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There’s no better place to build leadership skills, teamwork, and confidence — and disconnect from the digital world — than in the outdoors.

If you’re prepared and have an adventurous spirit, exploring the sheer beauty and awe-inspiring scope of the wilderness can be life changing. Those who take a gap year with Winterline will spend two weeks backpacking and learning outdoor skills and wilderness advanced first aid in the Wind River Range of the Rocky Mountains.

This rugged excursion at the start of Winterline's gap year program prepares students for nine months of adventure abroad. When we say rugged, we mean personally challenging! There’s no time for long mountain naps in a deluxe RV or iPhones — you will not find wifi anywhere. Students will be sleeping on the trail, cooking their own meals on camp stoves, and learning to overcome challenges in a wilderness setting.

Students will certainly test their strength and fortitude in Wyoming with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) in a program designed specifically for Winterline. They’ll travel approximately 40 miles at elevations ranging from 8,000 to 12,000 feet and summit two peaks, with everything they own on their backs. It will be an amazing experience to start Winterline’s nomadic journey and family.

NOLS was founded on, and strongly believes that positive, ethical leaders change the world. Based on this belief, NOLS has become the leader in wilderness education. NOLS instructors believe that leadership can be learned, and thus have been trained in the NOLS leadership curriculum, outdoor ethics, and wilderness skills to help every student become the strongest leader he or she can be. Perfect!

The skills on the trail will be unbeatable: goal-setting, teamwork, leadership, navigation, cooking, survival skills, first aid, and emergency procedures, just to name a few.

But remember, preparing for the trip now is important. You won’t be able to Google ‘How to Hike in the Mountains’ or text message your outdoorsy uncle for quick tips. While backpacking in the mountains, there are many key things to remember. Here are just three of many:

  • Don’t underestimate how much you need water. When expending energy at high elevations, your body will need lots of H2O readily available.
  • Improve your conditioning before the trip. Don't wait to work your way into shape before the expedition; exercise ahead of time, so your body is in tip top shape.
  • Be sweet to your feet. High-quality wool socks and carefully selected hiking boots will help prevent blisters and fatigue. Remember, the wrong footwear can singlehandedly derail your outdoor experience.

Packing for Your Expedition

Before your journey begins, you’ll receive a detailed packing list from Winterline. This list will be extensive and include critical items such as:

  • Sleeping bag and pad
  • Hiking backpack
  • Boots
  • Headlamp
  • Lip balm and sunscreen
  • Insect repellant
  • Eating utensils

Keep in mind, the list you get from Winterline will be highly detailed, with information on how to rent some of your gear instead of buying it if needed.

Renting is a good option, too. Winterline and our partner NOLS offer the perfect hiking items that were selected and have been maintained with our program specifically in mind. Plus, you can purchase the equipment after if you really like it.

Expecting to Adapt

Going on an outdoor excursion takes prep work, including mental preparation that sometimes can be forgotten between the buying, sorting, and packing as well. In the months leading up to your trip, think about how positive this experience will be, but also how you’ll react if fatigue strikes and unfamiliar territory present themselves. At the same time, remember that experts and Winterline's Field Advisors will be available to support you along the way. Plus, you'll get to know your peers and the students you'll spend nine months with even more.

Best of all, you’ll emerge from the wilderness better equipped to learn, lead, interact, grow, and enjoy your gap year — wherever it takes you and the group next.