to worry about protecting them from the elements.  A small regular camera would also work well, but you’ll need to take extra precautions to protect it.  Ziploc bags work, or consider getting a waterproof case.
  • 1 Small Journal. 
  • Ear Plugs. If you are a light sleeper, earplugs can be very helpful.