Environmental Education Center

W. Alton Jones Campus, 401 Victory Highway, West Greenwich, RI 02817-2158

altonjones@uri.edu – 401.874.8200 (p); 401.397.3293 (f)

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Outdoor Skills

outdoorskillsA Backpack Camping Expedition Ages 11-13

If you enjoy being outside, hiking, camping out, and learning in nature with a small group of like-minded friends, then this program is for you. Check-in is Sunday between 2:00 and 3:00 PM. The program ends with a family program Friday from 2:00-2:30 PM.

The goal of Outdoor Skills is to learn how to have an enjoyable and safe outdoor experience with others through responsible decision-making and using skills appropriate for natural conditions. The week will be spent learning and practicing outdoor living skills, in the forests of the W. Alton Jones Campus and the adjoining Arcadia Management Area.

Sunday through Tuesday morning will be spent on the W. Alton Jones Campus. Sunday is devoted to moving in and meeting and getting to know your fellow campers, junior counselors and counselors in your Outdoor Skills field group. Sunday night also includes an “all camp” campfire activity so you will meet and see other campers and counselors in Earth Camp for the week. You will sleep in rustic screen houses near the Poor Farm Base Camp, which has a bathhouse nearby, and you will eat your meals in the dining hall through Tuesday breakfast.

On Monday and Tuesday you will learn skills that will help you have meaningful outdoor experiences with little impact on the natural environment. You will also learn skills that will help you prepare and plan for your two-day backpacking trip such as:

  • Map and compass reading
  • Food preparation and storage
  • Fire building
  • Environmental hazards
  • Dealing with Weather
  • Using tents
  • Using backpacking equipment
  • Leave-no-trace camping techniques
  • Basic ecology

Group-building activities will help you to get to know the other campers in your group as well as your Counselors. This is important since working together, good communication and understanding each other’s needs is critical when in the backcountry. You will have opportunities to swim, canoe if time permits and participate in some of the all camp games, activities and campfires.

You will also learn how to pack all of the necessary equipment, food and clothing for a two night backpacking trip. Your counselors will teach you about backpacks: how to pick a pack that fits you properly, adjust it for your size, pack it properly, put it on without falling over and methods to stay comfortable when you hike.

On Tuesday morning you will head out on the trail, hiking and taking in the scenery! Your backpacking trip will be a group effort. As you hike it is important to help and encourage each other and work together to find the trail. At the end of each day, when you arrive at the campsite, everyone will share in the responsibilities of setting up tents, cooking and cleaning up after supper. While camping out along the hiking route, the group will practice leave-no-trace camping techniques. This involves camping in a manner that little mark is left on the land when you leave. Food is cooked over small camp stoves, and pots and dishes are washed away from water sources to avoid polluting. Other leave-no-trace practices include carrying out trash, using biodegradable soap and properly disposing of human waste. It is important to be as sensitive as possible to the natural areas that you will visit.

Your hike will include two nights camping out and backpacking in the Rhode Island forests of the 14,200-acre Arcadia Management Area and the 2,300-acre W. Alton Jones Campus. Your backpack hike of 2-4 miles each day will include some of Rhode Island’s nicest scenery. Some highlights include Step Stone Falls, the Falls River, and Penny Hill. If the weather is hot your group may even decide to enjoy a cool wade at the falls. Your group will hike back to camp on Thursday afternoon in time to get ready for dinner in the dining hall and the closing campfire.

On Friday you and your group will help put away all of the equipment that you used, and you will have a chance to reflect on the week, wrap-up and have closing activities. After lunch, there is some time to spend with new friends before the family program begins at 2:00. Sign-out and goodbyes follow at 2:30 PM as the week comes to a close.

You are welcome to bring a backpack from home but it must fit you and have adjustable shoulder straps and a hip belt. Otherwise Alton Jones can provide a backpack for you. In addition to the Earth Camp Packing List, here are a few items to highlight or add:

  • Sleeping pad for backpacking
  • Sleeping bag with stuff sack for it to fit into
  • 2 Water bottles (one liter each) with tight sealing lids
  • Rain gear (preferably jacket and pants)
  • Warm clothes–it can get pretty cool at night even in summer
  • Lightweight non-cotton clothes such as Underarmour shirts and polyester shorts
  • 2 pairs of Wool or Smartwool hiking socks
  • Bowl and spoon (or mess kit) for eating (preferably not metal)
  • Trash bags and Ziplock bags to pack clothes and sleeping bag in to keep it dry if it rains

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