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Trip FAQs

1.What level of wilderness and paddling experience is required for participants to go on a trip?
None! Unless otherwise specified, our experiences are designed to accommodate people of all levels of experience. Our highly trained and equipped instructors will teach you everything you need to know to thrive in the wilderness. We just ask that you be willing to challenge yourself and try new things. Our experiences operate on a ‘challenge by choice’ principle. This means that, regardless of your experience level, you should expect to be challenged. This will look different for everyone; some challenges may be physical, some mental, some relational, some spiritual.

2.What would you say to a potential participant who’s nervous that they’ll slow the group down with slow paddling or limited skills, etc?
You have a unique role in the group, and the group needs you. Each person here, including you, has unique strengths, and brings something of value to this community. Similarly, each person has areas where they can improve. If you look at your area for improvement as a learning opportunity instead of as a weakness that hinders the group, you will learn so much more, and overcome it! The point of our experiences is not to simply get from location A to location B as fast as possible; we are journeying. This means that what happens along the way is just as or more important than the physical destination.

3.How many participants and leaders are typically on a trip?
Our experiences are rooted in the small group development model. This is where we tend to see the most significant growth. In light of that, each trip will have two highly trained, mature instructors and typically 5 to 10 students.

4.What sort of training do the trip leaders undergo?
Our instructors take part in a comprehensive six week wilderness instructor training program. Training involves participation in our Wilderness Leader Expedition, a three week back-country trip to learn the Coldwater way, practice technical skills appropriate to our course area and to examine ones attitudes and practices as a leader.  During this time they are trained in paddling technique, camp craft, navigation, fire building, and cooking. Each leader is required to carry an Advanced Wilderness First Aid or Wilderness First Responder certification and courses are provided here at our basecamp by an industry leading wilderness medical school.  They also spend over 2 weeks studying small group development, the journey of spiritual formation, the stages of adolescence and psychological development and practices of an experiential educator.   A large part of their training is practical, hands-on experience, whether that be teaching a lesson on map and compass to their co-participants, or leading a morning devotional for the summer team.

5.Can participants take their phones or other technology on the trips?
One of the greatest reasons we head out into the wilderness is to give our students a break from the immense volume of noise that we encounter every day in the world in which we live. As such, we ask our participants to leave all hand held devices in a safe storage area at our base camp. Time away from technology allows participants to be fully present with one another, and gives the group the best chance to become a tight-knit community. Practically, cell phones will not have reception in the back country, and there is the risk of damage to electronics if they are brought out.  Coldwater has a camera that goes out on trips to capture photos of our experience together. Coldwater provides the opportunity for participants to collaborate and share their photos after the trip is over.

6.Are the trips safe?
Every precaution is taken to ensure the safety of all staff and participants on a trip. Instructors are individuals who have proven themselves to be competent and mature in the wilderness, and have received a high degree of risk management training that is consistent with the outdoor programs industry standard.  Our Wilderness First Responder course trains leaders to think preventatively, minimize risk and to identify hazards that are common to the wilderness environment.  This being said, there is an element of risk in any wilderness environment and our courses take place in the wilderness.

7.What happens in the case of an emergency?
In the unlikely event of an emergency that cannot be handled with the available first aid supplies and training, instructors are equipped with a satellite locator device and can relay a dependable message back to our base camp, or in the event of a life threatening emergency can active the Emergency Response system.  These messages pinpoint the exact location of the group, facilitating a quicker response.  Leaders are trained with an emergency protocol that facilitates the best patient care possible as well as the well-being of the entire group.

8.What kind of food do you eat on the trips?
It’s delicious and nutritious! We take food seriously, since we are so active during the day. In addition to providing the necessary nutrients to re-fuel our bodies, our meals are a core part of our wilderness experiences. Students play a large role in the planning and cooking of meals, and are given opportunities to be creative, and experiment. Most of the food we bring is dehydrated, with the exception of a fresh meal or two at the start of the trip. Our dried food is the real deal, but saves on space and weight. Each meal contains a flavor base and a balance of vegetables, carbohydrates, and proteins. Cooking great meals, hot drinks, and snacks are often one of the highlights for our participants, so come prepared to be creative!

9.Do participants have any down time during the trip to relax?
Days in a Coldwater wilderness course are full but we are strong believers in the importance of fun and reflection and taking the time to listen and recognize Christ while in the wilderness. Morning quiet times are an integral part of our daily routine, as are evening group conversations. Should the opportunity present itself, we are commonly found swimming, chatting while cooking up dinner, or sitting around the fire as the night deepens.

10.What would you say to a participant who’s been to a stay-over bible camp, and loved it? Are there certain elements that might be familiar to them on a Coldwater trip?
Come on a trip! Similar to camp, you will have leaders (we call them instructors) with you for the whole week. You will get to swim, have morning devotions, and make strong friendships.  You will also learn some new skills such as making a good fire, learning to cook, set up a strong shelter, paddle skills, and how to navigate with a map and compass!

11. Are all trips strictly girl/guy specific?
Trips for younger ages are typically gender specific while some of the courses for older students are co-ed.   Students often benefit from learning to cooperatively work with the opposite gender. If a trip is co-ed, there will be one male and one female instructor on the trip, and students sleep separately in gender-specific shelters. The simple ‘no guys in girls cabins and no girls in guys cabins’ rule applies just the same when we’re out in the woods.

12. Is it easy to make friends on a Coldwater trip?
Yes! Making lasting friendships is one of the most common things we hear about from our participants! Strong friendships are a staple of a Coldwater experience, because we are all about authentic community. Authentic community is where the good, bad, and ugly all come out – and in the end, everyone grows stronger from it. We frequently see radical transformation in groups as they spend a week in the woods together.

13. Do participants need to have strong swimming skills? If a participant is a weak swimmer, is this a problem?
No. Our policy on trips is that if you are in water or on water (ie, in a canoe), then you are wearing a coast guard approved lifejacket. If swimming isn’t your strong point, come anyways! But please tell us about your swimming ability!  This won’t affect your trip and you will enjoy a great experience along with everyone in your group.

14. What is a typical day like on a trip?
After wakeup, our morning routine typically includes a delicious and nutritious breakfast with hot drinks, a morning devotional, a period of quiet time for reflection, journaling, and prayer, and then we pack up camp to head out for the day! A hearty lunch is usually eaten on a large rock jutting out near the water, or in a shady nook if the day is hot. In the afternoon we continue travelling until we reach our campsite. Usually a snack gets pulled out, and after that’s polished off, we set to work pitching shelters, gathering lots of wood, and lighting a fire. Water is boiled to cook dinner, and then it’s time to sit down and relax with a meal. Evenings are often spent learning more about each other as we share a bit of our story, and reflecting about the day, sharing highlights, frustrations, or things we learned.

15. What happens during bad weather?
Bad weather is one of the environmental realities of a wilderness trip and we prepare for that! We assume bad weather is going to come, so we prepare ourselves. Since we can’t control the weather, we employ several defenses to minimize the risk and discomfort associated with it. These include quality rain gear, warm synthetic clothing, and dry bags for personal belongings. Additionally, we have a lightning policy that dictates when we need to get off of the water or the trail and hang tight until the storm passes.

Health Forms

(An electronic signature can be used on fillable PDF forms and emailed to Coldwater Staff HERE . Please be sure to download the fillable PDF to your computer and open in Adobe Acrobat Reader. Other forms can be downloaded, printed, filled in and returned to Coldwater Foundation).