Risk Management

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.


PRN for Families - Support after your Intercept Course

Voyageur Outward Bound/PRN for Families Transition Support Package

Add-on: $1500 (30 days of post-Intercept support)

If you are interested in purchasing this elective post-Intercept transition support package through PRN, please contact your Outward Bound Course Advisor to receive more information.

PRN for Families, Inc. is collaborating with Outward Bound to provide continuing care and support to all students who are transitioning out of Voyageur Outward Bound’s Intercept program, in conjunction with their families to help sustain and further develop the tools and resources they have gained while participating in Intercept.  The initial transition support package is offered for a period of thirty days following the transition home from VOBS.  Continuing care packages are also available beyond the initial thirty days at the family’s discretion.

PRN's goal is to understand the needs of the whole family system so that they can customize their support services to best meet those needs.  As such, the specific services offered within the support package include a degree of flexibility to allow for customization.

Ideally, PRN for Families will begin its engagement with the family a week prior to transition home from VOBS.  At inception, one of PRN's Family Consultants will speak with the student, family and all involved professionals in order to ensure a seamless transition back to home life after Intercept.  

From that point forward, the PRN Family Consultant, who is a licensed clinician, serves as the primary point of contact and liaison for the family, coordinates all outreach, networking and support services, provides all written and verbal assessment, recommendations and treatment plan updates, and is available for 24/7 crisis management during the course of PRN’s involvement.

Admission Requirements / Transition Services

  • Submit VOBS application package & complete PRN release of information forms
  • Obtain pertinent documentation & evaluations
  • Collaboration with Outward Bound team and any referring professionals
  • Conferral and consultation with other professionals on the treatment team
  • Initial consultations with parents/student
  • Develop immediate plan for transition in conjunction with Outward Bound recommendations
  • Love & Logic parenting skills support, integrated into transition services
  • Weekly remote communications with both student and parents via HIPAA compliant secure video conferencing, in addition to phone, text messaging and email.
  • Provide follow-up recommendations to referring or originating professional, school or program upon completion of PRN services
  • Crisis intervention/case consultation (24/7)


Additional elective services may also be available:

  • Outreach/Home-Based Services
  • PRN Professional Mentor Services
  • Substance abuse monitoring in collaboration with parents or other provider
  • Communication skills training & support for student and parents
  • Behavior management techniques
  • Therapeutic interventions as requested
  • Conflict management
  • Networking / coordination with home therapist, intensive outpatient services (IOP), or other such home-based services
  • Support with arranging extra-curricular programming
  • Concrete and advocacy services 

Note: There is a possibility that during the initial transition period, the PRN Family Consultant will assess, in collaboration with other involved professionals, that the needs of the student are greater than the resources available at home. In such a case, a written summary will be provided to the family, and any involved referring professionals, that outlines specific therapeutic recommendations for the student and the family

If you are interested in purchasing this elective post-Intercept transition support package through PRN, please complete the short electronic form on the PRN website or contact the PRN Admissions office at: (888) 762-5973

Prevention of Tick-Borne Diseases

Tick-borne disease is a risk in the wild areas of northern Minnesota, 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 this letter from our Safety Director and the information provided below.


In 2014, the Lyme disease incident rate in Minnesota was .16 per 1,000 people.* Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease, but is not the only risk. Some of the other common tick-borne diseases reported in Minnesota 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!


  1. Staff will teach students to recognize ticks and remove them as soon as they are found. This is the BEST form of disease prevention. Removing ticks within 24 hours considerably reduces the risk of being infected with a disease-causing bacterium.
  1. When traveling or camping in areas with woods, bushes, high grass or leaf litter, staff and students will check themselves for ticks at least once every day.
  1. Wear and use protective clothing/equipment (long pants tucked into socks, for instance). Light colors make it easier to see ticks.
  1. Use a chemical barrier. Treat clothing and footwear (long-sleeve shirts, jackets, hats, gaiters and boots) with permethrin to repel and disable ticks. This treatment will last for up to a month. See protocol for treating clothing with Permethrin, below. Clothing must be treated prior to traveling to course start.

DO NOT treat base layers (long underwear tops and bottoms for example).

  1. Use a chemical repellent. Apply insect repellent containing about 30% DEET to exposed skin, according to the directions on the container. This lasts for only a few hours before you have to reapply it.

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,


Students on courses that are 14 days or longer can receive mail. Because students are in the wilderness for most of their expedition, mail is not distributed until the last day of the course. If families need to share important information before the last day of the course, they should contact their course director.

Addressing Mail:

Student Name/Course Number
Voyageur Outward Bound School
PO Box 450
Ely, MN 55731

Evaluation and Surveys

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.

Essential Eligibility Criteria

Please follow this link to read VOBS' Essential Eligibility Criteria

Emergency Communication

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 218-491-6799 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.

Course Preparation

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.

Preparing for Your Course

Admissions and Cancellation Policies

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.