Course Number



March 07, 2023 - April 25, 2023

Blue Ridge Mountains Outdoor educator

As the oldest and leading provider of wilderness education in the world, Outward Bound provides training for thousands of outdoor educators. This 50-day course is for those wanting an introduction to the outdoor education profession. By learning ‘hands-on,’ students gain a better understanding of both the technical and teaching skills to prepare them for a career in outdoor education. 



Because the Appalachians were once one of the largest mountain ranges in the world they have many different geologic landforms, climates and soils. This long evolutionary history and temperate climate create an area which is teeming with life. Participants can expect to share the wilderness with over 700 different kinds of trees, more than 50 types of mammals, 150 different types of birds and about 40 species of amphibians. 

This course area is situated within a million acres of national forests, federally-protected wilderness areas, and other public lands. Its diverse landscapes have been featured in many motion pictures, including The Hunger Games and The Last of the Mohicans. <Click to learn more about this course area.>


This course is designed to provide participants with a basic foundation needed for a career in outdoor and experiential education. The Outdoor Educator Course (OEC) combines the objectives of a traditional Outward Bound course together with professional development. As a student of the OEC, you are expected to participate in all scheduled and independent activities. You must commit to being a team player as well as respectful and supportive of your fellow students and instructors. While most of your course takes place in the wilderness participating in various outdoor activities, you should be prepared to spend a fair amount of time in formal, lecture-style presentations.

The following information describes the components of your course. These components may not follow the sequence as listed. 


You begin the Outdoor Educator Course as a student of Outward Bound. This experience includes expedition backpacking, travel on and off trail, navigation, Leave No Trace camping ethics and practices, campcraft, risk management, group management and group facilitation skills. You will see what we do best and enhance your development as an educator and professional. This phase of the program will include the following activities (length and depth will vary depending on your crew, weather and instructor planning): 


While backpacking you learn safety precautions for backcountry foot travel, how to find campsites, how to navigate terrain as well as how to use a map and compass. After practicing these skills, your instructors will step back and let you and your crew work together to collectively navigate through the wilderness. Since your crew’s navigation depends on individual and group decision making, your crew could make some navigational errors along the way. You may hike 12 to 15 hours in one day to reach your destination or you could go three miles uphill one day and 12 miles over varied terrain the next day. The backpacks can weigh 55+ pounds. Remember, PHYSICAL PREPARATION IS KEY!


During this section you may spend one day participating in a climbing-related activity or ropes course.


You practice being a student and teacher by giving and receiving peer and instructor feedback necessary to becoming an outdoor educator. This phase focuses on the essential skills of judgment and risk management and will include the following:

Rock Site Management: Knots, anchors, top rope and slingshot setup, belaying, equipment, site assessment and management, facilitation skills and multi-pitch climbing.

Ropes Course Management: High ropes course experience, harnesses, equipment, rescue techniques, self-belay systems and facilitation skills.

River Site Management and Whitewater Canoeing: River safety, strokes, ferries, eddy-turns, peel-outs, rapid swims, river reading, rope throws, river rapid classification, rescue concepts, hydrology and group management.

Workshops: Possible topics include: Outward Bound philosophy, adolescent skills games and initiatives, teaching styles and techniques, group facilitation and debriefing, diversity, educational philosophy and environmental ethics, leadership theory and conflict resolution.


Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certification is recognized as the standard level of expertise in backcountry first aid. This nationally recognized, 80-hour, program trains participants to respond to emergencies in remote settings. About half of this program will be spent completing practical skills, case studies and scenarios designed to challenge your decision-making abilities. Students will develop the following skills: Patient assessment, knowledge of body systems, equipment improvisation, trauma, environmental medicine, toxins, wilderness protocols, backcountry medicine and wilderness rescue This certification is offered through a partnership with Landmark Learning, who is an accredited organization. After successfully completing the WFR and Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) certification students are eligible to apply for academic credit for this certification.



Solo typically occurs more than halfway through your course and may last up to 72 hours. Your instructors will assign each participant an individual campsite within a designated area. Your instructors will teach you procedures to follow during solo and monitor you during this experience. You will know the location of your instructors’ campsite should you need to contact them; otherwise it is essential that you remain in your designated area. If your course has an overnight solo you will have your clothing, food and water.  In addition, you will have Outward Bound issued gear: including rain gear, shelter, sleeping bag, compass and whistle. Due to a decreased need for caloric intake, you will have less food available than you would have during your other course activities. Solo is a not a “survival test.” You will not be physically active during solo, as solo is a time for rest, recharge and reflection. Solo is also a good time to write in the journals we provide. If you have questions or concerns, please discuss with your Student Services Representative or your instructors.  


Service will be a continuous theme throughout your course. The ethic of service is practiced through Leave No Trace camping techniques, reaching out with compassion to your fellow crewmates and working together as a team to overcome the challenges of Outward Bound. On your course, the ethic of service is practiced in greater depth and often includes a service project. Projects range from campsite restoration and maintaining hiking trails in the wilderness to supporting the surrounding communities by assisting families in need, sharing outdoor activities with disadvantaged children or helping in local wildlife restoration centers. Service projects typically last 6-8 hours. Alert your instructor AT COURSE START if you need written verification or documentation of service project hours.


At the end of your course, you will participate in a personal challenge event. This is a great time to see how much your physical fitness and endurance have improved since you began your course. This event will be a running activity. It is not a race. Your instructors set a certain route for your crew and you complete the route at a level that will challenge you the most.


Transition days are spent packing food, showering, planning the next section of the course and often include an evening meal prepared by our staff in the base camp dining hall. Due to a full schedule, there will be only one scheduled morning or afternoon visit to town. You will be able to send emails, make phone calls, do laundry and buy items that you may need. This is the only time you will be able to send emails and make phone calls.

Background Reading

Here are some books that we encourage you to read as you plan for your course:

  • The Outward Bound Wilderness First-Aid Handbook by Jeff Isaac
  • Leave No Trace: A Practical Guide to the New Wilderness Ethic by Annette McGivney
  • Knots & Ropes for Climbers by Duane Raleigh and Mike Clelland
  • The Outward Bound Backpacker's Handbook by Glenn Randall
  • The Outward Bound Map & Compass Handbook by Glenn Randall
Tuition & Payment
Please refer to your Applicant Portal to confirm your balance and make payment. 
If you are unsure of your balance due, please call 1-800-878-5258 or email

Please review the Application & Cancelation Policies. 

If your payment is not received by the due date listed in your Application Portal, you will risk losing your position on the course and your $500 deposit. 


While in the mountains, each crew will be given large tarps* to set up as shelters. You will also be given a ground sheet and a foam sleeping pad to place under your sleeping bag.

*Due to COVID-19, participants will have physically distanced sleeping arrangements. For courses longer than 7 days, sleeping arrangements may be adjusted after week 1, based on receipt of negative test results from day 1 testing.


Sample Course Itinerary
This is only a SAMPLE itinerary only. Adjustments will be made due to weather, programming area availability and group dynamics.
DAY 1: Course start, duffle shuffle, team-building initiatives
DAY 2-8: Backpacking training expedition: navigation, camping craft, safety management, and outdoor teaching skills
DAY 9: Resupply and transition day
DAY 10-19: Wilderness First Responder certification
DAY 20-24: Whitewater canoeing: paddle strokes, boat maneuvers, rapid scouting, self-rescue, tandem and solo canoe paddling
DAY 25: Resupply and transition day
DAY 26-28: Backpacking main expedition: advanced navigation and group decision-making
DAY 29: Service project: trail building
DAY 30-31: Skills workshops: risk management, working with diverse populations, facilitation skills
DAY 32-35: Rock climbing: belaying, rappelling, anchor building and multi-pitch climbing
DAY 36: Resupply and transition day
DAY 37: Service project: work with community service organization
DAY 38-39: Ropes course, personal experience and team building, facilitation, rescue skills
DAY 40-43: Solo
DAY 44-47: Backpacking final expedition: leadership and independent student travel
DAY 48: Service project; debrief: student performance evaluations and feedback
DAY 49: Personal challenge event, clean and de-issue gear, graduation ceremony
DAY 50: Course end. Transportation to the airport.