The history of Outward Bound serving veterans dates to 1971 and the “Spartan Pathfinder” program run by the John F. Kennedy Center for Military Assistance. The purpose of the program was to use Outward Bound techniques to reorient soldiers with drug and disciplinary problems and “promote self-confidence and self-awareness through controlled stress in a wilderness environment.” From 1975 - 1981, the Dart-mouth Outward Bound Center and the Department of Psychiatry at Dartmouth Medical School began serving veterans working through Post Traumatic Stress and other mental health diagnoses.
In 1981 Dartmouth Outward Bound Center merged with Hurricane Island Outward Bound School and by 1983 Outward Bound for Veterans was born.
Since 2006 Outward Bound has served close to 10,000 Veterans and Active Duty service members. While the majority of the participants are veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq, we welcome veterans from any era to attend one of our courses.
The founder of the Vietnam veterans program and a guiding hand through many iterations of Outward Bound for Veterans was Army Colonel Bob Rheault. Colonel Rheault commanded both the 1st and 5th Special Forces Groups. He became an Outward Bound instructor after he left the Army, “because it was the closest thing to Special Forces that he could find.” For 32 years Colonel Rheault served as an Instructor, Program Director and President of the Hurricane Island Outward Bound School, retiring in 2001. Colonel Rheault passed away in 2013.
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 scale a rock wall, you will be pushed and rewarded on many levels.
Note to caffeine drinkers: If you drink coffee or caffeinated teas you will have access to these items on course. However, they will not be available in the amounts that you may be used to. You may want to cut back a bit before course because you will not be able drink these beverages on your regular schedule.
Note to tobacco users: If you smoke, chew or dip, you will be able to engage in these activities at times and places determined by the instructors. You may want to taper off a bit before course because you will not be able use tobacco products on your regular schedule.
Have fun and enjoy the adventure of preparation while training for your course! This is an excellent opportunity for you to get outside, get fit and explore your neighborhood's parks and recreation areas.Your attitude of commitment and willingness to try new things are two of the most important contributions you can bring to your course. Prepare yourself to take on new challenges and try new activities.
Your ability to interact well with a group is also important to successfully completing your course. Plan to be patient, to persevere, to expand your limits and to have a positive and memorable adventure! We strongly suggest that applicants who are overweight or have high blood pressure, family history of heart disease, diabetes, a prolonged sedentary lifestyle or smoke more than one pack a week consult with their physician to establish an exercise program.
You DO NOT have to be an athlete or highly-trained to attend an Outward Bound course.
You DO have to be physically capable and active. Our courses are demanding. You will use your muscles in new and challenging ways or ways that you have not used them in a while!
It takes strength and fitness to carry a 50+ pound pack for 5 miles or climb a rock wall. If you aren’t already involved in a fitness program, now is the time to start. Your efforts will pay off in enjoyment, comfort and fun.
THE BEST EXERCISE THERE IS
For most people, the best and most accessible exercise is jogging—a combination of walking and running compatible with your current level of fitness, ability and interest. Why jogging? It’s the simplest, cheapest, least encumbered, most available and most efficient way to use your large leg muscles—requiring the heart and circulatory system to pump large quantities of blood and oxygen.
The most important thing is to find an activity that you enjoy doing. While exercising three times a week for thirty minutes is the minimum, five times a week is optimum physical preparation for your course.
Build in 15-30 minutes every other day for light weight training. Weight training helps build strength which will complement your aerobic fitness.
PREPARATION FOR WATER ACTIVITIES
Endurance train at least three times a week on a rowing machine. If a rowing machine is not available, supplement with strength training three times a week by including sit-ups, pull-ups, push-ups or weight training that concentrates on your shoulders, stomach and back.
As always cardiovascular exercise like running, walking, swimming or riding a bike will get you heart pumping and set you up for success on course!
PREPARATION FOR BACKPACKING
Hike with a weighted backpack. Start with 20-30 lbs., then build to 50+ lbs. If you do not own a backpack, you may be able to borrow one from a friend, family member or rent one from an outdoor sporting goods store. If none of these options are available, try a smaller "book bag" style backpack with approximately 15 lbs. in it. Start out hiking just a couple of miles on hilly terrain or stairs and increase your intensity and mileage as you gain strength and endurance. On course, you can expect to carry a backpack that weighs approximately 40 to 55 lbs. and you may be hiking for distances of five to 15 miles per day.
Due to Leave No Trace camping ethics, we seldom build fires. You will be cooking on gas camp stoves. With coaching from your instructors, you learn backcountry cooking techniques and are responsible for helping with the preparation of all meals. Your diet will be a mix of dehydrated foods, fresh fruits and vegetables. We use rice, beans, tortillas, granola, oatmeal, crackers, salami, cheese, peanut butter, jelly, tuna fish, pasta and trail mixes.
The amount of physical activity you experience during your course demands a nutritious diet to help fuel your body. Junk food is not available on course. To prepare, we suggest you cut down on candy, soft drinks, coffee, pastries and other junk foods. There will be coffee and tea available on course. You will also be able to smoke, chew or dip at times designated by your instructors. However, moderating caffeine and tobacco consumption is essential as you will not be able to consume caffeinated beverages or use tobacco products on your normal schedule. Alcohol and drugs are not permitted on Outward Bound courses. If you are overweight, don’t go on a crash diet to shed extra pounds; you will only deplete the strength you want to develop. Please check with our Medical Screener to set a realistic goal for weight loss and stay committed.
The following list represents common meals at Outward Bound (this is not a menu)
Drinks (other than water)
The North Carolina Outward Bound School (NCOBS) strives to accommodate applicants who have dietary restrictions.
Our courses are backcountry, wilderness-based programs. We purchase our course food in bulk. Prior to course start, your instructors plan your crew’s meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks). We travel expedition-style with approximately a week’s worth of food at a time. All course food must be packable and non-perishable. You prepare and eat meals together as a crew in a camp setting, under the supervision and guidance of your instructors. You will not have access to a dining hall or cafeteria. We do not permit participants to bring their own food or snacks unless authorized to do so by NCOBS.
Be prepared to try new foods. It is imperative for your well-being to replenish the calories you are expending each day.
Please complete the Dietary Allergen Questionnaire to inform Outward Bound of any dietary restrictions. This information will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis by our Medical Screener.
Food Allergies: Eight kinds of food cause most food allergies: cow's milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish. Signs of a food allergy include a rash, or red, itchy skin; stuffy or itchy nose, sneezing, or itchy and teary eyes; vomiting, stomach cramps or diarrhea; angioedema or swelling; hoarseness, throat tightness or a lump in the throat; wheezing, chest tightness or trouble breathing. Some people with food allergies can have a serious reaction called anaphylaxis.
NCOBS cannot guarantee there will be no exposure to known allergens. If the applicant has had an anaphylactic response related to a dietary allergen, we must consider our remote wilderness area as we determine the appropriateness of our programs for the applicant.
Food Intolerance or Sensitivity: A food intolerance or a food sensitivity occurs when a person has difficulty digesting a food item. This can lead to symptoms such as intestinal gas, abdominal pain or diarrhea. If you are able to tolerate the food item in limited amounts, please let us know. It may broaden the range of foods we are able to provide.
Food Preference: Food preferences are choices that are made for reasons other than allergy, tolerance or sensitivity. We sincerely request that you think through your practice of limiting your food options while you are on course. Our primary goal is to meet students’ dietary allergies or intolerance/ sensitivities. The addition of food preferences could further influence the menu items we can provide.
Our staff members, who have had years of experience in the field, find that once students with food preferences engage in our rigorous backcountry, wilderness-based activities, those same students tend to (at least temporarily) broaden their food choices. We believe students may find these foods surprisingly appealing during their course due to their bodies’ increased need for calories.
Maintaining personal hygiene in the wilderness is important and is taught on every course. You will be outside while on course and won't have access to a shower or bath. You will be able to do basic cleanup every day: brush your teeth, wash your face and comb your hair. At the end of your course, you will be able to do a more thorough cleanup.
Since North Carolina Outward Bound is an outdoor program, you can expect to learn and use Leave No Trace camping techniques. Know that it is natural to have questions regarding sanitation in an outdoor setting. Your instructors will answer your questions and will teach you the hygienic and environmentally safe way to dispose of waste as well as techniques for basic cleanliness - don't hesitate to approach them with any questions or concerns
In our everyday lives, technology is always at our fingertips. By contrast, in the life of an Outward Bound participant, you have the unique opportunity to unplug and fully immerse yourself in the wilderness to connect with your crewmates and instructors.
Safety and Risk Management
Please review our Safety and Risk Management page.
Depending on the length of your course and course area, mail may be delivered to you. Delivery can take up to one week from the time it reaches our base camp. Please do not have packages sent to you unless they contain emergency items - no candy or food please! All correspondence must be clearly addressed with the participant’s name and course number. Letters received near the end of the course may not be delivered on time and will be returned to sender. You will be notified of your base camp mailing address and emergency numbers prior to your course start. If your course allows for mail delivery (criteria below), remember to bring postcards with stamps attached as you can write to family and friends while you are on course.
Mail delivery is not available on 4-9 day courses.
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.
Please also review our Safety and Risk Management page.
If a family emergency occurs while the course is in progress, emergency messages can be relayed by calling our toll-free number (800-878-5258) on weekdays 8:30 AM – 5:00 PM eastern time. Prior to course start, you will receive an email that provides an after-hours and weekend emergency phone number.
The Student Services Department of the North Carolina Outward Bound School is committed to supporting you through the enrollment process. If you have comments or feedback to share regarding your experience with us, please contact our Director of Student Services Erin Broome, firstname.lastname@example.org.