A message from Outward Bound USA’s Executive Director

To Our Students, Families, Program Partners and the Outward Bound Community,

Outward Bound USA shares your concern over COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, and its impact on our students, families and communities. Our priority continues to be the health and well-being of our students and staff.

Outward Bound USA is working in coordination with all 11 Outward Bound Schools across the U.S. as well as industry peers and state and national health authorities. Together, we continue to monitor and assess the evolving situation and take appropriate action regarding Outward Bound programs in and originating from the United States.

Course/Program Information for Parents, Students, Partners and Clients:

All international and domestic programs offered by Outward Bound in the United States will be suspended through May 31st. Outward Bound USA is committed to reducing the rate of ‘community spread’ and its emerging systemic impact on public health. While the landscape is changing daily, we remain hopeful that some, if not many summer courses will run. Check back periodically for updates as we continue to re-evaluate.

If you are concerned about the possibility of future cancellations due to potential COVID-19 related travel restrictions or a COVID-19 illness personally impacting your family, please know that we have updated our cancellation policy. We’ll be happy to explain it; please contact us at 866-467-7651.

Information for Staff and Supporters:

Outward Bound is a community, and our community gatherings and events are also impacted. On March 12th, Outward Bound USA recommended to our Schools and supporters that gatherings and events of over 50 people should be cancelled or postponed for at least a month. This recommendation includes all Staff, Alumni and Fundraising events, and is in alignment with CDC guidance.

In our workplaces, we seek to limit the potential of transmission by re-emphasizing hygiene practices, following CDC guidance, and encouraging social distancing. We are scaling down or eliminating in-person meetings and non-essential travel in favor of online or teleconference meetings, when possible. We are asking employees showing flu-like symptoms to work from home. And, in several regions, we are taking the lead from local governments and school districts and proactively encouraging all employees to work from home.

COVID-19 is an emerging issue and unlike anything most of us have seen in our lifetimes. We will continue to monitor the situation and take proactive steps in support of the national effort to slow the spread of this disease and to reduce the risk of significant impacts to our students, our staff and our communities.

For reliable information on the COVID-19 pandemic, please refer to the resources below:

The Outward Bound Community is resilient. We will continue to tap into our values, our strengths and lean on one another, with compassion, in the coming weeks and months. We will face this challenge, like those we equip our students to face in life, with an undefeatable spirit, tenacity in pursuit, readiness for sensible self-denial, and above all, compassion. We are incredibly grateful for your understanding and support.

Please check back to this page for updates.


Josh Brankman Executive Director Outward Bound USA

March 24, 2020
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 the safety of our participants is a top priority. 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.
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 is a Leadership Expedition?
Participants will be part of a team comprised of 6-12 participants and two professionally trained Outward Bound instructors. Expeditions take place in one of our many course areas which included: portions of the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania, the wilderness of the Delaware Water Gap, or the Pinelands National Reserve. Depending on the course which you are enrolled, you may experience rock climbing, map and compass navigation, environmental ethics, emotional and physical challenges and team leadership skill development.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 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.
Do I need 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.
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.
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.
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.