Preparing for course

Preparing for course

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. Every single course—regardless of the activities—is unique as there are many different routes, weather patterns, and personalities. No matter how much you read and no matter how many questions you ask your Student Services Representative, you may still wonder what the course will be like. So how do you prepare for the unknown? >WATCH: Preparing for Outward Bound


Consider and be prepared for:

Teamwork Be ready to be part of a team. Think about other team experiences you may have had in the past - sports, school plays or in business. Remember what helped your team be successful. Plan on being a positive contributor during your course.

Living with Less Look around you and think about what you have and what you truly need. Things we may take for granted like hot running water, upholstered furniture and sidewalks will not be part of your experience. When you get into the routines of wilderness living, you may notice that despite the complexity life, living in the wilderness and living at home are ultimately about food, clothing, shelter and the relationships you have with those around you. Because the wilderness lifestyle is simple, you will leave behind non-essentials like deodorant, make up, electronic devices and books.

Being Away from Home Whether it is the first or the 20th time you have been away from home, you might not have been this “out of touch.” Don’t be surprised if you feel homesick at some point during your course. Please use your instructors and teammates as resources for support.

Compassion Compassion is a pillar on which Outward Bound was built. It is an emotion you may feel in response to another person’s struggle. Compassion can be shown in kind, thoughtful actions and can be practiced during course through active listening and understanding of other perspectives. You may find that you need to make compromises as you support other members of your team. It is always important to remember that your attitude and actions affect everyone.

Group Discussion Your instructors will lead group discussions as you debrief each day’s events. Through coaching from your instructors, your group will practice positive communication and conflict resolution techniques. These skills help your group maintain respect for individual opinions no matter how they may differ. Hopefully, these lessons will extend to your everyday life. Be prepared to share your perspective and gain insight from others during these discussions.

How challenging will it be?

North Carolina Outward Bound courses are both mentally and physically rigorous. Different aspects of courses challenge each student in different ways. Our courses are designed for people of average fitness; however, how well you prepare for course can greatly impact your success and enjoyment of the experience. It is important that you be prepared to keep an open mind and be ready to embrace new experience. No prior wilderness experience is necessary for our courses. In fact, we have many students who come on course who have never camped before. Our instructors are prepared to teach you everything you need to know to live and travel in the wilderness successfully. We have some great resources available to get you ready for course, visit our Preparing for Course page to learn more.


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.

Adopt Healthy Habits

  1. Arrive at your course start well rested.
  2. Reduce consumption of fatty foods, excessive alcohol and caffeine. These substances require a lot of water and oxygen to metabolize.
  3. Eat plenty of unrefined carbohydrates (i.e. whole grains).
  4. Drink water regularly instead of juice or soda.
  5. If you use tobacco or tobacco products, it is essential to quit before you arrive.

Fitness and Training

  • 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.
  • It takes strength and fitness to paddle a boat for six or eight hours a day, carry a 50+ pound pack for 5-10 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.

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