NOLS/Outward Bound - Wilderness Education

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Izawwlgood
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NOLS/Outward Bound - Wilderness Education

Postby Izawwlgood » Thu May 01, 2008 11:00 pm UTC

The threads have a lot of high school and college aged readers (although I'd still recommend one of these for people post-schooling), and I'm sure some have had some interest in one or both of these programs and some other stuff thats out there.

I did NOLS Baja California Kayaking trip May of 2004 or 05, and it was INCREDIBLE. I can't recommend it enough. NOLS does a great job of putting the direction of the trip in the hands of the students, really a "I'll show you once, help you once, and then make sure you don't kill yourself because your on your own" mentality. The educators are Buddha's. The trips are exotic and highly educational. I now can cook a killer calzone with naught but ingredients and an MSR burner. Oh yes, I sleep with the dough. And lemonaid and calzones in the outback are delicious.

A good friend of mine did an Outward Bound, and we compared trips. From what I understand, Outward Bound is less educational, more experiential. His trip was lead by guides. He also complained that many of the students on his trip were there for the wrong reason (Drug addiction, failing in school, behavioral problems) and that trip leaders were a little controlling.

So, a comparison, subjectively speaking,
NOLS - high responsibility, emotionally and mentally exhaustive ("Am I reading this map correctly, or am I about to send us all over a reef?"), physically fairly easy. Trips have a library for reference material. You will be able to lead trips when this is over. The kids on the trips are often of the quirky and privileged persuasion (not to stereotype, but the trends held so far)
Outward Bound - low responsibility, physically exhausting, many people get sent on these for rehabilitation or the like. If you aren't interested in leading your own trips, or soloing, but want to experience something grand, Outward Bound is more your ally. People come from all walks of life (My buddies trip had an inner city kid who was getting a reduced Juvie sentence, as well as a recovering, 2-grand-a-week-coke-habit trustafarian, as well as a scholarship case who had never been outside Manhattan).

Both programs have excellent alumni connections and notification systems. Both trips have exotic locations, and frankly, everyone should have SOME knowledge about what to do in an emergency in the wilderness.

NOTE: The founder of NOLS died in a pretty tragic rock climbing accident about sixish months ago, so I've been thinking of my trip recently.

Any questions?
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Re: NOLS/Outward Bound - Wilderness Education

Postby Blubb3r3ng3l » Thu May 01, 2008 11:47 pm UTC

Mmmmmm... loved this type of trip when I was younger. Being 21 now, I'm more a leader of these kinds of things, and have been guiding trips in northern Minnesota for 5 years now, but I remember a trip with Wilderness Ventures being one of the funnest things I've ever done.

I've heard only great things from NOLS though.
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Spoffin
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Re: NOLS/Outward Bound - Wilderness Education

Postby Spoffin » Fri May 02, 2008 12:05 am UTC

How long does it last, how much does it cost, and do you need to be American to do it?
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Re: NOLS/Outward Bound - Wilderness Education

Postby Spuddly » Fri May 02, 2008 12:31 am UTC

How gear-centric is NOLS? I hear it's almost as bad as boyscouts, and there's a lot of coddling.
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Re: NOLS/Outward Bound - Wilderness Education

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri May 02, 2008 4:45 am UTC

NOLS provides you with pretty much everything you'll need, minus the personal clothing. So yeah, I had to spring about 100 extra bucks for some super fiber shirt (that I still use) and a tilly hat (which I still wear!), but they provided the kayaks and tenting materials. Oh, I had to bring my own sleeping bag, but they provided the bivy sac.

So yea, it is gear intensive, because being int he wilderness requires gear. But they provide everything if you don't own it.

It was fairly expensive, but I can't recall prices (you can look those up easily). You also get college credit for it. So, comparitively, you get two classes worth of credits (I think 8 hrs in total), and it cost what would have been 3-4 classes (so 12-16 respectively) from a good college for coursework.

NOLS is geared towards training you to lead the trips when your done..
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Re: NOLS/Outward Bound - Wilderness Education

Postby Spuddly » Fri May 02, 2008 5:20 am UTC

Ahhh, so it's like a pyramid scheme? :wink:

Maybe you can't answer this, if you haven't done a lot of outdoorsy stuff, but the gear intensiveness of wilderness is a spectrum. You can do it ultralight (doing a five day trip with what you can fit in a daypack) or heavy where you bring an ax, a lantern, and 3 different types of silverware.

I know. How long was the trip, and what'd your pack weigh vs. the two programs?
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Re: NOLS/Outward Bound - Wilderness Education

Postby shidobu » Fri May 02, 2008 5:29 am UTC

Spuddly wrote:I hear it's almost as bad as boyscouts


As an eagle scout, I'm kind of curious what you mean by this. I felt like the Boy Scouts were a pretty good program overall (I took some issue with the religious bits, but for the most part, the people I encountered were "well, you've put some thought into the religious issue, so whatever you've come up with is ok") and that it (hokey as it sounds) gave me a pretty solid foundation as far as leadership and wilderness education.

Although, to be fair, I've heard from other people that troops vary pretty wildly. Mine was pretty much youth-run, with a little adult intervention with the youngest kids, but the older kids (15+) were pretty much left to plan trips and do whatever they wanted. As a consequence, we did some fairly rigorous camping activities. (camp for 3 days out of a small bookbag, similar challenges).

In short, I'm a pretty strong proponent of the program I went through, and I'm curious what experiences you had that were negative.

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Re: NOLS/Outward Bound - Wilderness Education

Postby Spuddly » Fri May 02, 2008 5:41 am UTC

Mandatory gear lists.

I don't like caring stuff I'm not going to use. For instance, a saw for gathering firewood. But... why? The dead stuff isn't attached to trees. And if it is, then you use these.
Last edited by Spuddly on Fri May 02, 2008 5:44 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: NOLS/Outward Bound - Wilderness Education

Postby shidobu » Fri May 02, 2008 5:44 am UTC

Ah, fair enough. I don't think we went on more than a couple of hikes that had those (those being the overly structured week-long Summer Camp or Winter Camps), and yeah, I wasn't a huge fan of that either.

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Re: NOLS/Outward Bound - Wilderness Education

Postby Spoffin » Fri May 02, 2008 8:59 am UTC

Izawwlgood wrote: You also get college credit for it. So, comparitively, you get two classes worth of credits (I think 8 hrs in total), and it cost what would have been 3-4 classes (so 12-16 respectively) from a good college for coursework.

They just don't do stuff like that over here. That sucks.
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Re: NOLS/Outward Bound - Wilderness Education

Postby rdub » Fri May 02, 2008 1:14 pm UTC

I am totally going to do a NOLS course. My dad took one a few years back, and he recently said he'd pay for us kids to do one. I'd go a different direction than you though, and take a mountaineering course, which along with what you've said should be pretty physically exhausting as well.

As for gear, each trip has requirements for the stuff you have to bring along. The mountaineering ones require that you buy quite a bit of stuff (or you can rent it)

Spoffin wrote:How long does it last, how much does it cost, and do you need to be American to do it?

You don't have to be American at all. Many of their courses are on different continents

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Re: NOLS/Outward Bound - Wilderness Education

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri May 02, 2008 1:31 pm UTC

My friend did the mountaineering course (Wyoming I believe) and said it was pretty tiring, but compared to the pace he would have set, it was geared to the lowest denominator. Which is to be expected I suppose, I felt the same way on my trip, granted, him and I are both in pretty decent shape and are pretty competitive with our 'lets move move move' mentality about tripping.

I would say NOLS falls a bit on the 'gear-ier' side then a minimal trip, despite being of the 'Leave no Trace' ethos, which IS minimal camping. But they bring extra first aid gear, ample food and water, and 'extra-curricular' stuff for the ambitious students to try (Spear fishing gear and tackle on my trip, jumars and the stuff for tenting yourself on the wall on my buddies), as well as a LIBRARY (About 10-30 lbs of books). But remember, your on the trip with 14 some odd people, so an extra 30-50 lbs doesn't really hurt.

Again though, I would say camping isn't about insane minimalism, of which NOLS prescribes too, it's about preparedness with the least amount of gear you can take. They use MSR gear, which is reliable, not flashy, and pretty light. They discourage fires as it isn't really LNT.

I was kayaking, so we were a bit more flexible with our gear encumbrance, but there was a discernible difference between being resupplied and being at the end of that (I would sit 2 inches lower in the water when we were full on water and food). My buddies was a bit better (less library).

And just so it's said, Boy Scouts are great for getting started on this sort of thing.
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peter
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Re: NOLS/Outward Bound - Wilderness Education

Postby peter » Fri May 02, 2008 9:36 pm UTC

I did a Wilderness Ventures.

We were in Costa Rica. It was pretty fun.

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Re: NOLS/Outward Bound - Wilderness Education

Postby stockpot » Sun May 04, 2008 3:16 am UTC

NOLS sounds amazing, but all the courses are either incredibly expensive or they take during the summer when I'd prefer to be getting paid for my living outside. Besides getting a degree, are there any other ways of getting into outdoor leadership?


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