Pre-Orientation Wilderness Adventure Program


At the conclusion of each summer Franklin Pierce hosts first-year students for a multi-day backcountry adventure in the Monadnock Region and beyond. Incoming students can choose to go backpacking, mountain biking, or kayaking. No experience is necessary to join, but participants should be ready for a physically demanding outing.

This trip is about having fun, getting to know your fellow student, challenging yourself and coming away with a positive experience. Participants get a great jumpstart on establishing peer groups and meeting new friends. The four days in the backcountry will be spent teaching new skills and familiarizing students to the local environment.

What to expect

Pre-Orientation Trip - kayakingThese trips are led by well-trained student leaders. The typical ratio is 1:6 trip leaders to participants. Groups are self-supported and carry in all necessary group gear, personal gear and food. Water is filtered while in the field in one of three ways: mechanical filtration, boiling or by using potable aqua tablets.

Student trip leaders will be sure to let each participant know where they are headed for the day and will be honing hard skills while encouraging enjoyment of the surrounding environment. The responsibility of the participant is to keep a positive attitude while learning from his or her respective choices and the choices of others. This program also adopts Leave No Trace principles as a code of ethics while in the backcountry.

Trip Timeline

Day One

Arrive on campus no later than 1:00pm on the first day. Lunch is not provided so please eat prior to arriving. Local eateries can be provided upon request. We will hold introductions, distribute necessary gear and equipment, and begin training for each respective component. After an afternoon of training, exploring and fun we’ll set up camp on campus for the evening and provide a BBQ style dinner.

Day Two

Breakfast is provided by Director Doug Carty and trip leaders at approximately 8:00am. Post-meal, participants will break down camp, pack up all gear and ready themselves for departure by 11:00am. All trips are in route by noon.

Day’s Three and Four

Participants should have settled into the basics of backcountry travel under the direction of their trip leaders. Trip routes have some pre-established campsites, but occasionally a group will make more or less progress during the day, which will determine the overall distance travelled.

Day Five

All groups do their final camp breakdown and begin to travel to the rendezvous point in the morning. Depending on how far the trip is from campus at this point will dictate when the group arrives back on campus. Usually mountain bikers and backpackers make it back by noon, kayakers by 2:00pm. After returning to campus all participants turn in their gear, fill out an evaluation form and participate in a brief reflective debriefing before heading home or to their residence halls.

Trip leaders

Pre-Orientation Trip - kayaking groupEach year, trip leader candidates are evaluated based their backcountry experiences. Usually they have participated in many of our Adventure Recreation programs or have had previous leadership experience. A resume along with a trip log are required to apply for a trip leader position. Training commences two weeks prior to the first Pre-Orientation trip where the leaders-in-training first receive professional Wilderness First Aid certifications. The training emphasizes hard skills, risk management and scenario based exercises. Trip leaders are competent and responsible individuals who are there to support the group, lead by example and put the needs of the participants first.

How students should get ready for the program

Wilderness travel is incredibly rewarding but not without its challenges. Weather can change quickly and hours of hiking or paddling will leave you tired and sometimes sore. Prepare yourself physically by getting outside regularly on a bike, a hike, a swim or a run. Mentally prepare yourself by coming to Franklin Pierce ready for new experiences and excited to learn.

It is also important to take in the important information provided on this website. Read through the gear list and plan your equipment needs out far in advance. A new pair of hiking boots will spell disaster after a couple days spent breaking them in while in the field! If buying from a backcountry retailer be sure to ask if the gear is appropriate for our program. As a general rule, cotton clothing is not a good choice when out in the elements. Better materials are polypropylene, polyester and fleece. Wool is also suitable but is heavy when wet. Contact program Director Doug Carty for tips on buying gear.

Where do we go?

The routes change a little each year, but we always like to stay within a couple of hours of campus.  The 2009 program took kayakers down the twisty Baker River and into the Pemigewasset. Backpackers trekked from the summit of Mount Sunapee towards Mount Monadnock. In 2010 our canoeist/kayakers travelled further north to the shallow headwaters of the Pemigewasset and backpackers left right from campus on a six mile hike to Mount Monadnock and beyond. 2010 was the first year for mountain bikers, where they travelled from campus, south into Massachusetts, north back into Keene, NH and all the way over to Brattleboro, Vermont- all on a network of retired railbeds. In 2011 we extended the mountain biking route and included a day of flatwater rafting on the Connecticut River while backpackers and kayakers continued on similar routes taken in 2010. For 2012 students paddled the shallow Asheulot River through western, NH while backpackers headed south on the Metacoment trail. This year’s trip details will be established by student leadership in the weeks leading up to the program. Routes may be similar to routes of the past. Whatever direction is chosen will be travelled by trip leaders prior to the program start so they may, in turn, pass along route information to their respective participants.


While on your trip you will be eating mostly a vegetarian diet, since we don't camp with coolers. If you're used to meat with every meal, don't worry. There will plenty of food (including protein) to rebuild your muscles and keep you energized throughout the trip. Examples of meals are - pasta with cheese or marinara; rice and beans; chili and burritos; pizza, granola or oats. You're welcome to bring vitamins, special snacks, tea or coffee but remember, your trip will leave with plenty of food for the week and you will be asked to carry anything extra that you have brought along. If you have special dietary needs outside of vegetarianism, be sure to communicate those with the program staff.


Gear list included in this PDF document includes everything you need to stay dry and warm. Sleeping bags, sleeping pads, boats, tents, stoves and backpacks will be provided by Franklin Pierce. If you have questions about your gear, feel free to call us. Eastern Mountain Sports nearby in Peterborough can be a helpful place if you choose retail items. But, remember that much of what you need can be borrowed or found at second-hand shops for a much more affordable price. Function, not fashion, is always most important in the outdoors, and that old, ratty wool sweater will still keep you warm.

Backpackers, make sure you have appropriate boots that provide ankle support, lacing above the ankle bone.

Some recommended gear resources:

Medical matters

Because there is possibility of injury or illness while in the backcountry, it is essential that all participants have been cleared for participation by the Health Center. They ask for your medical records by August 1st, and these are necessary for participation. On arrival, if you have any allergies or injuries that we should know about, please share these during participant check-in.

Please do not bring

You will be unable to take cell phones, mp3 players or computers on your trip. The leaders will carry cell phones for emergencies. Do not bring any alcohol or illegal drugs. The discovery of either will result in  immediate dismissal from the trip and will entail an evacuation from the course. Your health and safety is paramount to this program and the University, leaving the aforementioned items home will enhance your experience in the backcountry and will further your connections with your fellow participants.

For more information, contact:

Doug Carty         
Director, Campus Recreation/Pre-Orientation Wilderness Adventure Program