Since 1968, the Boulder Outdoor Survival School —- known to most simply as BOSS — has delivered life-changing, wilderness-based experiences to adventurous people from around the world. “Know more, carry less” is one of our core philosophies and at BOSS, students are taught how to survive and even thrive without all the modern equipment people today feel is necessary. As a result of their time on the trail with us, people gain competency in the wilderness and confidence in themselves.
The BOSS Mission
The Boulder Outdoor Survival School is dedicated to the instruction and preservation of traditional living skills and the development of people through experiences within the natural world.
Keeping Traditions Alive
For over four decades, BOSS has sought to teach and preserve traditional living skills – the skills that native peoples around the world have used for tens of thousands of years to survive and thrive in the world around them. We focus on these skills because we believe that some of the wisdom of ancient cultures can be found in them: there is beauty in a buckskin shirt, simplicity in a friction fire technique, artistry in an obsidian point. The skills to produce such things require an intimate understanding of the natural world, its materials, its rhythms and its cycles. By teaching students the traditional living skills of the Ancestral Puebloans, the Navajo, and the Fremont (to name but a few), we create a connection between cultures that crosses time and space. With this comes an opportunity for a new perspective on our modern world.
We do not seek to live in the past, nor to live in fear of catastrophe. We do, however, hope to bring the wisdom of the past and the knowledge of traditional skills with us into the future.
Better People Through Adversity
The second half of the BOSS mission statement focuses on the development of people through experiences in the natural world. Our courses take place in the wilderness for a reason: Mother Nature is one of the greatest catalysts for insight, growth, renewal and discovery. Hike through the astounding beauty of Southern Utah and you will not be the same. But more than that, BOSS facilitates an experience within that wilderness that seeks to take you out of your comfort zone and put you in a place where you must stretch to grow – physically, mentally or emotionally. This is especially true on our Field courses, where we may intentionally push your buttons. Not in a malicious or sadistic way, of course, but in a way that is consistent with the rites of passage that have always given people the chance to transform into something better.
What BOSS Is Not
BOSS is not for everyone. What we are not is just as important as what we are, so please take a minute to read this.
BOSS is not a military survival program
BOSS courses teach how indigenous cultures around the world have survived in harmony with the land for thousands of years. If you want a “Boot Camp” or “Rambo” experience, please consider something else. If you want to learn to walk a softer path through the wilderness – a path that teaches sustainability of resources and respect for the land – please consider joining us at BOSS.
BOSS is not a youth therapy program.
People sometimes mistakenly assume that BOSS students are young kids, or that we are working with juvenile delinquents who need to be “whipped into shape” on the trail. In reality, our students are quite the opposite. People come to BOSS voluntarily to learn a low-technology, wilderness education curriculum. Although we do admit people as young as 18, our typical students range from the mid-20’s to later 50’s; our oldest has been 73. All of our students are mature people who come to BOSS to enjoy a unique wilderness experience.
BOSS is not for passive people.
We believe that lessons are best learned from personal, hands-on experience. For Skills courses, this means cutting, creating, and building, each day of the course. For Field and Explorer courses, this means hiking, climbing, and probably sweating during your time on the trail. For all courses, this means contributing to the experience of the trip and taking responsibility for the outcome.
BOSS courses are not offered risk-free.
The wilderness is beyond our control. Nature is beyond our control. We hope that you will understand this and embrace the opportunity we are offering you: a chance to live in the moment and experience the wilderness to the fullest. We are, of course, safety-conscious but you should understand the realities of being in remote wilderness and accept those inherent risks.
BOSS Field Courses are not easy.
If you want to relax and be catered to, please consider something other than a BOSS Field course. On a Field course, one of our goals is to push you while we teach you new ways of traveling in the wilderness. This means you should arrive in good shape (not get in good shape while on the trail) and be willing to explore the Utah deserts and mountains with us. Other BOSS courses are typically less challenging, but you should still expect to participate and learn actively.
BOSS courses are not impossible.
Thousands of our alumni from all over the globe will tell you their course opened their eyes to a new world, and that the BOSS experience is definitely worth the effort. While we know it might not be for everyone, a BOSS course can be magical for the right type of person. We hope you’ll join us on the trail.