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. 

What We Supply

North Carolina Outward Bound supplies the technical equipment needed for 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. Refer to the Clothing and Gear List categories below for the items you are to bring to course. 

Where to Get Items

Because our courses are characterized by unpredictable weather, obtaining the proper clothing is crucial. Please bring the items on the Clothing and Gear list as described. You can find these items at camping, outdoor and thrift stores, Army/Navy surplus, outlets, and mail-order catalogs. Clothing and gear can be expensive. Shop around before you buy. Buy last year’s model; don’t worry about colors or style. Your choices should be governed by whether or not the piece of clothing or gear will meet our requirements, not if it is the best looking or newest! Many students use the following websites to shop for clothing and gear:

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

Packing and Storage

Our courses are characterized by changing weather conditions; bring everything on the list. Pack your clothing and gear in a duffel bag or soft luggage container. When you arrive, you will receive the items Outward Bound provides (see “What We Supply” section). Before your expedition, your instructors will assess your clothing and gear with the route and the anticipated weather in mind. We suggest leaving the tags on any items you purchase in case you don’t pack them for expedition. Please check with the sales person to confirm their return policies. You will keep personal items such as clean clothes (for your return trip home) and valuables (cell phones, electronic devices and wallets) in your duffel or soft luggage container. These items will be stored at our base camp facility in a locked storage bin while you are on course. Leave expensive items at home.


All medications (prescription, non-prescription and over-the-counter) must be listed in the applicant’s Medical Record booklet, approved by our Medical Screener prior to course and must accompany the participant on course.

All medications (prescription, non-prescription and over-the-counter) must be in their original containers with the prescription label intact. The prescription label is documentation of the dosage directions. If possible, bring a double supply. The container should not include other medications, vitamins, etc. Do not bring non-prescription medications such as aspirin, Advil, etc., unless they are listed in your Medical Record booklet. We have a medical kit that contains these medications.

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

After your Medical Record has been approved, if you start taking a new medication, stop taking an existing medication or change the dosage of a medication, the action (s) could affect your status on course. Contact the Student Services Department with any medication changes.

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 our Intercept programs, instructors carry all prescription medications.

During travel, pack essential medications in carry-on luggage.

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.

Your Eyes

North Carolina Outward Bound staff recommends glasses with a holding band versus contact lenses. It is more difficult to maintain adequate hygiene when wearing contact lenses in a wilderness setting. Wearing contact lenses may put your eyes at risk of infection or corneal ulcers. These conditions can develop very quickly and can be very serious. In rare cases, these conditions can cause blindness. If you do choose to wear contact lenses, bring both a backup pair of contacts and glasses. Be sure to bring enough contact lens solution and be diligent in your contact lens routine. For more information please visit the FDA website: Food and Drug Administration - Contact Lenses.

Skin Care

Remember – you will be outside the entire time you are on course. Keeping yourself protected against insect bites, sunburn and other types of skin irritation is important to your comfort and safety on course. It is your responsibility to follow your instructor’s directions and monitor how your skin is reacting to the environment. We don’t want you leaving course sunburned or covered with insect bites. It is clear to wilderness enthusiasts that the best protection from biting insects, bugs and sunburn is the physical barrier of clothing. Therefore, we emphasize that you bring the required clothing and gear listed. DO NOT bring “short” shorts! If you do, you are only exposing your skin to insect bites, sunburn and abrasions
as you expedition.

To protect against bacterial infections including MRSA, we ask you to consider not shaving one week prior to course start. Open hair follicles are potential points of entry for bacteria.

If you are traveling by air, be aware of TSA guidelines. To avoid TSA taking items out of your carry-on luggage (like insect repellent and sunscreen), pack these items in your checked luggage or do not exceed size specifications. For more information please visit the TSA website: Transportation Security Administration - Carry-ons

Tick 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 of our younger students to have a conversation with your child 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.

Prevention of Tick and Mosquito-Borne Disease
Tick-borne and mosquito-borne diseases are a risk throughout the Southeastern United States. Fortunately, there are prevention steps that are very effective. In the case of infection, early diagnosis aids in treatment and recovery. Students and their families should educate themselves on the risks, prevention measures, signs and symptoms. For health advice, please consult your physician.

Lyme disease is the most well-known disease spread by ticks. Lyme disease is most common in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic US and is highly unusual in both North Carolina (less than 200 confirmed and probable cases per year) and Florida (less than 100 cases per year). Other tick-borne diseases with reported cases in the areas used by NCOBS include Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Anaplasmosis. There are treatments available for these diseases but prevention is by far the best first step!

Mosquitoes are another potential vector for disease. In North Carolina, La Crosse encephalitis and West Nile virus are present but exceedingly rare. The region of Florida in which NCOBS conducts courses includes subtropical and tropical environments favorable for mosquitos. Mosquito-borne diseases found in the state include West Nile encephalitis, eastern equine encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis, chikungunya fever, and dengue fever. The state of Florida is highly active in monitoring and controlling the spread of these diseases and publishes weekly surveillance reports.

Signs and Symptoms
There are many symptoms associated with tick- and mosquito-borne diseases. Infected people may not have all of these symptoms and many of these symptoms can occur with other diseases as well. Some common symptoms of infection include body/muscle aches, fever, headaches, fatigue, rash, and joint pain. Seek medical attention if signs and symptoms of an illness appear. Tick- and mosquito-borne diseases are diagnosed based on symptoms, blood tests, and the possibility that the person has been exposed to bites. Most cases can be successfully treated with specific types of antibiotics, especially if treatment is started early. However, some people may have symptoms such as arthritis, muscle and joint pain, or fatigue for an extended period of time.


  1. Wear and use protective clothing/equipment (long pants tucked into socks, for instance). Light colors make it easier to see ticks.
  2. Use a chemical barrier. Treat clothing and footwear (long-sleeve shirts, pants, jackets, hats, and boots) with permethrin to repel and disable ticks.This treatment will last for up to a month. See the protocol for treating clothing with permethrin below.
  3. Use a chemical repellent. Apply insect repellent containing picaridin or DEET to exposed skin, following the directions on the container.These agents last only a few hours before you have to reapply them. Properly used, repellents allow people to live and work outdoors with reduced risk from insect bites.
  4. Staff will teach students to recognize ticks and remove them as soon as they are found. This is the BEST form of disease prevention. Removing ticks within 24 hours considerably reduces the risk of being infected with a disease-causing bacterium.
  5. When traveling or camping in areas with woods, bushes, high grass or leaf litter, staff and students should check themselves for ticks at least once every day.

Protocol for Treatment of Clothing with Permethrin
Permethrin is an extremely effective neurotoxin relative to arthropods (including ticks and mosquitos), does not cause significant harm to humans and, when used correctly, poses little environmental risk. The CDC and the EPA have determined that the benefits of using permethrin to prevent tick-borne disease far outweigh the risks.

General Guidelines

  • Treat clothing with permethrin in a windless but well-ventilated area, away from water sources and insect populations (particularly bees) to reduce the effects of permethrin on aquatic life and insects
  • Wear latex or vinyl gloves and a facemask or bandana over nose and mouth (aerosol application)
  • If possible, wait until clothing is completely dry before wearing
  • Treat clothing again after several washes or after a couple of weeks, according to the manufacturer’s suggestions
  • DO NOT expose cats to wet Permethrin as it affects their central nervous system. Cats can be around Permethrin-treated fabrics once the application has dried.

Additional Permethrin Information
Permethrin is an insecticide in the pyrethroid family. Pyrethroids are synthetic chemicals that act like natural extracts from the chrysanthemum flower. Permethrin has been used for decades in a number of ways to control insects in homes, for agricultural purposes, and in topical treatments for lice and scabies.

Permethrin is applied to clothing rather than skin because it is deactivated on skin within 20-30 minutes,not because it is more toxic than skin-applied chemicals like DEET. It has less than 1% absorbability on human skin (DEET has 20%)4, and very few people have adverse effects from contact with permethrin (other than in the eyes). Like most chemicals, there is a small risk of harm, but the risks of tick-borne illness are far greater. Permethrin can affect arthropods (such as ticks and insects) if they eat it or touch it. Permethrin affects the nervous system in insects, causing muscle spasms, paralysis, and death. Permethrin is over 2,250 times more toxic to ticks and insects than it is to people and dogs because of their much smaller size and because ticks and insects can't break it down as quickly as mammals.


You should bring some extra money with you to course as you may encounter food and lodging expenses before and after your course. In addition, you and your crewmates are financially responsible for any lost or damaged NCOB gear or equipment. See Additional Required Items for details on how much you should bring.

Menstruation Care

Increased physical activity during Outward Bound may cause a change in your menstrual cycle.

Prepare by packing the following items even if you don’t expect your cycle during course:

  • Double the amount of tampons, pads and/or panty liners you typically use during your cycle. If you use tampons exclusively, we suggest packing panty liners as well. Menstrual cups are also acceptable.   
  • 1 small travel pack of feminine or baby wipes – to be used sparingly, not for use as “sponge bath.” Your instructors will teach appropriate backcountry techniques for basic cleanliness.
  • 1 small travel size bottle of hand sanitizer
  • 1 extra bandanna (to help keep clean and dry)
  • 1 to 2 extra pair of underwear

Pack the above items in a large zip-lock bag. Instructors will distribute small opaque bags for discrete storage of used and unused supplies.

We practice Leave No Trace camping techniques. Therefore, we pack out what we pack in. You will dispose of any used items either during re-supplies (which occur approximately every three to seven days) or at course end. 

To protect against bacterial infections including MRSA, we ask you to consider not shaving one week prior to course start. Open hair follicles are potential points of entry for bacteria.

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

Clothing and Gear Overview

Points to keep in mind while planning and shopping:

  • Changing weather conditions may require use of all of these items. Keep receipts and tags from new purchases so any unused items can be returned after course.
  • It is important that all your clothing be comfortable, quick-drying and warm. Fabrics such as polyester, polypropylene, fleece, acrylic, rayon, wool or name brands like Polartec™, Thinsulate™, COOLMAX®, Smartwool and Capilene are just a few favorites of outdoor enthusiasts, since they retain much of their insulating qualities when wet. There are other brand names as well. Check with a sales associate or mail-order representative. Do not bring down, denim or cotton clothing (unless otherwise indicated). Our Clothing and Gear list reflects the layering principle. 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 base layer, medium weight fleece and insulating jacket allows you to adapt to changing conditions.
  • Wearing white or light colored, loose fitting clothing keeps you cooler; in addition, they attract fewer biting insects. Dark colors are acceptable for insulating attire.
  • Cotton clothing loses its insulating properties when wet. Also, cotton does not dry quickly in the outdoors. For these reasons, do not bring items made with cotton unless otherwise noted.
Required - Clothing and Gear - Upper Body
  • 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. 
  • 1 medium weight synthetic long underwear top
  • 2 long sleeved loose fitting shirts, cotton button down, sun hoodie, fishing shirt
  • 3 synthetic t-shirts
  • 3 sport/jog bras (if applicable), one can be used for swimming


  • 1 medium weight fleece or wool hat that covers your ears and the back of your neck
  • 1 wide-brimmed sun hat or baseball cap
  • 1 bandanna (used to shield your head, neck or face from insects and sunburn)
  • 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


  • 1 pair of lightweight synthetic gloves (for sun protection)
Required - Clothing and Gear - Lower Body
  • 1 medium weight synthetic long underwear bottom 
  • 2 pairs of quick-dry, loose fitting nylon trekking pants. One pair to be worn during the day that will get wet.  The second pair is for the evening and stay dry.
  • 2 pairs of quick-drying nylon shorts. Avoid “short shorts” as these types of shorts become very uncomfortable when sitting in a canoe or kayak.
  • 5 pairs of synthetic, quick-dry (not cotton) underwear or boxer shorts


  • 1 pair of wet shoes (see Footwear definitions section for important information on what is acceptable)
  • 1 pair of camp shoes (see Footwear definitions section for important information on what is acceptable)
  • 2 pairs of medium weight wool or synthetic socks
  • 2 pairs of lightweight synthetic socks
Footwear Definitions

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.

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. 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.

Required Additional Items

FOR POST COURSE CLEAN UP: Travel size toiletries that will stay at base camp: shampoo and conditioner, soap, towel, toothbrush, tooth paste, comb or brush 

  • $50 cash (see “Money” section)
  • 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
  • 1 small bottle of foot powder (Gold Bond is highly recommended.)
  • 3 pens or pencils
  • 1 sarong (55 x 57 inches) or shemagh (44 x 44 inches) or twin flat sheet (39 x 75 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)
  • 1 set of extra clothes for travel days
Optional Items

FOR SEA KAYAKING COURSES ONLY: 1 water bladder with bite-valve (Platypus, MSR). Hydration backpacks are not recommended.

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

  • Crazy Creek camp chair (AVOID camp chairs with metal parts or legs, as these do not work well in a marine environment)
  • Camera (with extra batteries and memory card or extra film)
  • Nylon shell windbreaker