The Clothing and Gear list is the result of many years of staff and participant feedback. Please read and follow these suggestions and the check list closely. 

Getting Started

North Carolina Outward Bound School supplies the technical equipment needed for your, course. Depending on the course activities, we provide backpacks, canoes, sea kayaks, rock climbing gear, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, shelter, rain gear, compass, food, water bottles, cooking equipment, and eating utensils. Please refer to the Clothing and Gear List below for the items to bring to course. 

Because our courses are subject to unpredictable weather, obtaining the proper clothing is crucial. Please bring the items on the Clothing and Gear list as described.  


First, shop your closet or those of your family or friends - you might have many of these items already. Then start planning what you may need to buy, leaving yourself time to find sales or free shipping.  

Many students shop for clothing and gear from the following retailers: 

Plan ahead! When you arrive for course start, you will not have an opportunity to purchase forgotten items!



When packing, use a duffel bag or soft-sided luggage (if available) due to limited storage space at our facility.  

When you arrive, your instructors will facilitate a process we call “duffel shuffle” that includes:  

  • Assessment of your clothing and gear with the route and the anticipated weather in mind. (Tip: save the tags from new purchases so you can return any unused items after course end.) 
  • Issue Outward Bound items you will use during course 
  • Stowing personal items not needed while on expedition such as travel clothes, cell phones, electronic devices, and wallets back into your travel luggage. 
  • Luggage will be transported to our facility and placed in locked storage until course end. Please leave any expensive or valuable items at home.
Types of Fabrics to Bring

Our Clothing and Gear list reflects the layering principle. It is vital that all your clothing be comfortable, quick-drying, and warm. Several layers of light clothing keep you warm and can be adjusted to changes in both weather and activity. For example, wearing a long sleeve shirt, a fleece layer and a jacket allows you to adapt to changing conditions.  

Points to keep in mind while planning and shopping: 

  • Changing weather conditions may require the use of all of the items on the list. However, keep receipts and tags from new purchases so unused items can be returned after course.
  • Most athletic/fitness clothing will be appropriate for course.
  • Check clothing tags to confirm fabrics details.
  • Fabrics such as polyester, nylon, fleece, acrylic, rayon, wool, or name brands like Polartec™, Thinsulate™, COOLMAX®, Smartwool, and Capilene are a few favorites of outdoor enthusiasts.
  • Cotton clothing loses its insulating properties when wet and does not dry quickly. For these reasons, do not bring items made with cotton unless otherwise noted.
  • Also, not bring denim or down clothing (unless otherwise indicated). 
  • Wearing white or light-colored, loose-fitting clothing keeps you cooler and attracts fewer biting insects. Dark colors are acceptable for insulating attire.

Medications & Medication Updates

Participants will not be permitted to begin their course without their required medications OR with new medications not approved by our Medical Screener.  

All medications (prescription, non-prescription and over-the-counter) must:  

  • Be listed in the applicant’s medical information 
  • Be approved by our Medical Screener prior to course
  • Accompany the participant on course
  • Be in the original medication container with the prescription label intact

Your medication container should not include other medications, vitamins or supplements. If possible, bring a double supply.  

Do not bring non-prescription medications such as aspirin, Advil, etc., unless they are listed in your medical information. We have a medical kit that contains these medications. 

Medication updates that occur after applicants are cleared to participate could affect their status on course. Please update the Student Services Department with any medication changes such as: 

  • Starting a new medication
  • Stopping an existing medication
  • Dosage change of an existing medication 

For participants on youth courses, our instructors carry all prescription medications, with the exception of birth control and emergency medications such as EpiPens or rescue asthma inhalers. 

For participants on adult (age 18+) courses, we encourage participants to store their medication(s) container(s) in a zip-lock bag for protection. Pill sorters are not recommended.  

You must notify Outward Bound should any medical, psychological, behavioral, or legal situations occur after the application and medical review process have been completed. Certain situations may affect the applicant’s course status. 

Eyes, Skin & Hair Care
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.  

Please bring your prescription eyewear to course and any applicable backup options. For glasses a retaining band is necessary to prevent loss during an activity. 

For participants who wear contact lenses, you must bring your prescription glasses as back up. Be sure to bring enough contact lens solution so you can be diligent in your contact lens routine while out on course. 

Please be aware that the use of contact lenses in the backcountry does carry more risk than when at home. A great level of diligence and hygiene is required in ensuring you do not damage your eyes. 


You will be outside during your course. To maintain your health and comfort, the best protection from biting insects, skin irritation and sunburn is a physical barrier of clothing. Bring the required clothing and gear listed – it's essential to your comfort and safety.  

It is your responsibility to follow your instructor’s directions and monitor how your skin reacts to the changing environment. Let them know if you encounter skin concerns before they present a barrier to your participation.  

If you are traveling by air to your course, please review the TSA Carry-on Requirements for liquids.



Here are a few tips caring for long, kinky, or curly hair while on course:   

  • Bring a comb, brush, or pick 
  • Protect your hair by covering it with a hair bonnet, silk scarf, headwrap, durag, loc tube, bandana, etc.
  • Use a bandana, head wrap, hair scrunchies, etc., to keep hair out of your face
  • Bring 3oz hair oil

Before course, consider putting your hair in a protective style, allowing enough time for your head to adjust prior to the start of your Outward Bound course. Be sure that your protective style will fit underneath a helmet. Suggested protective styles include:  

  • Box Braids 
  • French Braids 
  • Feed-in Braids 
  • Cornrows
  • Faux Locs 
  • Two Strand Twists
  • Plaits 
  • Flat Twists 
Menstruation Preparation Kit

Increased physical activity during Outward Bound may cause a change in your menstrual cycle. Prepare your menstruation kit using a zip lock bag even if you don’t expect your cycle during course.

Items to include:

  • Menstruation products such as tampons, pads, panty liners, and menstrual cups. Bring more than you would typically use. Absorption underwear is not recommended. 
  • 1 small travel pack of disposable wipes or bandana. Our instructors will teach appropriate backcountry techniques for basic cleanliness. 
  • 1 small travel-size bottle of hand sanitizer 
  • 1 to 2 extra pairs of underwear 

We practice Leave No Trace camping techniques. Therefore, we pack out what we pack in. Instructors will distribute small opaque zip lock bags and small stuff sack for your individual storage of used items.You will dispose of any used items either during re-supplies (approximately every three to seven days) or at course end.  

Your instructors are experienced in addressing menstruation care questions or concerns while on course. Don’t hesitate to ask them questions. 

Tick and Mosquito-Borne Disease Facts & Prevention
Please review our comprehensive information onTick and Mosquito-Borne Disease Facts and Prevention.
In preparation for your upcoming course, we remind you to adhere to the clothing and gear list. We encourage parents/guardians of our youth participants to have a conversation regarding the importance of wearing long sleeves and long pants even when hot and humid to reduce the chances of bug bites, including mosquitoes and ticks. It is crucial that all students understand the need to follow the instructions of our staff in all regards, including expectations of self-care.
Fitting & Breaking in Your Hiking Boots

Proper footwear is essential for your safety and enjoyment. Take the following information with you when shopping for boots. The best boot for our terrain for backpacking courses is described as: 

  • light to medium weight with ankle support.
  • hard rubber sole
  • Waterproof

Do not bring:  

  • mountaineering boots
  • tall boots that constrict the calf
  • Timberlands, Doc Martens, or Blundstones

FITTING YOUR BOOTS It is essential that your boots fit properly and are comfortable. You are unlikely to judge this walking around a store. Some retailers will allow you to purchase your boots with the understanding that if you wear them indoors for several hours and they do not feel comfortable, you may return them. Fit your boots with the socks you will wear on course. 

  • Test 1: With the boots unlaced and your toes touching the front of the boot, the boot should be large enough to place your forefinger between your heel and the boot’s heel. 
  • Test 2: With the boot laced, your heel must be firmly lodged in the heel cup with very little lift when you walk. 
  • Test 3: The boot should fit snugly around the ball of your foot so that when you twist your foot, it does not move or slip inside the boot.  
  • Test 4: When on a steep incline or tapping the front of your boot against the floor, your toes should not hit the end of the boot. 

BREAKING IN YOUR BOOTS Begin wearing your boots long before your course starts. Wear them around town and at home as much as possible every day for several weeks. You should put 10+ miles on your boots to break them in, walking on both level and rough terrain. If you start feeling any hot spots, treat them immediately using moleskin to protect against the hiker’s worst enemy: the blister! Be kind to your feet. 

WATERPROOFING YOUR BOOTS After you are confident your boots fit properly, make sure they are waterproofed. Some boots are already waterproofed when purchased; but if not, follow the sales associate or manufacturer’s recommendations concerning the type of waterproofing to apply.  

Check List: Upper Body Clothing
  • 1 lightweight fleece jacket or pullover (100 weight fleece) Comfortable, breathes well, insulates when wet. A sufficiently warm wool or wool/synthetic sweater may be substituted - if in doubt, bring two sweaters.
  • 1 lightweight synthetic long underwear top
  • 1 medium weight synthetic long underwear top
  • 1-2 long sleeved, light colored button up shirt that are loose fitting
  • 2-3 synthetic t-shirts
  • 1-2 sport/jog bras (if applicable)


  • 1 synthetic, fleece, or wool beanie hat
  • 1 wide-brimmed sun hat or baseball cap
  • 1 bandanna (used to shield your head, neck or face from insects and sunburn)
  • 1 bug head net (mesh needs to be small enough to protect against no-see-ums and mosquitoes)
  • 2 reusable face masks (due to COVID-19)  


  • 1 pair sunglasses
  • Prescription eye wear and/or contacts (if applicable) Bring an extra pair in case of loss or damage. If you have limited vision without your glasses, bring prescription sunglasses.
  • Retainer straps (make sure they fit your glasses tightly and have an adjustable strap)
  • Hard cases to store glasses
Check List: Lower Body Clothing
  • 1 lightweight synthetic long underwear bottom
  • 1-2 pairs of quick-dry, loose-fitting nylon trekking pants (can be the type that converts to shorts)
  • 1-2 pairs of quick-drying nylon shorts (no “short shorts”)
  • 2-6 pairs of synthetic, quick-dry (not cotton) underwear or boxer shorts


  • 1 pair of light to medium-weight hiking boots (see Hiking Boot section)
  • 1 pair of lightweight running shoes (see Additional Footwear section)
  • 1 pair of river cross shoes (see Additional Footwear section for important information on what is acceptable)
  • 1 pair of camp shoes (see Additional Footwear section for important information on what is acceptable)
  • 2-4 pairs of medium-weight wool or synthetic socks
Check List: Additional Items
  • Up to $50 cash - for travel incidentals or for lost/damaged Outward Bound gear  
  • Prescription medication (if applicable)
  • 1 LED style headlamp with 1 spare set of batteries (recommended) OR 1 standard headlamp with 3 sets of spare batteries and one spare bulb. Avoid halogen bulbs to prolong battery life.
  • 1 small bottle of insect repellent (no aerosol or wipes)
  • 1 waterproof watch with alarm
  • 1 tube of sunscreen SPF 30+ (should be less than 1 year old)
  • 1 lip balm SPF 30+ or greater
  • 2 pens or pencils
  • 1 old twin flat sheet (39 x 75 inches) or sarong (55 x 57 inches) or shemagh (44 x 44 inches) to cover up from bugs on hot nights and for discrete clothing changes
  • 2-4 gallon-sized zip lock bags (for keeping items like notebook, camera dry and clean)
  • Travel size toiletries for expedition: small toothbrush, small tube of toothpaste, comb or brush (we will provide you with biodegradable soap)
  • Travel size toiletries that will stay at base camp: shampoo and conditioner, soap, towel, toothbrush, tooth paste, comb or brush (for post course clean up.)
  • 1 set of extra clothes for travel days
Optional Items

It's nice to go light, but many past students also recommend bringing the following items:

  • Trekking poles: Help distribute weight while hiking with heavy packs; great if you have weak ankles/knees
  • Medicated powder like Gold Bond™
  • Postcards/stationery/envelopes/stamps
  • Crazy Creek camp chair 
  • Camera (with extra batteries and memory card or extra film)
  • 1 Swiss Army type knife or multi-tool with can opener (ADULT COURSES ONLY - age 18+)
  • 1 pair climbing shoes (if your course includes rock climbing; must be inspected and approved by instructors at course start)
Additional Footwear & Their Uses

Camp & River Crossing Shoe: This shoe will be used in camp as a break from hiking boots and for use when wading across streams and rivers. They WILL be completely submerged in water. They should be quick drying, fit securely, have a heel strap, be closed-toed, and protect most of the foot.  

Popular choices for this shoe include:  

  • Croc-type sandals
  • Keen sandals  

Flip-flops, slides, aqua socks, diving booties, or other soft/neoprene-type footwear are NOT appropriate. 

Sneaker, Tennis Shoe or Running Shoe: A sneaker, tennis shoe or running shoe is used for times when you won’t need hiking boots but do need a sturdy, closed toe shoe. Examples include running, group problem solving activities or camp chores. This shoe does not need to be brand new.