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.

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 the following items:

  • Inner and outer sleeping bags
  • Sleeping mat
  • Backpack
  • Down Parka
  • Anorak and outer-layer pants
  • Winter boots
  • Wool mitten inserts and outer leather choppers
  • All group camping, cooking, and traveling equipment

You only need to bring the items listed in the "Required Clothing & Gear" section, 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

  • 2 Warm Beanies. No cotton. Must cover ears.
  • 1 Sun Hat. Baseball cap or wide-brimmed sun hat. 
  • 1 Neck Gaiter. Important for keeping all the warmth between your head and torso.
  • 3 Pairs Light Liner Gloves. Thin, lightweight, synthetic or wool gloves you will wear under bigger mittens. These will likely get destroyed by the end of the trip so when in doubt, opt for less expensive options. See example here: Light Liner Gloves
  • 2 Pairs Heavy Liner Gloves. Thicker synthetic or wool gloves to wear under bigger mittens. See example here: Heavy Liner Gloves
  • 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 face mask info here: Mask Information

  • 1 Buff. Versatile lightweight neck gaiter. Buff Example


Upper Body

  • 2 Light or Medium Weight Long Underwear Top. This can be fitted (not restrictive) because it will be the base layer next to your skin.
  • 1 Medium-Weight Warm Top. This can be a polyester or 100 weight wool or fleece shirt.  Usually comes with a ½ to ¾ zipper.
  • 1 Heavy Fleece or Wool Top. Must have good breathability and dry quickly when wet. This can usually be found at a thrift store. Must fit over all other layers--try these on together: the long underwear top (inner), medium-weight warm top (middle), and then the heavy fleece or wool (outer).
  • 1 Synthetic Puffy Jacket or Fleece Vest. Having a vest or a thin synthetic “puffy” jacket will help to keep you warmer in a variety of conditions. If you buy a synthetic jacket, a hood is recommended. Vests are a less expensive option.
  • 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 Medium Weight Long Underwear Bottoms. This can be fitted (not restrictive) because it will be the base layer next to your skin.
  • 1 Fleece Pant. Should be made out of Polyester Fleece and loose enough to fit over a pair of long underwear or shorts.
  • 4 Pairs Underwear - Quick Drying or Cotton. Quick drying underwear is usually a blend of Nylon and Spandex that breathes well, wicks moisture, and dries quickly. Quick Drying is recommended, but cotton is okay as well. Women should bring at least a couple cotton pairs.
  • 1 Swimsuit. Ladies, you may choose to bring a swimsuit or use a pair of shorts and a sports bra for swimwear. No bikinis.


  • 5 Pair Heavyweight Wool Socks. These socks are thicker than the medium weight and most likely will have expedition or mountaineering in the name. Must be wool. See example here: Wool Socks
  • 3 Pair Liner Socks. Lightest-weight, synthetic socks to wear under your wool socks. See example here: Liner Socks


Personal Gear

  • 2 Bandanas. These will be helpful in multiple different ways and will likely get ruined during your course. Bring old or cheap bandanas that you are not attached to. 
  • 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.
  • 2 Water Bottles. Must be a 32 oz. wide mouth Nalgene-style bottle with a plain lid.
  • 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 & Other Personal Items

  • 1 Sunscreen. Waterproof, SPF 30 or greater. Stick-type sunscreen (Dermatone) works better in the cold.
  • 1 Lip Balm. 30+ SPF or greater.
  • 2 Hand Sanitizers. Pocket-sized squeeze bottles of hand sanitizer. 
  • 1 Toiletries Kit. Toothbrush, small toothpaste, comb or brush. Women: bring plenty of feminine supplies. Change in activities can cause irregular periods.
  • 2 Sets Prescription Medications. If you use prescription medications, including inhalers, please bring enough for the entire course. If possible, bring a backup set.  If you use an inhaler or have a prescription epi-pen, you must bring two. If you use an albuterol Rescue inhaler please bring a spacer. If you do not currently have one please get one prescribed by your doctor to bring along on the trip. Spacers allow the medicine to get into your lungs faster and play a key role in managing asthma in the back country. Clearly label everything with medication names, dosages and when you take them.  Instructors administer medications for students 21 and younger and will ask for them upon your arrival so pack medications in an accessible place in your carry-on.  Outward Bound should be aware of any medications you are bringing, if not, please contact your Course Advisor immediately.
  • Contacts and back-up glasses, if needed. We strongly recommend contacts over glasses for use during the day because glasses will fog up.  Bring plenty of supplies and at least one set of backup glasses with a hard case.  Because sterile lens care is more difficult on the trail, long-term use contacts are not encouraged.  Daily disposable contacts are a good option that will help you avoid dirt and dust build-up that might cause damage to your eyes.
  • 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 after your expedition. Bring whatever shower supplies you normally use, ideally in travel sizes, and a towel (any cotton towel).  Pack these items in their own kit so it’s easy to find when you return to basecamp.  These items will not go on the expedition with you.
  • 1 Pair Flip Flops. One pair of sandals to wear in the shower. 
  • 2 Sets Clean Clothes. After you return to basecamp and shower you’ll want clean clothes. You’ll wear these around basecamp and traveling home.  Be sure to think about warmth and layers when packing and don’t forget to include socks and underwear.


  • Money. Think about bringing $15-$20 for meals for your arrival and departure travel days.  Also, 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.  However, please note that upon arrival you will be asked to turn off and store your phone in your luggage, which will be locked in a secure area while you are on course.
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 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.

  • Fleece Shorts or Down Skirt. While this item is optional, we HIGHLY recommend it for any courses in January and February. This extra layer helps protect your butt, thighs, and other sensitive areas against wind and cold. It should be sized to fit over two layers of base-layer pants. 
  • 1 Pair Down/Dacron Booties. Also optional but those who bring them are always VERY happy to have them. Nice to wear in and around your sleeping bag at night. Booties with sturdy soles are best.
  • 1 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 is great, but you’ll need to take extra precautions to protect it. 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. 
  • 1 Small Journal. Small and sturdy.  Please bring pens and put in a Ziplock bag.
  • 1 Hand Lotion. Travel-size bottle. Dry weather can be hard on your skin.
  • 1 Thermos. 1 liter or smaller stainless steel thermos.  Must be well insulated, not a thin single wall.
  • Ear Plugs. For sleeping.  
  • Digital Watch. Basic digital watch with an alarm. DO NOT bring any fitbits, apple watches, or other electronic watches equipped with GPS or messaging capabilities. 
Can I bring...?

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.

a book?
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.