The Philadelphia Outward Bound School (POBS) backcountry expeditions range from 5 days in length to two-weeks with the goal of changing lives through challenge and discovery. The wilderness environments in which our expedition based programs take place are challenging, remote and exposed.

The health and safety of our students and staff are a top priority, along with the educational quality of the course experience for all participants. To achieve essential group goals, the individuals on each course must be fully capable of and committed to learning and using wilderness skills, meeting physical and social challenges, and taking care of themselves and each other.

POBS values diversity and a positive learning environment but does not specialize in experiences for people with disabilities or with significant mental, emotional or behavioral challenges. POBS instructors are not therapists and are not trained in adaptive wilderness or integrative teaching skills.

The Essential Eligibility Criteria (EEC) is applied to all students on POBS expeditions that take place in a backcountry environment. A qualified person meets the general EEC for POBS and the EEC for the specific program activities and program areas. If an applicant does not meet specific criteria, POBS might be able to accommodate an applicant, but will not do so if it significantly alters the fundamental nature of the course activity, jeopardizes the health and safety of POBS students or staff, or places an undue administrative or financial burden on POBS.

General Eligibility Criteria

  • Able to understand verbal and visual instructions individually and in a group setting, and follow such instructions whether supervised or not.
  • Able to comprehend hazards and safety concerns when explained, and to adhere to safety policies and procedures even when instructors are not present.
  • Able to identify and recognize hazards posed by the environment (e.g., steep or uneven terrain, moving water, sun, wind, cold, etc.) and other participants (e.g., fatigue, state of mind and other influencers of judgment and decision making).
  • Able to effectively communicate with others personal distress, injury or need for assistance, and communicate to others any hazards and dangers that they perceive.
  • Able to adapt to the physical and emotional rigors of the expedition, and live in primitive conditions for weeks at a time, often more than a day from advanced medical care.
  • Able to stay properly hydrated and nourished, by day or night, and learn skills for self- care, including proper hygiene and use of clothing and equipment.
  • Learn and then practice Leave No Trace camping and travel techniques.
  • Able to refrain from the use of alcohol, tobacco, controlled substances, and any misuse of prescription or OTC drugs. If using prescription drugs, able to follow correct dosage and usage and keep them in good condition between resupplies (up to eight days) with or without instructor assistance.
  • Able to contribute to a safe social and learning environment and maintain appropriate relationships with other group members and instructors, refrain from sexual activity, harassment and bullying, and all other behavior that disrupts the learning of others or the cohesion of the group.

Backpacking Courses

  • Able to carry a backpack weighing 35-50 pounds, up to approximately one-third of body weight, that will include personal clothing, group food, and equipment.
  • Able to travel each day wearing a loaded backpack over steep and uneven terrain, on and off trail, for over six hours, over six miles and an elevation gain or loss of over 1000 feet.

Canoeing Courses

  • Able to wear a Personal Flotation Device (PFD or “life jacket”) correctly, able to maintain a face-up position in water while wearing a PFD, and make progress through the water to shore or a rescue boat.
  • Able to follow instructions immediately upon sudden immersion into cold water, whether the instructions have already been taught or are communicated in the moment.
  • Able to sit and kneel in a canoe and maintain stability.
  • Able to control a paddle and pull it through the water to steer and move the canoe forward.
  • Able to re-enter a canoe from the water with minimal assistance from others.
  • Able to help carry a 75-pound canoe with another person on or off a trail.
  • Able to travel over uneven terrain on and off trail.
  • Resupplies of food may occur depending on course type, route, and pre-arranged logistics. Thus students need to be able to carry gear, food and personal items needed for that ration period. A limited amount of necessary personal items may be sent in at re-supply

Rock Climbing/High Ropes Elements in Courses

  • Able to wear a climbing harness and helmet correctly.
  • Able to participate in belaying and climbing activities.

COVID-19 Eligibility Criteria

Updated 6/13/23

  • All expedition participants must be willing to take an FDA-approved viral test for COVID-19 upon arrival at course start.
  • Participants traveling from out-of-state must be able to follow local and state COVID-19 guidelines and mandates, including any quarantine and/or testing requirements for out-of-state travelers that may be in place at the time of the course. 
  • Able to follow specific travel instructions including what airlines to use, and have a backup plan in place in case driving is necessary to/from the course.
  • Arrive at course-start neither experiencing nor presenting any signs or symptoms of communicable disease.
  • Able to wear a face cover (such as a mask) when instructed to do so. Masks must cover both the nose and mouth and fasten either at the back of the head or behind the ears.
  • Able to follow instructions for behaviors that reduce the risk of spreading communicable diseases, such as handwashing, coughing into an elbow, and covering nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.