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How to Prepare

Backpacking is a part of this experience but not the focus of it. We design your experiences based on the abilities of your group. Your level of experience as a backpacker is less important than your positive attitude and willingness to challenge yourself. Having the ability to challenge yourself physically and stay positive is an important skill to have, or develop, so your group can have the best possible experience.

Being physically fit will help you accomplish more and be more comfortable on your hikes and backpacking trips. In the months and weeks before you begin Semester In The Wild, spend some time exercising to increase your strength and endurance. If you are buying new boots or gear, test it out so you are familiar with how things work and what your preferences are.

You will be provided with a list of required and suggested gear. The items you choose will be important for your comfort while backpacking and for your daily life at Taylor Wilderness Research Station.

Before you purchase a new backpack, consult with a good outdoor shop to get fitted and find the style that works best with your body and preferences.

Most universities have rental centers that offer you a chance to try different brands before buying. Factory outlet stores, gear swaps, and used items can help reduce costs. Make sure your backpack and boots are in good condition.

Food costs are a part of your Semester In The Wild fees, so once it begins your meals will be covered. As a group (and with help when you need it) you will plan your menu, order your food, and prepare your meals. You will be provided with ideas for healthy meals to get you started and will be able to harvest produce from the community garden at Taylor. Meals are often eaten together with the whole Taylor community.

There are two aspects of Semester In The Wild to consider when packing: your time at the Station and your time hiking and backpacking. Your time at Taylor will span weather that ranges from hot and dry to cold and wet. Backpacking trips will take you through steep, rugged terrain in heat and snow.

Laptops are not required for Semester In The Wild, but are highly recommended.

Below is a rough list of items you will need. Students accepted into Semester In The Wild will receive a detailed list of required and suggested gear.

  • Hiking boots
  • Backpack
  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag and pad
  • Water bottles and purification supplies
  • Backpacking dishes and utensils
  • First aid kit
  • Clothing suitable for temperatures ranging from 80 degrees and sunny to 10 degrees and snowy
  • Water shoes 
  • Personal hygiene items
  • Medicine—prescription or otherwise
  • Books and supplies for your coursework
  • Waterproof field journal/notebook and pencil

The integrated nature of the coursework is unique and you can expect an intense and immersive learning environment. You can expect to experience coursework different from any you've encountered before—fieldwork in America's Wildest Classroom.

The purpose of Semester In The Wild is to leave you with a unique perspective in thinking and writing about natural resources, as well as preparing you to be a leader in creative solutions for the future of the ecosystem.

Semester In The Wild faculty are chosen for their commitment to students as well as their love for wild places. You can expect to develop a close relationship with these faculty, and experience a mentorship that you won't find in a regular college classroom.

Your best form of communication is hand-written letters flown in and out on the weekly mail plane—the last remaining air mail route in the Lower 48.

Taylor has limited satellite internet and students have some ability to send and receive email messages using a Taylor computer.

The more prepared you are, the more you’ll enjoy Semester In The Wild, and the more you’ll learn. You can email Meg and Pete with any questions.