COVID-19 FAQs for Expeditions

During screening, and in the communications from POBS Admissions office, students will be asked to disclose any travel or contact history that would put them in a higher risk category for contracting or transmitting COVID-19. Travel history includes any travel from/through high- or medium-risk areas as defined by the CDC at the time of the conversation, and contact history includes close contact with anyone with a confirmed or presumed case of COVID-19 or anyone with an acute respiratory disease AND a relevant travel history. On courses that include a course start health check, staff will ask students about signs and symptoms of respiratory illness, and their travel and contact histories. Students who have symptoms or high- or medium-risk factors will be assessed, and staff will consult with local health authorities before including the student on course.
On course, staff teach and supervise hygiene behaviors, including:
  • Handwashing or, if soap and water are unavailable, hand sanitizing.
  • Sanitary food preparation and dish sanitizing.
  • Not touching one’s face with unwashed hands.
  • Covering sneezes and coughs in the crook of an arm or, if available, a disposable tissue.
  • Not sharing utensils or personal care products.
  • Given how closely students and staff on most courses live and work together, strict physical distancing within the group may not always be practical. However, at times groups will utilize distancing practices. Student groups will be effectively isolated from the public and other Outward Bound groups.
Any student with an illness that affects their ability to participate safely on course will be evacuated and parents will be notified, as always. If the symptoms are consistent with COVID-19 or there are other risk factors, Outward Bound will isolate the student and consult with local health authorities. If the student lives local to the course location, parents will be asked to arrange to pick their child up and isolate them at home. If the student traveled to the course, Outward Bound will isolate and care for the student on-site until a parent can travel to the basecamp and assume care of the student off site. Outward Bound will seek medical care based on the student’s signs and symptoms and local medical advice, involving parents in the conversation as practical. Any student with a respiratory illness that is not acute (does not affect their ability to participate safely) will follow the same hygiene practices as the rest of the group, plus some additional precautions while they have symptoms. (Examples might be that they are excused from preparing food for others, cleaning up after meals, given a separate shelter to sleep in, etc.)
Prior to resuming programming, Outward Bound’s eligibility criteria and medical screening processes will be updated as needed to minimize as far as practical the risk of transmission of COVID-19 occurring on a program. The requests and requirements for applicants or for students at course start will depend on preferred practice at that time, as determined by:
  • Guidance from federal and local health authorities like the CDC and state health departments for schools, camps, outfitters and businesses.
  • Recommendations from our consulting physicians.
  • The types of tests and other screening tools considered to be highly reliable and widely available at that time.


COVID-19 FAQs for Day Programs


What is POBS doing during the screening process to reduce the risk of transmission?
  • A health check for staff and students will occur at the start of the program and may include a temperature check as well as screening questions to confirm that individuals are symptom-free and have not interacted with anyone with symptoms prior to their program.
  • We require a COVID-19 Statement of Understanding waiver to be completed by each participant and accompanying adults/chaperones.

Course Start

Under what circumstances would a participant not be allowed to come on course?
  • Temperature at course-start is over 100.5.
  • Participants display known symptoms of COVID-19.
  • They have had contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 or shown signs or symptoms of COVID-19 in the previous 14 days.
How can we travel to the program site?
  • Groups are responsible for arranging transport to their program location.
  • We recommend private transportation, but understand that public transit may be necessary for some. We strongly encourage you to wear a mask and follow local PA Health recommendations while in transit.
  • We cannot accommodate parents and/or spectators on site beyond the dropoff and pickup area

On Course

  • Students will be informed by staff of daily hygiene expectations at the beginning of course. These include physical distancing norms, use of face coverings, hand washing, etc.
  • Face coverings will be worn at all times while within 10 feet of another person. Mask breaks will be incorporated into the day.
  • Hand sanitizer will be provided on course and staff/students encouraged to use frequently
Social Distancing & Face Coverings On Course
  • Staff and students will be required to wear face coverings at all times during the program including when on the high elements with other individuals.
  • POBS cannot guarantee complete adherence to physical distancing. Examples of when adjustment may be required, include: tending to medical needs, helmet and harness checks, etc. All staff and students will have a face-covering readily available to be worn when close proximity is required.
What will POBS do if a student/staff starts exhibiting symptoms of Covid on course?
  • If a student or staff is exhibiting symptoms on course, they will be asked to wait in a designated zone away from the group but within sight and sound. The symptomatic person will keep a face mask on at all times.
  • If the student is with a school group, we will follow the school’s protocol for removing the student.
  • If there is not a protocol, a Philadelphia Outward Bound Administrator or Coordinator will contact the school and parent to arrange a pickup.
  • Parents or guardians are responsible for transporting their student from course if they exhibit symptoms within one hour.
  • If a staff member exhibits symptoms they will be asked to return home immediately
Will we inform parents of any suspected COVID cases on their course?
  • The school or organization’s primary contact will be notified if any person on course exhibits symptoms. They will be responsible for notifying parents and guardians.
  • In the event of a suspected case during the program the course will end and all students will depart.

After Course

When/where do I pick up my student?
See response for course start.
What we’re doing to prevent COVID-19 from showing up on course?
While we cannot 100% guarantee that the virus won't be present onsite, we are taking every step to prevent and keep our students and staff safe.
  • Staff and students will all undergo a health check upon arrival including temperature, symptom and exposure check
  • Equipment will be assigned to each student, and will not be shared amongst the group unless sanitized.
  • Hand sanitizer will be readily available and staff and students encouraged to use frequently.
  • Appropriate face coverings will be required at all times (intermittent mask breaks will take place at a safe distance.)
  • Staff and students will practice adequate social distancing whenever possible
  • All equipment will be properly sanitized or quarantined to kill any virus that may be present.
  • All parents/guardians will sign a COVID-19 Statement of Understanding before their child attends the course



Day Program (Insight Day) FAQs

What should I wear on an Insight Day Program?
Participants should wear closed-toe shoes. Sneakers are great, sandals are not. Clothes should be comfortable and appropriate for an active day outside. Please be aware that the program runs rain or shine. Dress appropriately. Except for t-shirts, do not bring cotton items, as they lose their insulating quality when wet. Wool or synthetic clothing is recommended for cooler weather.
What do I need to bring with me on an Insight Day Program?
The most important thing you need to have is a good attitude and an adventurous spirit. Your group may ask you to bring a bagged lunch. Outward Bound provides all necessary technical equipment, as well as rain gear and water. No electronic devices, including cell phones, mp3 players, video games, etc. are allowed during the program.

Expedition – Pre Course FAQs

Why go into the wilderness or to new places in the city to learn about leadership?
In addition to providing a beautiful setting, wild and natural places offer a unique learning environment. The unfamiliar spaces present participants with inherent challenges and logical natural consequences. While learning to face these challenges as individuals and as a group, participants develop the skills they need to step into leadership roles and more effectively face challenges in their daily lives.
What should I expect on course?
Participants should come prepared to work hard, have fun and learn new skills. Your time with us will be spent outdoors in the natural world, meeting challenges, practicing leadership, managing risks and working closely within a group. Along the way, you will be guided by your instructors and supported by the camaraderie of fellow students.
Is it safe?
Outward Bound has an excellent safety record, and we work hard to reduce the risk of injury to our students. We invest considerable time and resources in training our staff and reviewing our programs to ensure that they meet Outward Bound’s national standards of safety and quality. The accuracy of the information you provide on medical forms is a safety essential. Families will be notified immediately in the case of an emergency.
How are instructors trained?
Outward Bound instructors are highly qualified outdoor professionals and educators, extensively trained and certified in both hard and soft skills. Typical certifications include: Wilderness First Responder, Wilderness Lifeguarding, AMGA Rock Climbing and ACA Canoe instruction. An instructor must be certified and have both personal experience and professional guiding experience before becoming staff. Outward Bound instructors receive an equal level of instruction in soft skills. This includes group management, conflict resolution, goal-setting and action-planning, managing adolescents in the field, and judgment training. Instructors also learn curriculum, lesson planning, and natural history. They are taught by Outward Bound staff, through the Blank-Read Training Institute and by other professionals.
Do I need to purchase gear or clothing for my course?
Please don’t feel that you must buy anything. Outward Bound provides all technical equipment, including rain gear, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, duffel bags, back packs, stoves, food, etc. Even if you bring your own equipment, we may insist you use ours.
When should I make travel arrangements?
We recommend that you delay purchasing nonrefundable airline tickets until you have been approved for participation and the course is confirmed a "go." On rare occasions we cancel courses due to low enrollment or other issues. 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.
What paperwork is required?
In order to participate, each participant must complete a medical form and acknowledgement of personal responsibility form. Each form must be signed by the student and a parent/legal guardian (if participant is under the age of 18). Please fill them out entirely and return them to the appropriate person for your group. Every question is important! Please be sure to include your height, weight and blood pressure. We do not require a doctor’s signature; however missing information may compromise participation in the program. Your forms will be confidentially reviewed by our Medical Screening Department. Outward Bound’s screening process is very thorough and rigorous in order to ensure the safety of our participants. Our Medical Screener may need to contact you for further clarification or to request additional information.
Do I have to want to go?
Yes, students must be willing and motivated to attend Outward Bound. This is not a boot camp. We do not force participants to go on course. In order to make sure all students have an enjoyable time while on course we ask that everyone fully participate in all course activities and follow the rules and regulations of Outward Bound. Students will be asked about their motivation level during the enrollment and interview processes.
What should I bring on my Leadership Expedition?
Bringing the proper clothing on your program is crucial. After you are enrolled you will receive a welcome packet that includes a clothing list specific to your course. This list has been carefully compiled based on all the weather conditions you may encounter while on your program. Our clothing list reflects the importance of the layering principle. Dressing in several light layers rather than one heavy layer allows you more flexibility as the weather and workloads change. Wool has been the long-time favorite of outdoors people, as it retains much of its insulating qualities when wet. Both synthetic and wool items are available in backpacking stores, surplus outlets and thrift stores. We advise you not to bring cotton clothing, such as jeans or sweatshirts (t-shirts are okay). Cotton retains moisture and loses almost all of its ability to retain warmth when wet. Also, once cotton gets wet, it stays wet and weighs more. Each participant should have a total of two pairs of closed-toe shoes for any course, one pair for daily use and one pair that can get wet.
What should I NOT bring on my expedition?
Please do not bring the following items:
  • Jewelry and other valuable articles.
  • Electronic devices (e.g. cell phone, mp3 players, videogames, etc.)
  • Playing cards
  • Pocket knives
  • Books or magazines
Will I speak with my instructors before expedition?
Yes, Instructors will try  reach out to students normally within a week of Expedition via Phone call. This call is for instructors to help the student prepare for the expedition and give some insight about who they are and what to expect while on course.
Will there be showers and toilets?
Not until the course ends. During the course, toilet needs are met through more primitive techniques. In some areas, there may be an outhouse. In many places, waste is buried or packed out. Other hygiene needs are met through regular hand washing. At the end of most courses, you will have access to a shower before returning to the airport.
Do I need to bring money?
There will be a school store selling Outward Bound gear after your course (hats, shirts, mugs, sweatshirts, bandanas, etc). You should also bring money for lost or broken gear. $20-30 should suffice.
Can I bring my cell phone?
Participants may NOT bring cell phones or other electronic devices on course. The instructor team is equipped with an emergency phone. Participants will not be allowed to place or receive calls during the course.
What about medications?
Prescription medications must be approved by the Medical Screening Department before the program starts. If you cannot go for 24-36 hours without your medication, in case of an emergency, we recommend that you bring double the amount needed (with written instructions) in separate, non-breakable, waterproof containers.

Expedition – On Course FAQs

What should participants expect on an Outward Bound expedition?
Participants should come prepared to work hard, have fun and learn new skills. Time with Outward Bound will be spent outdoors in the natural world, meeting challenges, practicing leadership, reaching goals, problem solving and working closely within a group. Along the way, participants will be guided by instructors and supported by the camaraderie of teammates.
What happens if the weather is bad?
The course will continue regardless of weather. Instructors will teach students basic safety precautions and protocols. All participants are provided with rain gear for use during the course.
What kind of food will we eat?
While on course you will be eating nutritious and portable food – grains, pasta, cheese, vegetables, fruit and nuts – selected to meet high-energy demands for your program. Typical meals include burritos, macaroni and cheese, and tuna sandwiches. The diet may differ from what you are accustomed to at home. To prepare, we suggest you cut down on soft drinks, coffee and junk food.
How will I stay clean??
We are very aware of basic sanitation in the wilderness. You will wash your hands regularly and learn tricks of the trade to staying clean, even though you will not be able to shower. Deodorant is not advised because it has a tendency to irritate skin when not washed off regularly, and the scent attracts many unwanted insects and animals. Personal soap is not necessary, as we provide all you will need.
Can a friend come with me?
Outward Bound is about stepping outside of your comfort zone. Being with people you don't know is part of the Outward Bound experience. There are many great benefits to sharing your experience with a diverse group of people that you don't know. You may start out as strangers but after working, playing and living together in the wilderness, you most likely will leave the course with deep friendships. In a small group setting, friends or spouses may become too competitive or, on the other hand, too dependent on each other. For that reason, we encourage students to enroll on their own course and will direct friends/family members/spouses attending the same dates into different groups whenever possible. You and your friend may enroll in the same course, but you may be placed in separate crews, which allows you to enjoy the experience independently. If you feel we should make an exception in your case, contact us to see what your options are.
Whom should a parent/guardian contact in case of a true emergency at home while my child is on course?
Parents/guardians may contact our Course Director during an emergency 24 hours a day. This emergency number is given to parents/guardians once a participant is enrolled in one of our programs.

Expedition – After Course FAQs

Will I receive pictures from the expedition?
While photos would be great to take and have to keep after expeditions, our main goal is to maintain the safety of every student out on course and sometimes it can be difficult to take pictures. In some cases your instructor may have a camera and take photos on course. We encourage students to bring a disposable camera (not digital).
Am I going to receive feedback or evaluation?
Some courses do receive an evaluation, but not all. If you need a letter of evaluation/recommendation,  please reach out to the Philadelphia Outward Bound School.
What if I have a question that is not addressed here?
Call our friendly Student Services Manager at 215-372-8943