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.

You should bring extra money to course, actual cash and other payment methods (such as a debit card/credit card), to cover any expenses you could incur. You will need money for airline baggage fees, laundry, extra batteries and any meals or miscellaneous items you choose to purchase during town visits or travel days. You may also encounter food and lodging expenses before and after your course.  You may also need to pay for replacement costs of damaged or lost North Carolina Outward Bound gear. 

Fitting & Breaking In your Hiking & Mountaineering Boots
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 boot with ankle support.
  • hard rubber sole
  • Waterproof

Do not bring:  

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

FITTING YOUR HIKING 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 HIKING 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 HIKING 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.  

INNER SOLE LINERS Inner sole liners can give your feet extra warmth and comfort. If you choose to use an inner sole liner, make sure to wear them when you are fitting your boots. If you try to use them after your boot has been fitted, they may make your boot too small. Examples of inner sole liners include: Spenco Neoprene Liner and Spenco Polysorb Replacement Insole.

PLASTIC MOUNTAINEERING BOOTS North Carolina Outward Bound has a supply of plastic mountaineering boots (Kolfach Degrees) for your use during the Patagonia phase at no extra charge. However, if you have any foot abnormalities, it may make fitting boots to your feet difficult. If you have feet larger than size 14 or any foot abnormalities (bunions, bone spurs, etc.), please contact your Student Services Representative. You may have to purchase your own boots. Make sure to give your boot size to your Student Services Representative.

Check List: Upper Body Clothing

INSULATING ITEMS: These garments are essential pieces that will provide extra warmth during backcountry travel. Both insulating pieces should comfortably fit under rain jacket and have a hood.

  • 1 light-weight synthetic fill jacket with hood - to keep you warm when you are active on cold days (Look for fills such as Polarguard 3D, Primaloft, or 3M Hollowfil); Staff Favorites: Black Diamond First Light Hoody, Patagonia Micro Puff, Patagonia Nano Puff, or Patagonia Nano-Air. 

  • 1 heavy weight synthetic or down jacket with hood - to keep you warm when not active in camp. Staff favorites: Patagonia Hyper Puff, Patagonia Fitz Roy Down Parka, Black Diamond Stance Belay Parka, Outdoor Research Perch Belay Parka

  • 1 medium weight fleece jacket or pullover (200 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. Having a hood is preferred, but not required for this item. 

    UPPER BODY CONTINUED            

  • 1 unlined nylon windbreaker (examples: Patagonia Houdini, BD Alpine Start, Outdoor Research Tantrum II)
  • 1 lightweight synthetic long underwear tops
  • 2 medium weight synthetic long underwear top
  • 1-2 long-sleeved, light colored, loose fitting, (non-cotton or cotton/poly blend) button-up shirts with collars – for sun and bug protection. 
  • 3 synthetic t-shirts
  • 2 cotton t-shirts
  • 3 sport/jog bras (if applicable)


  • 1 synthetic, fleece, or wool beanie hat
  • 1 fleece or synthetic balaclava (looks like a ski mask) to insulate the head and neck
  • 1 wide-brimmed sun hat or baseball cap
  • 3 bandannas (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)
  • 1 pair of glacier compatible sunglasses with side shields (no goggles). At least 97% UV protection; should not allow any light to enter from the sides or below. Glacier glasses are the best option. Good sunglasses are extremely important. Snow travel without them can result in sun burned eyes and temporary snow blindness. Removable side shields make the glasses more versatile during other phases of this course. (Examples: Julbo (Tamang, Camino, Explorer 2.0)
  • Prescription eye wear (if applicable) Bring an extra pair in case of loss or damage. If you have limited vision without your glasses, bring prescription sunglasses or glacier glasses, or bring high quality ski goggles (make sure they block 97% UV) that fit over your glasses.
  • Retainer straps (make sure they fit your glasses tightly and have an adjustable strap)
  • Hard cases to store glasses/goggles


  • 1 pair of medium weight warm fleece gloves
  • 1 pair of lightweight fleece gloves
  • 1 pair of Gore-Tex (or similar) waterproof gloves (required for glacier)


  • Rain Jacket: Three-layer Gore-Tex or similar high quality waterproof breathable jacket with a stormproof hood. Reinforced shoulders will help protect the jacket from the rubbing of your backpack. Examples: Outdoor Research Furio Jacket, Patagonia Triolet, Black Diamond Liquid Point Shell. Other brand to look for are: Marmot, Mountain Hardwear, ArcTeryx, the North Face or Mountain Equipment Co-Op.
  • Rain Pants: Full zip Gore-Tex or similar high-quality waterproof-breathable pants with full side zippers. Look for reinforced knees and seat. The same brands as above are recommended.

If you own a high quality waterproof-breathable jacket and/or pants that are more than a year old, test them to see if they are still waterproof. Wear them over a dark t-shirt and dark underwear with the hood up and stand under your shower for several minutes. Make sure to thoroughly soak the entire jacket and pants, especially around the shoulders. If the items are no longer waterproof, leaks will show on the dark cotton fabric. If this is the case, treat your existing jacket/pants with a waterproofing product (available at many outdoor stores) or purchase a new jacket/pants.

Check List: Lower Body Clothing
  • 1 pair medium weight fleece pants (200 weight fleece)
  • 2 medium weight synthetic long underwear bottom
  • 2 pair of loose-fitting quick-dry nylon trekking pants (can be the type that converts to shorts)
  • 2 pairs of quick-drying nylon shorts (no “short shorts”)
  • 5-7 pairs of underwear or boxer shorts (a mix of cotton and synthetic materials acceptable)


  • 1 pair of medium weight hiking boots - over the ankle is crucial (Examples: Salomon, Asolo, Oboz, Vasque)
  • 1 pair of WET SHOES: secure fitting shoes that enclose the entire foot and have a hard sole, such as old running shoes or sneakers. These shoes will be worn when paddling and WILL get wet. UNACCEPTABLE WET SHOES:Any open toed and/or open heeled and/or open side sandals (Teva, Chaco, Keen), clog type shoes or flip flops (Crocs), Vibram 5-finger shoes, aqua socks or low cut slip-on shoes.
  • 1 pair of lightweight running shoes (to be used for running)
  • 1 pair of CAMP SHOES: The running shoes listed above may double as your camp shoe, OR you can bring a Croc-type shoe or a sport sandal. This camp shoe MUST fit securely, be closed toed, and enclose the majority of the foot. We highly recommend Crocs.
  • 4 pairs of heavy-weight wool socks
  • 4 pairs of medium weight wool socks
  • 3 pairs of lightweight cotton socks
  • 1 pair of full length gaiters that cover your boot from ankle to knees to keep snow and dirt out. Gaiters should fit comfortably over your leather boots, and must fit over the plastic boots you will wear in Patagonia. If possible, try them on over a pair of plastic boots, or buy them a little large. Must be durable. We recommend using a Velcro closure gaiter vs. a zipper closure gaiter Examples: Outdoor Research, REI, Black Diamond.
Check List: Additional Items
  • Passport 
  • 1 photocopy of the biometrics page (photo page) of your passport
  • Airline tickets and photocopy of each ticket or e-mail flight confirmation and 1 copy of confirmation
  • Cash, ATM card, credit card Taking money out of an ATM or changing cash at the airport is your best option. Advise your bank that you will be traveling to Argentina to avoid issues with ATM service. 
  • Prescription medication (if applicable)
  • 1 LED style headlamp with 5 spare sets of batteries (recommended) OR 1 standard headlamp with 6 spare sets of batteries.
  • 1 inflatable sleeping pad (lightweight, full length with a stuff sack and repair kit). You will be provided with a foam sleeping pad, however this inflatable sleeping pad is also crucial to keeping warm on cold nights. We recommend: Thermarest, REI, Nemo, Big Arnus.
  • 1 small bottle of insect repellent (no aerosol or wipes)
  • 1 Swiss Army type knife or multi-tool with locking blade and can opener
  • 1 waterproof watch with alarm
  • 1-2 tubes of sunscreen SPF 30+ (should be less than 1 year old)
  • 1-2 lip balms SPF 30+ or greater
  • 3 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
  • 8” x 5" notebook
  • 1 box of 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.)
  • 2 sets of extra clothes for travel and town days
Optional Items

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

  • 10-20 nutrition bars: you will be provided with all of the food and snacks you need throughout your course; however, many students also prefer to bring their own “power bars.” Power, Cliff, Luna and Balance are all examples of bars that are great nutritional companions in the wilderness.
  • Trekking poles: Help distribute weight while hiking with heavy packs; great if you have weak ankles/knees
  • Medicated powder like Gold Bond™
  • Crazy Creek camp chair: Comfortable, but heavy. If you are bringing a Thermarest pad too, a lighter and cheaper alternative is to purchase a Thermarest chair kit that converts the pad into a comfortable seat.
  • 1 pair of rock climbing shoes
  • Camera (with extra batteries and memory card or extra film)
  • Insulated thermos, up to 1 liter capacity
  • Spanish/English dictionary or phrase book
  • 1 money belt or neck pouch for carrying valuables under clothing
  • Stationery/envelopes/stamps
Additional Footwear & Their Uses

Hiking Boots: The best boot for our terrain is a medium weight boot that has ankle support; leather, nylon or Gore-Tex upper; and a hard rubber lug sole (like a tire tread). Crepe soled boots, approach shoes or trail running sneakers are not acceptable hiking boots. Do not buy mountaineering boots or high boots that constrict the calf. Your boots should be waterproof and comfortable to wear for long periods of time.

Camp Shoes: A Croc-style, fast drying sandal with a heel strap is the ideal camp shoe for our courses. Your running shoes may double as camp shoes but be prepared for them to get wet, as camp shoes often serve as your stream/river crossing shoe. Camp shoes must fit securely to the foot, have a hard sole, be closed-toed and enclose the majority of the foot. Crocs and Keen sandals are ideal examples of camp shoes that can also be river crossing shoes.

River Crossing Shoes: A Croc-style, fast drying sandal with a heel strap is the ideal river crossing shoe for our courses. River crossing shoes must fit securely to the foot, have a hard sole, be closed-toed and enclose the majority of the foot. Crocs and Keen sandals are ideal examples of shoes that can be both a river crossing shoe and camp shoe.

Running Shoes: Running is a course component on most of our courses. A sturdy pair of running shoes with a supportive sole is ideal for running in the mountain terrain. These should be shoes you feel comfortable running in on pavement, gravel roads and trails. Barefoot running or minimalist style shoes are inappropriate for these areas.

Wet Shoes: A shoe that encloses the entire foot, has a hard sole and fits securely to the foot is the ideal wet shoe for our marine environment courses. An old pair of running shoes or sneakers is an example of a wet shoe that is often used by both students and staff. These are the shoes you will paddle in and they will get wet. Examples of unacceptable wet shoes include aqua socks or thin neoprene water shoes; flip flops; or any open toed, open heeled, or open sided sandals like Tevas, Chacos, Keens, Vibram 5 Fingers, and Crocs.