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.
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.