Consumer Complaints and Reviews
I'd first learned about Outward Bound when I was a teen and over the years I read everything I could find about the program. An excellent book about it is "Outward Bound: Schools of the Possible" which is out of print but which you can probably find in libraries or on Amazon. In 2005 I finally got the opportunity to go, at age 43, participating in a week-long adults (30 years of age and older) white water rafting trip in Idaho. The course lived up to every expectation I had to it and in fact exceeded my expectations. I cannot tell you that every OB course will be as good as the one I went on. We were blessed to have two very competent guides as instructors and the seven students, who ranged from age 30 to 50 and who came from all over the country, really meshed well as a group. The daily physical challenges of rafting were matched by the emotional highs we had during evening group discussions.
Outward Bound can be dangerous--on the third day of our trip another classmate and I wrecked our raft and we were very lucky we didn't drown in the roughest rapids on the river. A great deal of improvised teamwork and problem-solving rescued us. Outward Bound doesn't solve people's problems, if they come to the course with them. It may give you a new context through which to examine your strengths and weaknesses but you're only going to get out of it what you are willing to put into it. I would not recommend OB as a way for a parent to try and straighten out a kid who has behavioral problems, not serious ones anyway. It's not a school for people trying to overcome drug and alcohol addictions.
I was lucky in that my group really worked well together. Everyone came to the course with their own motivations (one was an OB alumni) and goals. There was a lot of diversity in backgrounds and everyone got into the self-revelation style that our course seemed to take on. I can say this, I told my classmates some things about myself that I've never talked about to anyone else. Perhaps the anonymity of the experience, that I would unlikely see these people again, lent to that freedom of personal expression. They were gracious, every one of them, and confidences were often shared.
Again, we were also lucky that our two guides, one male, one female, were so technically competent but also, despite being only 30 years old, "old souls" who each had a lot of wisdom for being almost the youngest people in the group. The more competent the class became, the more the guides faded into the background until the last night of the trip they left the class completely alone. My only complaint about the trip was that we only got to do a "solo" for 12 hrs but given it was only an 8 day course, there wasn't time for anything more. It was a great 12 hr experience though.
My advice for people considering going--be in reasonably good shape before you get there because the courses are going to be demanding at times. Be willing to look at yourself and at others in a totally new way. Look at it as a chance to be of service to strangers, to try and help out the teammate who is struggling perhaps. If you've got addiction problems or mental health problems, OB is probably not where you should be.
My 17-year old daughter just did a 2-week trip at OB, North Carolina. She came back happy and excited, reporting that her "crew" had become family to her. She was a bit bruised from one fall while running (a dog, apparently, got excited and got under her feet), but she had gained confidence in herself, a love of nature, and a more open mind about people and challenges. We couldn't be more happy. I read reviews about others who had bad experiences. I can't speak to what happened to others. In our particular case, it was tremendous for our daughter.
I attended a semester course with Outward Bound Costa Rica when I was 20 and my expectations were exceeded to say the least. I got to explore the amazing country, be immersed in the culture, learn from well educated and knowledgeable instructors and participate in outdoor recreation activities. Outward Bound focuses on experiential learning and teaching leadership skills to participants. My course opened my eyes to the world around me, gave me a newfound sense of purpose in this world. While on course you learn social skills, academic skills, and life skills. I learned more in my 65 days with OBCR than I did in my 13 years of public schooling. I would absolutely recommend Outward Bound to anyone who is looking for an eye-opening, life changing, adventure packed trip.
I took a five-day course for people over 40. As someone who grew up in Colorado with a good deal of backpacking and survival training, I was shocked at how bad the program was. We had far too much food for the number of people and days, but the instructor never suggested that we should have pared it down until it was too late. Our packs were too heavy to lift alone, filled with excess crap we never used. The instructor acted like a New Age guru but did very little to teach wilderness skills. As the most skilled person there, I was the one showing people how to set up tents and make the stoves work.
The instructor set out on an impassable route. One of the young women nearly had heat stroke (this was in Canyonlands) and I'm not surprised that a few years later, another young woman died in the same place under the same stupid circumstances. My lasting souvenir of Outward Bound is a compressed disc in my back from the heavy pack. I believe in being smart in the wilderness, not in making an experience as difficult as possible just to make it challenging. Shockingly unsafe and unprofessional.
I just got back from a grade trip to the outward bound school yesterday. I am in the 8th grade; and I want to say outward bound changed my life dramatically in a good way. My instructors were amazing. We called them Mad Dogg and Easy V. We also got nicknames throughout the week. Whenever we were homesick or nervous about something they would help us out. I became extremely close to my crew members. I learned to be compassionate, to be independent, to be a good team member, and that my opinion actually mattered - that meant a lot to me. Everyday different people had different jobs like being trail leader, camp leader, first aid leader, cooks, hydration monitor, and someone to make sure we left the site how we arrived. Sure we had heavy packs but the weight was distributed equally and through the experience we learned to work as a team.
When I rock climbed I was terrified but every crew member and my instructors were cheering me on; and I knew they had me and would not let anything happen to me. At the end I was able to do it and it was amazing. Another thing the food is amazing and so what if a little dirt gets in, that just means more flavor. After all dirt is the flavoring of the earth. When we had to cross a creek our instructors stood in a freezing cold creek for us helping us pass one by one. That was so amazing of them. One night before dinner we made a crew flag and wrote our poem together (the instructors stepped out for this). When we finished we decided to go around and share our insecurities with each other then we went around telling what we liked about each person in the circle; it was extremely moving.
Outward Bound teaches you to go beyond your limits and to be compassionate. Outward Bound really changed me for the better and changed my future and maybe even my life. So you should do Outward Bound. So what if it might go wrong? Then it will go right. I promise you won’t regret it. It will change your life for the better.
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I was forced to go on Outward Bound in year 9, forced to drink filthy water out filthy creeks. Iodine was added which I was allergic to. Iodine contributed to diabetes that I now have. I was very ill, threw up everyday and had terrible diarrhea but they would not send me home. We were forced to carry 50kg packs 15km per day causing me permanent back, neck, knee and ankle injuries. I have to go to physio regularly because of this. I sprained my ankle but was forced to carry on.
We were forced to go rafting, no life jackets were supplied. I cannot swim. I ran out of toilet paper they would not give me any more. We were given a piece of plastic to sleep under. Ours had holes in, we got wet when it rained. It resulted in hypothermia. I got very ill, ended up shaking. I already had kidney and liver damage from cancer and was still forced to go on a 10-day Outward Bound. Because of the damage Outward Bound did to my body, at 32 I have to walk with a stick and probably need a rollator to walk soon.
I myself am the Alumni of two Outward Bound Expeditions, the first in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota and the second in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. I will say that there are several problems when attending an Outward Bound expedition. I had seen several of my now very good friends get severely injured, some passed out and many came close while battling dehydration, extreme hunger, terrain and some very intense weather storms that scared me to death. Keeping this in mind, it is all part of the experience. I saw many of my buddies reach their breaking points and then they passed them and grew in ways I had never seen before.
Outward Bound is dangerous, you know that going in, you know that when you sign up, it is what you hope for when attending. Of course there are dangers in all expeditions, no one told you it was safe or easy by any means. All these negative reviews are from people, or parents of kids who went and simply couldn't "hack" it, so of course they didn't enjoy it. I didn't enjoy all of my time out there. What I did enjoy was completing my course with confidence and coming home to a well earned bed and an American cheese burger, also well earned. If I had failed on course and gone home without completing it, of course I would have been upset, but not with Outward Bound, with myself, however I might have taken it out on Outward bound for sure, but truly it would have been based on my own failures.
Coming home I was fairly well traumatized by some of my experiences. I was young, but I was more than proud, more than confident. I felt ten feet tall and bullet proof. I owe everything I have, everything I have become to Outward Bound and for that I thank them, my instructors and my peers out there, who I still keep in touch with to this day. Outward Bound is certainly not for the weak at heart and I mean that too. If however you think you can hack it and your bull headed, I would encourage you from the bottom of my heart to take a leap of faith, give it all you got, it will change your life forever!! Don't give up either, or you might end up like some of the sorry wimps on here. This is coming from someone with military experience by the way (after outward bound).
My son was expelled from Outward Bound along with six other students of a group of 12 for smoking pot. They were 8 days into the semester leadership course and apparently there was not adequate supervision or oversight. There was very little communication with the parents, all I received was a one minute phone call from staff member indicating that my son has been expelled - All over 21, and at night. While I don't approve of pot, it should have been handled better. For $14,000 I would expect more engaging process. There are seven very angry sets of parents.
I sent my daughter on a 22-day mountaineering course with Colorado Outward Bound. During that time she injured her ankle and had to be taken to an ER to be examined. Communication from her instructors to me was questionable; they were unable to give me a clear understanding of what was going on - I only knew my daughter was in the ER, with no clue whether or not she was okay. It was 2 days before I was able to gather from them that it was a mere sprain. According to my daughter, the students on the course were often mean to her, in verbally abusive and sexually harassing manners. Despite bringing this to her instructor's attention, nothing was done to resolve the problem. She reported feeling uncomfortable within her group and unsupported by the staff who were working with her. She stuck it out for the entire course, but was unhappy with her experience. She has been emotionally impacted by the cruelty she suffered and we would not recommend Colorado Outward Bound for you or your children.
My son also recently attended an Instructor Development course with Colorado Outward Bound School. After 20 days on course he voluntarily left on his own after he encountered problems with the instructional staff. One particular female instructor that had issues with lack of professionalism and adherence to the stated Outward Bound core values. My son came back from this nightmare of a course - experience much worse than when he went so instead of improving him they broke him down and tore him apart. Due to the issues with the horrible instructor that he had I tried to work something out with, the director of the school however my attempts fell on deaf ears and now I am out over 7000.00. Once again I would not waste my time or money with this organization. They are a rip off and will steal it from you if you let them. There are much better similar organizations to Outward Bound out there and you will get a whole lot more for your money than this outfit.
My two sons went on a three month long adventure tour with a school who says that they change peoples lives. Outward Bound has a good reputation worldwide and we assumed this group was also doing what it takes to be a great, non-profit organization, helping people by providing a great experience. Their Mission Statement claims they help people discover and developmet their potential to care for themselves, others and the world around them through challenging experiences in unfamiliar settings.
We paid over $15,000 for the two of them to complete this adventure together, my oldest son 23 years old, lasted three weeks. He sprained his wrist during the hiking section, was administered a plaster cast, which washed off in the next rainstorm and was still asked to do chores with the sprain. When he fell on the wrist again, while doing chores, they sent him home. We tried to work it out with the school whereby he could stay at their base camp, or in a nearby hostel, until the wrist healed,( a few weeks) then rejoin the group.
CRROBS wouldn't allow that and sent him home, NO REFUND. We have scoured the pages of our signed contract and there is no refund policy written, yet they refused us the right to finish up the remainder of the course in the time period allowed. Only thing offered was to come back later, with course credits.
This is called a semester gap course, once you've put your life on hold to complete this, you don't usually have time or extra money to go back down there to do it again. The 3 weeks he spent there cost the school virtually nothing, they slept outdoors, they provided very little food, as he was always hungry and their tour guides and drivers are paid very little money. I think they are counting on this and I beleive this is how they provide their scholarships for poor little girl guides. It looks great to those looking in, but who paid the girl guides tuition? We did.
My younger son, 20 years old, proceeded on the course, being voted best hiker and winning the best wave award during the surf portion, he enjoyed the activities and some of the participants, despite the negative attitude that was carried through each part of the adventure by some of the leaders.
He got sick on the beach and was left unattended day after day, with vomiting and diahrrea, in a tent (internal temp. 47 degrees Celcius). He was severly dehydrated, they failed to provide adaquate clean water and tried to make him take medication that made him even more ill. When he refused, they became angry with him, gave him electrolytes, but still no water, he forced himself to get up to get his own water and they told him to go cook for the rest of the group, he refused, not wanting to share his intestinal distress, so they made him go clean toilets until he began vomiting again and refused to clean any more, they became enraged with him and sent him home as well, NO REFUNDS.
It is scary to think how close he could have been to dying of dehydration. Once again, in their enrollemt pack, they are not liable for any neglect or poor decisions made by leaders and with this seems to come an attitude of irresponsibilty towards providing adequate care. As a reason to be sent home, the Executive Director told him he could not learn to scuba dive and he might not be safe to dive with. This is surprising since my son has been an underwater snorkeller since he was 7 years old and has swam under water with giant sea turtles and sting rays. I and my 12 year old son have been certified in scuba and no one made us take a psychological test before teaching us.
This school represents themselves in their literature, to be able to help people with addictions, mood disorders, behavioural disorders, or any number of emotional or physical problems. It appears they will take money from anyone, with claims of changing their lives.
When you read the bios of their leaders, non of them have any formal education in any of these areas, and my sons found themselves in a group from 17 to 37 year olds, with all forms of alcohol, drug and emotional problems. The leaders do not appear to be able to handle situations and there was evidence of sex discrimination with one of the leaders against males. They appear to be creating scenarios whereby participants are sent home so they can benifit from unused tuitions, as my sons weren't the only ones to leave the course early.
There are obviously many complaints to be made against this school. It is apparent when even the staff has complaints, as they all went out on strike two days before my sons were to leave for the course. They filed a formal complaint against the Executive Director for misuse of funds as well as unsafe practices. It's too bad they resolved the problems out of court, two weeks later and resumed the semester, as our family wishes that we had never had any connection with this group.
Emotional damage to both of my sons and near loss of life.
Outward Bound Company Profile
- Company Name:
- Outward Bound
- 910 Jackson St #140
- Postal Code:
- United States