What To Expect


Credit: Henri Marius
The view of a sunrise while peeking out of the entrance to a tent.

Your alarm beeps: Time to begin!

  • Wake up and enjoy the view. 
Enjoying a freshly picked addition to breakfast in the Chugach Mountain Range in Alaska.

Breakfast: Let’s eat

  • Fire up your camp stove to heat water for a hot beverage while planning what to make for breakfast—maybe granola, oatmeal, or hashbrowns.
  • Cooking: Everyone takes turns cooking. Don’t worry—your instructors and NOLS recipe books will be nearby, so even if you’re a first-time cook you’ll have plenty of guidance. Most courses cook meals on a Whisperlite camp stove. Courses in a base camp setting and river courses use two-burner propane stoves. 
Students loading up their sea kayaks on shore next to the stunning aqua waters of the Sea of Cortez in Baja California, Mexico.

Pack up camp

  • For many courses, you’ll move to a new camp each day. This may include taking down tents, packing up your backpack or loading up boats, and checking the campsite for any garbage left behind.
  • Hygiene: Though you won’t have access to a shower on your course, you can still maintain good hygiene. Your instructors will coach you on all levels of staying clean, including hand and clothes washing, going to the bathroom, and even toothbrushing. 
Students out sailing a 35 to 40-foot keelboat on the Marlborough Sound in New Zealand.

Travel through the wilderness

  • Grow your wilderness skills in navigating, decision making, and route finding as you travel to a new camp
  • Soak in the scenery and keep an eye out for unique wildlife and plant life
  • Leadership roles: Each day you’ll take turns filling different roles to practice leadership skills.
A student throws a tarp over their tent in the process of setting up camp in Alaska.

You’ve arrived! Time to set up camp

  • When you arrive at the next campsite, you’ll make the new site your home as you unpack and set up tents according to the principles of Leave No Trace. 
  • Sharing chores: You’ll be responsible for helping out with chores around camp, which might include cooking, carrying water, and other parts of camp craft
  • Debrief: Debriefs are an important tool your instructors use to help you make the most of your experiential learning. They’re a chance for your group to talk about what you learned and set goals for tomorrow
A pot of fresh cucumbers, carrots, peppers, and other vegetables steams over a camping stove.


  • Time for another hot meal—maybe this time you’ll give cooking pizza on a camp stove a try.
Students enjoy a campfire amidst the rugged Southwestern desert landscape.

Evening meeting

  • Evening meetings are a time to gather, reflect, play games, have classes, and make plans for the next day.

Time for bed

  • Once you’ve organized everything in camp, it’s time to curl up in your sleeping bag and dream about where you’ll go tomorrow…