What experience do I need?
None! Many of our students have never spent any time in the wilderness before. Some have done a little camping or indoor rock climbing. As long as you are physically and mentally prepared, excited to learn the basics, and committed to seeing your adventure through, you will do just fine.
Will I be safe?
Safety is of the utmost importance to us. We are proud of our safety record since our first courses ran in 1962 and frequently revisit and refine our policies to maintain that record. It is important to recognize that there are real risks associated with participating in outdoor activities. Learning to manage those risks is part of every course, and each student is expected to play a role in their own safety by adhering to the rules, policies and procedures set up by instructors and staff members.
Our risk management efforts include: internal and external reviews of courses and course areas, certified Wilderness First Responder instructors (an outdoor education industry standard level of training), annual instructor assessments, training requirements, and the development of comprehensive program plans.
While we cannot completely eliminate the risk of serious injury, property damage, and death, our focus on risk management allows participants to face challenges, travel into remote areas and meet success.
Please note, we have put additional safety measures in place to help mitigate risks related to COVID-19. Read more about our COVID-19 Program Practices here.
What is wilderness travel like?
Outward Bound courses are demanding -- and rest assured it will be worth it in the end; that's what most alumni would tell prospective students. There can be a lot of challenges in getting from point A to point B. Travel may be on trails, or “off-trail” over rugged, steep terrain, through forests, snow, rushing rivers, or narrow canyons. Travel, navigation, and camp craft will require perseverance and teamwork -- and sometimes a good sense of humor.
You'll learn everything you need to navigate life in the backcountry. Groups quickly master the art of tarp set-up and knot tying to ensure they’re protected from the elements each evening, and meal prep might require some creativity if a storm rolls in. Every action of the day requires energy and investment, from the moment groups wake up until the moment they fall asleep each night.
There is nothing as spectacular as the night sky when you're miles from civilization. And few experiences compare to the sense of accomplishment students feel upon completion of such an epic adventure.
Wilderness travel challenges students to give up a few comforts. Hot running water, padded furniture, hot food in seconds, and flat sidewalks are not a part of the wilderness experience. Students are also asked to leave non-essentials like deodorant, makeup, electronic devices, and books behind. These can be difficult sacrifices at first, but in the end, students learn to embrace the rare opportunity to live minimally, finding contentment with less stuff and more substance.
Read more about the different types of wilderness travel and activities that make up a COBS expedition:
What does a typical day look like?
A typical day usually means getting up early, making breakfast over a camp stove, packing up camp, mapping a route, and heading out on the trail or water (depending on the course). Students travel all day, generally covering a lot of ground, but also taking breaks to rest, eat, and enjoy the view. When groups reach camp each evening, they divide up chores like preparing food and setting up tents. After dinner, groups usually sit around the circle, share thoughts on the day, discuss the next day’s plans, laugh, and enjoy each other’s company before crawling into their sleeping bags for a well-deserved rest.
Want to know more about the specific course elements? Check out:
How will I stay clean?
Instructors will teach their groups about general backcountry hygiene. Every course area has different techniques and environmentally appropriate practices for going to the bathroom and bathing. Students learn how to dispose of human waste in latrines, cat holes or other wilderness methods. (Ready to get more specific? Read more about how to poop in the backcountry.)
Groups carry soap and hand sanitizer for hand washing. Showering and washing hair are typically not options on the course. However, on most Utah courses students travel on water every day, and swimming is a daily practice when temperatures allow. On Colorado courses, students can take advantage of alpine lakes or streams to rinse off the trail dust. At the end of the expedition students may have access to indoor plumbing and showers before returning home.
What is the food like?
Our food is wholesome, simple, lightweight and nonperishable. With high levels of activity on our courses, carbohydrates are essential and you will help cook meals for yourself and your group while out on course. A few examples of things you might have are: bagels, cheese, granola, oatmeal, dried fruit, hummus, peanut butter, pita, salami, tortillas, tuna, trail mix, noodles, rice, beans, soup, chili, etc.
With advance notification, we can accommodate vegetarian and many other special diets. If you have questions about whether we can accommodate your special diet, contact us.
What is a 'solo'?
A solo is a period of time during course when students are spaced apart and have time to themselves. The solo sites will be chosen by the instructors, who will find a place that is both secluded and within hearing distance of the other members of the group for safety. Most people use this time for reflection and relaxation, as well as a time to practice the camp craft skills they have learned. This is not a survival test; you will not be dropped into a remote area, as everyone stays within close range of the instructors.
Participants will be given shelter, food, water and a journal to help them record and reflect while alone. You will not be traveling during this time and your instructors will check on you occasionally. The length of a solo is determined by course length, weather, and group dynamics.
What is the application process like and how long does it take?
The application process is extensive to best ensure that students and their families are prepared for their Outward Bound experience. By completing an online application which includes a Health History Questionnaire and paying a $500 deposit, you will be able to reserve a spot. This deposit includes a $150 non-refundable enrollment processing fee. After this, a course advisor will contact the applicant and provide additional documents, including a more extensive application to be completed within a specified time frame, typically two weeks. Supplementary documents may also be required if information is needed from a doctor, therapist, or another reference. Upon receipt of the completed paperwork, a Course Advisor will contact you for a pre-course interview. The whole process typically takes 2-3 weeks but can take longer if all pieces of the application are not returned in a timely manner.
Is it possible that I won’t get accepted for my Outward Bound course?
Not all applicants are accepted, as it is important that the applicant is willing and able to fully participate without risk to their physical or emotional safety. Outward Bound courses are designed to serve a wide variety of students at different points in their lives and personal development. We do our best to support those physical and emotional needs. However, if it is determined that physical or emotional safety of the student is significantly negatively impacted, we may ask that you consider a different course within Outward Bound or reapply for a different season. It is a unique program, unlike typical summer camps, and while the rewards of an expedition are great, the challenges can be, too. We do encourage you to put some time and thought into your decision to attend course.
Can I participate on an Outward Bound course with my friend or family member?
We understand that embarking on a grand adventure might feel more comfortable with a friend. Whether or not you sign up for a course with someone you already know, you'll be among friends soon enough! Our crews quickly develop close bonds while working together to navigate their expedition. So we encourage you to keep that in mind when deciding whether to pursue this experience on your own. An Outward Bound course is an amazing opportunity to explore your own path and bring inspiring stories home to share with your friends and family.
Can Outward Bound accommodate my food allergy?
Yes, the Colorado Outward Bound School can accommodate most food allergies. We put a lot of energy into creating menu plans that work for people with a variety of food allergies or preferences, including people who do not eat meat, dairy, gluten, tree nuts and peanuts. In some cases we may ask students to provide some of their own food supplements.
Does Colorado Outward Bound School provide scholarships and/or payment plans?
Yes. For more information, check out our Scholarships page.
What does tuition cover?
Tuition covers all of your food while on course, instructors' salaries, land use permits, most of the equipment (backpacks, sleeping bags, cooking utensils), and other technical gear associated with the activities you will participate in at Colorado Outward Bound School. Tuition is due 90 days before course start.
Students will need to provide their own clothing, footwear and some gear (such as a headlamp), and will be responsible for the costs of any physician's exam (if required) and travel to and from course start. A clothing and gear list will be provided to each student upon enrollment. You can always call us if you have questions about the clothing and gear requirements.
How do I get to and from my Outward Bound course?
Once enrolled, a Course Advisor will provide a Travel Information document that will help students schedule their arrival and departure. For spring and summer courses in 2021, please refer to our COVID-19 Program Practices page for additional information.
CO (and WY) Courses: In general, courses for 12-13 and 14-16 year-olds are picked up at Denver International Airport by 1pm on the first day of course. For 16+ courses, students fly in the day before course and stay at the DoubleTree Stapleton North Hotel, so that students can have a restful night to acclimate to the elevation and be ready to depart by 8am the first day.
UT Courses: In general, courses for 12-13 and 14-16 year olds will be picked up at the airport in Grand Junction, CO (the closest airport to Moab) by 1pm. For 16+ courses, students fly in the day before and stay at the Clarion Hotel in Grand Junction, so they can be ready for a 9am pickup the first day of course.
Students should refrain from making travel plans prior to being approved for their course and receiving travel details for their specific course as the exact details may differ slightly from the directions listed above.
When can I buy my plane ticket?
For courses in the spring and summer of 2021, please refer to our COVID-19 Program Practices page for additional information related to air travel and public transportation to course.
In general, we recommend that you delay purchasing nonrefundable airline tickets until you have been approved for participation and the course is confirmed a "go" since occasionally we cancel courses due to permit changes, low enrollment, or other issues. We highly recommend purchasing travel insurance to protect your investment under those circumstances. Your course advisor can provide you with more information.
When you have been approved for the course and you know it is a "go," make sure you pay close attention to the start and end times and location of your course start/end before booking your tickets, to avoid any mistakes with your reservation (and did we mention travel insurance?).
How do I mentally prepare for my Outward Bound course?
One of the greatest challenges on any Outward Bound course is breaking out of established routines and habits. Entering a totally new environment with a group of strangers can be a difficult and exhilarating transition. Students can prepare for this transition by incorporating new experiences into their lives well before their course starts. Sustaining a positive attitude and open mind throughout their expeditions will support students through this new experience. Here are a few suggestions for getting ready:
How do I physically prepare for my course?
Every minute of physical preparation pays off during an Outward Bound expedition. Before starting any fitness program, it is always a good idea to consult a physician. Outward Bound recommends 30 minutes of aerobic activity (running, bicycling, skiing, etc.) at least three times a week for two to three months before the course begins. Aerobic exercise increases the heart and circulatory systems' ability to supply blood and oxygen to organs and tissue.
Don’t forget to stretch to maintain flexibility. If you are already working out three days a week, you may consider building up to five or six days a week, or increasing the length of your workouts by 10%.
Consider specific training techniques to prepare for specific course activities. For example, if you are enrolled on a multi-element course that involves backpacking, you may consider training with a weighted backpack. Yoga and upper body weight training will help strengthen core and upper body muscles, beneficial on climbing courses.
A strong commitment to physical preparation will not only increase your enjoyment of your course, it will dramatically reduce your risk of injury during the course.
No matter what course type, the following tips will help: