As NWOBS prepares to resume programming, we have taken a number of precautions to adapt our courses based on recommendations from local, state and federal agencies.  We have used CDC, state Health Authority guidance for summer camps, and Outdoor Recreation and American Camp Association guidance to inform our updated program operations.

The safety and well-being of our staff and students is our number one priority.  These guidelines are designed with this tenet at their core.



What is NWOBS doing to reduce the likelihood of someone bringing COVID-19 to course?

Enhanced Screening - During screening, and in communications from Student Services leading up to course, applicants are asked to disclose any travel or contact history that would put them in a higher risk category for contracting or transmitting COVID-19. Travel history includes any travel from/through high- or medium-risk areas as defined by the CDC at the time of the conversation, and contact history includes close contact with anyone with a confirmed or presumed case of COVID-19 or anyone with an acute respiratory disease AND a relevant travel history. Do not come to your NWOBS course if you have any COVID-19 symptoms including:  cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever, chills, muscle pain, sore throat or new loss of taste or smell.  If you have been in contact with someone who has confirmed COVID-19 or suspected COVID-19 in the past 14-day, please do not come to course.

COVID-19 Testing - All students and staff must provide a current negative COVID-19 viral test result within 72-hours before arrival to course.

Travel Restrictions - For the health and safety of students and staff in the COVID-19 pandemic, students may be asked to use private modes of travel (non-commercial transportation) to and from course.When traveling to the course start location: maintain physical distancing in public spaces, wash your hands frequently, wear a face covering in public, avoid touching your face with unwashed hands and avoid dine-in restaurants.


What do families and participants need to consider before course start? 

At times students will be in close proximity to other students or instructors. Physical Distancing will be maintained, as much as possible, during the first 12-days of course. The possibility of illness exists on course.  Communicable disease and other infectious disease from insects, animals or people and other debilitating or life-threatening illnesses like COVID-19 may occur.

Our courses take place in remote locations and are often removed from immediate medical care.  Transportation to medical care may be delayed. Our staff are trained to NWOBS standards and will use their best judgment to make safety and risk management calls.  Because of this, decision making may be imprecise.


What protocols should participants follow before their course start?  

For 14 days prior to your course start, we request that students limit their interaction with people outside their family, and use proper PPE, good hygiene practices and physical distancing as recommended by the CDC.

During the 3-day period between a student’s mandatory negative COVID-19 viral test and course start, students should continue these protocols, and also avoid large crowds/gatherings and limit unnecessary travel.


Will there be new paperwork to fill out?

All students and parents will need to sign an additional COVID-19 Statement of Understanding that outlines your responsibilities and commitment to making sure that you are able to arrive at Outward Bound healthy. We also require a Health Declaration Form.


Will my child be denied acceptance to Outward Bound  if they have underlying health conditions? 

Having an underlying health condition would not automatically exclude anyone from participating in Outward Bound. All students undergo a medical screening process to make sure that they are safe and fit candidates for their specific course. Students with underlying conditions are advised to check with their physicians about any additional risks of contracting a communicable disease. 




Will you administer COVID-19 viral tests at the beginning of course?

Upon arrival at your course start, our instructors will do a heath check with you.  They will collect your health history over the last 14-day, changes to medication, your travel history for the last 14-days and take a baseline temperature. Students who have symptoms or high- or medium-risk factors will be assessed, and staff will consult with local health authorities before including the student on course.

Why do I need to get tested and what are the conditions? 

Once you and your group begin your expedition, you will be living and acting as a family unit while on the expedition.  This means that after 12-days,  you won’t need to practice social distancing or other preventative measures because your group will maintain isolation for the well-being of the whole group.  Assuming that everyone in the group begins the course having tested negative for COVID-19, we can be relatively confident of maintaining the integrity of the overall group’s health.  


Will I be required to wear a face mask while at Outward Bound?

You will be asked to wear a face mask in specific situations at specific times.  However, you will not need to wear a mask for the vast majority of your Outward Bound experience.  We have structured your Outward Bound course so that your group can distance itself from other non-course staff and groups. You will be required to wear a mask at the drop-off location for the start of the course, and periodically throughout the expedition if you are unable to socially distance from people outside of your expedition brigade.  During the first 12-days of course, there will be times when you will need to wear a face covering due to proximity to other group members.  Face coverings will always be used while preparing and serving food. You and your group will also need to wear masks if someone within the group presents symptoms that cannot be attributed to another illness, or if you need to leave the course for any health reason to visit a doctor. We have added two washable cloth face masks and a buff to the packing list.


Will staff be required to wear masks? 

Staff will be required to wear masks when they need to interact with people outside of the immediate group and social distancing is not possible, as well as in the situations described in student face mask protocols, above. 


What preventative measures will be taken during the course to prevent the spread of communicable disease?

Daily Health Checks: Our instructors will be performing daily health checks with each student.  These will include conversations about how you are feeling, your adaptation to the course itself and daily temperature check.  If a student presents with any signs of symptoms of COVID-19, they will be immediately separated from the group and evacuated for testing.

In Field Practices:

    • Physical Distancing for the first 12-days of course.  Physical Distancing practices will be maintained as much as possible and masks will be worn when physical distancing is not possible.  After 12-days, the group will be considered a “stable group” and physical distancing practices will be relaxed.
    • Food preparation: all staff and students who are preparing food will be wearing masks and frequently washing their hands.
    • Sleeping:  When possible, students will have their own individual shelters.  When sharing larger tarps, students will sleep at least 30” apart.
    • Frequent opportunities for handwashing will be created throughout the day.  When water is limited, students will have their own hand sanitizer to use regularly.
    • Hygiene: students will be taught rigorous hygiene and sanitation standards.  These will include regular sanitation of serving utensils and dishes, daily sanitation of high touch gear, handwashing standards, walking away to sneeze or cough into the crook of an arm and then washing hands, not touching face with unwashed hands.


Will other NWOBS support staff also be tested for COVID-19? 

All program staff with direct interaction with students will be tested. The frequency of testing will be triggered by the prevalence of COVID-19 in the local area.


What happens if someone in the group exhibits COVID-19-like symptoms?

We will take every precaution to keep you healthy while you are on your course. If students arrive at course with flu-like symptoms or any COVID-19 symptoms, they will not be allowed to join the course. If a student or staff member shows symptoms of COVID-19 on course, they will be separated from the group.  Staff will seek medical consultation and likely the student will be evacuated for testing. Depending on the situation, our goal would be for the rest of the group to continue with their expedition during this time. Upon receiving clearance from our school consulting physician or the local clinic, the student may be able to return to the group. We have set aside specific cabins and tents at our basecamps to be used as places for a student or staff person to isolate if necessary.


What happens if someone in the group tests positive for COVID-19?

Despite pre-course-screening, physical distancing requirements, good hygiene, and careful measures, it is impossible to guarantee that you will not contract COVID-19 while at Outward Bound. If a student does test positive for COVID-19, Outward Bound will isolate and care for the student on-site until a parent can travel to the basecamp (within a 48 hour window) and assume care of the student off site. Outward Bound will seek medical care based on the student’s signs and symptoms and local medical advice, involving parents in the conversation as practical.


What is your quarantine plan?

Each basecamp will essentially be isolated. Only essential visitors (health inspectors, camp doctors, food delivery, etc.) will be allowed on property for the duration of the season. Visitors will wear masks and practice physical distancing while on site.  


Could Outward Bound still be canceled?

We hope not, but the answer is yes. Our decision to open has been made after careful reflection on risk versus reward. As we gather new information and assess the most current information on disease spread, we reserve the right to cancel programming if we feel that is the safest option for the health and safety of our students and staff. We are also following state guidelines. Should OR or WA see a significant rise in disease spread and implement additional directives, we may not be able to run programs. Both of our basecamps in OR and WA are in remote areas that have not yet seen significant numbers of cases.  

Sign Up for Updates

Stay informed on Northwest Outward Bound School news and updates! Please fill out the form below to begin receiving our email newsletter.