Individual Courses FAQ
HOW DO I KNOW IF AN OUTWARD BOUND CANADA COURSE IS RIGHT FOR ME OR FOR MY CHILD?
Before you decide to embark on an adventure with us, you should take the time to consider if you have the following:
- An appetite for adventure, fun and challenge
- A positive attitude and an open mind
- A detailed understanding of the program activities and day to day routine
- A desire to boost your personal and practical skills
- An interest in disconnecting from your usual routine to try something new
- The skills to maintain proper self-care in a new environment (i.e. clothing layering systems, respond to sleep and hunger needs, navigate new and challenging social situations, etc.)
- Willingness to meet new people, outside of your usual social group
- Willingness to take responsibility for your own safety and decision making
- Strategies to manage stress and overcome challenges in your day-to-day life
WHAT IS THE PROGRAM LIKE?
On every Outward Bound program, participants learn by doing. Participants will be challenged as an individual and become an effective member of the team. They will be compelled to dig deep within themselves, whether canoeing, backpacking, sea kayaking or winter camping. It is important to know that we expect you to try new things and put forth your best effort. The program is designed to be physically, emotionally and mentally challenging. We allow participants to try new things in a safe and supportive environment – you will never be forced to do something you don’t want to do but we will present you with smaller steps to tackle to work towards progress. Your instructors will inform and inspire you; as the course progresses, the responsibility of tasks shifts from instructors to participants, and the group’s technical and decision-making abilities can thrive and grow.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I’M READY FOR OUTWARD BOUND?
Outward Bound is about ordinary people doing extraordinary things: participants with a wide range of physical and mental fitness have successfully completed an Outward Bound course. Overcoming challenge is one of the many tools we use to help you explore your personal potential. Our expedition programs are designed for the regularly active individual with a solid understanding of their mental health, and strategies in place to cope with stress and overcome challenges in a new environment, far from the comforts of home. It is important to know that the more physically active you are prior to the trip, the more comfortable you will be on expedition. Our courses are physically, mentally and socially demanding and appropriate preparation will ensure that you are ready to thrive in the program. Please complete your Confidential Medical History form in detail and answer all questions honestly, providing as much detail as possible so that we can help you to be prepared and ready.
HOW FIT DO I HAVE TO BE?
Physical challenge is one of the many tools used to help you explore your personal potential. Wilderness expedition courses are designed for the reasonably fit and active individual. The course activities are physically demanding, and the more physically prepared you are, the more comfortable and enjoyable your experience will be. Fitness means endurance, strength and flexibility. Therefore your training program should include:
- Daily stretching exercises to develop flexibility and reduce the chance of injury
- Speed walking, running, cycling or swimming to develop your cardiovascular capacity and lower body strength
- Increasing distance, not speed, will help you to develop endurance
- Sit-ups/crunches, push-ups or weight training to increase your core body strength
Before your course, you should work towards completing at least one of the following goals:
- Walking 3 km on hilly terrain in 40 minutes or less
- Running 3 km in 30 minutes or less
- Walking 3 km on hilly terrain in 45 minutes or less with a backpack weighing approximately 30–40 lbs
Start your program slowly. Be careful not to overtrain in the early stages. Be patient and don’t expect dramatic results right away. Gradually increase the amount of exercise you do, beginning as soon as you have registered for your course. If possible, train in winter conditions. You might also review your dietary habits. Eating regular, balanced meals will help you to be prepared for the course. You will need all of the calories our menu provides to have the energy to enjoy the expedition. When do I start exercising? Now is the time to start. Please see your physician prior to starting any physical exercise program or changing your diet, particularly if you have any medical conditions or have not been active on a regular basis recently.
WHAT DO I NEED TO BRING?
Outward Bound Canada supplies all of the technical gear you need! This includes canoes, kayaks, paddles, life jackets/PFDs, tents, first-aid equipment, sleeping pads, cooking and eating utensils, stoves, helmets, ropes, harnesses and tarps. OBC also provides the tripping packs appropriate for each course. Participants are only responsible for bringing their own personal clothing and footwear and a headlamp! You can pack everything in luggage that is suitable for traveling. We will provide you with a Clothing List, which outlines the items you should pack. We expect participants to do their best with bringing their own clothing, as it is always more comfortable to wear your own. If you have questions or get stuck, we can help you find tricky items or come up with an alternative. We have an inventory of supplies that participants can borrow if they do not have the ability to acquire some things on their own. During the Duffle Shuffle, where participants will transfer their gear from their personal bags to the trip bags, the instructors will ensure all participants are well equipped for the trip before heading out.
WHAT KIND OF FOOD DO WE GET ON THE PROGRAM?
A detailed menu is planned before each course and is subject to change based on a number of factors. We can accommodate many dietary restrictions – vegetarian, Halal, Kosher – and some food allergies. Please indicate your dietary restrictions and allergies on your Confidential Medical History Form in as much detail as possible. We may request some follow up information in order to plan your course menu. Participants will receive sufficient calories in reflection of their physical output on the course. Bringing your own food/snacks on course is not required. Please speak to the Admissions Department to make sure you understand the dietary and allergy concerns of other participants on the trip before packing extra snacks.
WHAT IS YOUR ALCOHOL, SMOKING, VAPING AND SUBSTANCE USE POLICY?
The possession and/or use of non-prescription drugs, alcohol, tobacco products, cannabis or illegal substances while on course is strictly prohibited. This includes the misuse of prescription medications, and any products containing THC or CBD. If you would like to use tobacco for ceremonial purposes, please speak with your instructor upon arrival to your program. During the admissions process, you will be asked to sign a Code of Conduct & Assumption of Risk form demonstrating your understanding of this policy. Any participant who brings these substances on course will be sent home at the expense of the participant/their family.
IS THIS AN ADVENTURE THERAPY PROGRAM?
While spending time out in nature can be described as therapeutic, it is important to know that Outward Bound Canada is not designed to be a therapy program. Our instructors are trained in outdoor education and expeditionary travel, and they are not mental health professionals. The Outward Bound program can be very challenging, both physically and mentally, and it is important for your success that you arrive with some healthy coping strategies to use when those challenges arise. On the program, participants will rely on the support and guidance of their expert instructors to learn skills and grow throughout their journey. While participants will receive guidance and mentorship, we do not provide regular 1:1 support for each student, and a certain level of independence to complete your daily responsibilities and ongoing self care will ensure you are successful on the program. If you are not sure if this is the right program for you or your child, please inquire with us before deciding to register and we can assist you in making the decision.
WHAT WILL THE SLEEPING ARRANGEMENTS BE?
Participants will be sleeping in tents or improvised shelters for the duration of the program – bringing you that much closer to nature! Outward Bound Canada will provide you with the tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad. Feel free to bring your own sleeping bag if you wish, however, if it is not appropriate for the weather conditions, your instructors may suggest that you use one of ours. Depending on the program, you might have the opportunity to share a tent with peers or have an individual sleeping shelter. Please inquire with us if you have more questions about the sleeping arrangements for your specific program.
CAN I BRING MY CELL PHONE?
You won’t need it – participants on course enjoy a vacation from technology! Your cell phone, along with your other personal belongings that you don’t need (wallet, music player, airline tickets, etc.) will be stored safely at our office nearby while you are in the wilderness. Once the course starts, you will not be able to contact anyone at home, you will be immersed in the Outward Bound experience – building connections with yourself, others, and the natural world! Parents and friends back home will not be able to contact you while on expedition. Please know that the instructor team has a plan for getting in touch with our office and your emergency contacts at home in the event of an emergency.
WILL I BE SAFE?
Our highly trained instructors make sure that all activities adhere to strict safety guidelines that we have developed over more than fifty years of working in the wilderness. Instructional briefings precede each new activity to help you participate safely in all of our activities. Our methods and practices are monitored and reviewed regularly by a committee made up of senior Outward Bound staff from schools across North America, as well as independent experts. While there is inherently a risk involved spending time in the wilderness, you’re in great hands!
WHO ARE MY INSTRUCTORS?
Outward Bound Instructors are skilled, dedicated, and caring outdoor educators. These well-rounded individuals have extensive wilderness experience. They come from a variety of backgrounds: education, business, camp and other outdoor education networks, or from one of over 40 Outward Bound schools around the world. Aside from formal training in Wilderness First Aid, our instructors continually update their skills through independent training, personal expeditions, and staff development opportunities provided by Outward Bound Canada. They can’t wait to meet you!
CAN YOU TELL ME MORE ABOUT THE SOLO EXPERIENCE?
The solo experience, called “solo”, is designed to give you some time to yourself, away from the group, to relax, reflect and recharge. The solo provides a change of pace, and it varies in length depending on the duration of your course. You will have the opportunity to set up a campsite of your own, manage your own physical and mental needs and enjoy your independence. You will never be more than a whistle-blow away from your instructors who will check on you regularly. Often described as the most transformative part of the experience, the solo gives participants the chance to reflect on earlier conversations from the expedition, absorb important realizations about yourself and leave behind anything that would no longer serve them going forward. It is important to know that the solo is not a survival exercise: you will have the proper gear, food, water and other necessities with you. It’s simply a time for self-exploration, rest and reflection.
WHAT IS INCLUDED IN THE COURSE FEE?
The course fee includes the use of all technical gear required for your course: tents, sleeping bags, backpacking gear, and much more! Also included are three meals per day plus the snacks that are required to keep you nourished and energized. Included in the course fee are the knowledgeable and experienced instructors who will be there to teach and guide you throughout the entire course. Additional Outward Bound Canada fees include a high school credit fee (if applicable for you) and applicable taxes. Additional expenses for you to consider would be travel to/from the program start, and any additional clothing (i.e. hiking boots) you will need to purchase for the program.
WHAT IS YOUR CANCELLATION/REFUND POLICY?
Our Cancellation Policy reflects the fact that we incur most of the costs of your expedition before you arrive for the program. A non-refundable deposit payment is required to hold your spot on the program. If you are participating as an individual, click here to see our Refund and Cancellation Policy. If you are joining our program with your school or community organization: Outward Bound Canada has a contractual agreement with your school/organization and any participant cancellations will be considered within the context of the agreement. If you are joining our program with your school or community organization, any cancellation to your attendance should be in consultation with your teacher or group leader. Please speak with your teacher or group leader as soon as possible if you will not be able to attend the program.
HOW DO I GET TO THE COURSE?
Outward Bound Canada courses take place in various landscapes across the country. As you can imagine, some are more remote than others. Participants are required to make their way to and from the course independently. You can travel to us in a variety of ways: by car, bus or airplane. Your Welcome Booklet includes information on specific meeting times and locations for your course – please consult with your Admissions Coordinator if you have any questions about meeting up for your program.
WHEN SHOULD I BOOK MY TRAVEL?
Travel to and from your course is not included and is the responsibility of the participant/family. Please inquire with us about the status of your application before booking your travel arrangements. You are welcome to book travel at any time, and it is a good idea to purchase a flexible fare and cancellation insurance to ensure that you can make any changes if needed. Outward Bound Canada is responsible for participants from the time the program begins at the designated meeting point until the time your program officially ends, both referenced on your Travel Form. Outward Bound Canada is not responsible for any travel arrangements you make.
WHAT IF MY CHILD DOESN’T WANT TO GO?
All participants at Outward Bound Canada are expected to be active and willing participants on their expedition. The youth’s own motivation to succeed is one of the key tools they can rely on when the program becomes challenging; it is important that every participant understands the expectations of what the program entails and is arriving with some motivation to put forth their best effort. Our instructors will ensure to provide safe and supportive opportunities for participants to try new things, expand their comfort zone and learn along the way. We highly encourage you to include your child in the exploration and decision to participate in the program, and to be honest in completing their forms during registration. A participant should not feel coerced or forced to attend the program. Participants on course will be highly encouraged and supported, but ultimately will not be forced to stay if they refuse to participate. Our Admissions team is happy to work with any parents and participants to help ensure that it is the right time for them to join us, and to answer any questions you may have in your decision to have your child participate.
CAN I BRING A FRIEND?
We strongly encourage participants to consider attending a course on their own, independently from friends or siblings. In our experience, participants who step out of their comfort zone to participate independently are in a great place to experience immense personal growth and really gain the most from their Outward Bound experience. The majority of our participants do attend their course alone – the fresh start of the whole group allows for the building and maintaining of an integral team of working groups and the creation of meaningful friendships. If you do attend the course with a friend or someone you know, we expect all participants to consider the team experience and be inclusive of others. You won’t get to share a tent or paddle a canoe exclusively with your friends on the trip. All members of the group are expected to get to know their new peers and teammates.