Essential Eligibility Criteria

Essential Eligibility Criteria (EEC) for The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE) Program Participation

The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education’s (NCOAE) students learn experientially, through outdoor adventures and educational experiences that foster teamwork, environmental stewardship and the acquisition of technical skills. NCOAE programs and activities can be physically, mentally, and emotionally challenging. To fully participate, live, and thrive in natural environments, each student must be capable of personal and group responsibility.

This document is designed to provide the information needed to objectively evaluate whether one has the ability to participate in an NCOAE program or activity. The safety of all participants is paramount and is the guiding principle behind these criteria. The Essential Eligibility Criteria apply to all NCOAE students.

Sound, fair, and safe decisions about whether potential participants may be a part of an NCOAE program or activity are derived from: a clear understanding of the program, accurate information, and an unbiased assessment. Decisions about participant eligibility are, therefore, evaluated by NCOAE personnel who have a medical background and an understanding of NCOAE’s activities and program.

Participation in NCOAE programs and activities will be permitted except when allowing a person to participate can be reasonably expected to endanger that person or any other person. Some remote locations may require as much as one week’s travel to reach advanced medical care.

General travel conditions may include deep sand, rough, rugged, uneven, steep, and sloping terrain, human made and animal made trails, rocky terrain that may range from smooth bedrock to extensive areas of large or small boulders, rivers and creeks three feet or more in depth, ascending, descending or traversing, bushwhacking off trail through thick vegetation, and may occur during periods of inclement weather during the day or nighttime hours.

The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education’s Essential Eligibility Criteria lists the following basic functions required to participate in an activity. Each potential NCOAE student must be able to independently meet the following criteria to participate in an NCOAE activity or program. Students must be able to:

  • Identify, recognize, and respond to instructions regarding environmental hazards – including falling objects, loose rock and unstable surfaces, rugged, steep and uneven terrain, uneven sidewalks, mountains, desert, cliff edges, crevasses, moving water (fast or slow) such as rivers, creeks, surf, or tides, and potentially hazardous animals and insects.
  • Identify and recognize hazards and risks posed by other course members, which include, but are not limited to, fatigue, state of mind, and actions that may influence judgment and decision-making.
  • Recall and understand hazards and risks previously explained by instructors.
  • Effectively alert and warn others of potential or impending.
  • Effectively signal or notify course instructors or other course members of personal distress, injury, or need for assistance.
  • Communicate with others in challenging situations and conditions, with limited visibility, inclement weather, and with loud background noise such as high winds or roaring rivers.
  • Act responsibly around hazards to minimize risk even when not directly supervised.
  • Perceive, understand, and follow directions and instructions given by others to be able to successfully execute appropriate and perhaps unfamiliar techniques. These directions may be given before or during exposure to a hazard or risk, and may need to be given audibly.
  • Stay alert and focus attention for up to several hours at a time while traveling in wilderness terrain, attending classes, and receiving instructions.
  • Respond appropriately to stress or crisis when encountering hazards, severe weather, or a medical emergency.
  • Maintain proper medication dosage, if taking prescription medications, by self-medicating without assistance from instructors or others (except in emergency situations).
  • Work effectively as a member of a team despite potentially stressful and difficult conditions. This may require problem solving on an interpersonal or group level, as well as a willingness to accept differences.
  • Contribute to a safe learning environment — no verbal or physically inappropriate behavior is tolerated for any reason.
  • Be able and willing to equally share responsibility and tasks with course-mates.
  • Effectively communicate ideas and concerns on an individual and group level.
  • Have the cognitive ability to learn necessary skills within the time allotted.
  • Remain adequately hydrated, fed, and dressed to remain generally healthy and to avoid environmental injuries from exposure to cold, heat, or the sun.
  • Perform, after being instructed, required activities without direct supervision.
  • Move about the course or activity area easily in order to attend to personal hygiene and health needs, class and course activity needs, and to contribute to activities and assignments.
  • Live comfortably in remote backcountry environments regardless of temperature extremes.
  • Be able to travel up to ten miles (16 kilometers) in one day – over varied wilderness terrain – with a backpack weighing up to 50 pounds (23 kilos) – including group belongings, gear or provisions, food, and personal items.
  • Travel may last as long as 12 hours a day on multiple, successive days.
  • Effectively communicate when participating in activities that do not allow for a clear line of sight between student and participant, or between participants.
  • Effectively communicate when participating in activities that do not allow for audible communication between instructor and participant, or between participants.
  • Manipulate large objects (gross motor skills) to accomplish the purpose of the task (i.e.; surfboard, raft, paddle, backpack, etc.).
  • Manipulate small objects (fine motor skills) to accomplish the purpose of the task (i.e.; manipulating ropes, tying knots, cooking, gear repair, etc.).
  • Move through waist deep water with a rocky or sandy bottom, possibly in surf conditions.
  • Be able to swim or be comfortable in the water, including fast moving water, while wearing a personal flotation device (PFD).
  • Be willing and able to follow rules and obey authority figures.
  • Walk and stand for up to 6 hours
  • Take personal responsibility for your belongings and behavior, and possess a willingness to put the needs of the group before those of the individual.
  • Act reliably and responsibly around hazards and risks – even when not directly supervised.
  • Tolerate living and traveling outdoors with wind, insects, and wildlife for multiple days at varying elevations from 0 to 14,000 feet (4,267 meters).
  • Tolerate being several hours or up to a day away from medical facilities.
  • Tolerate changes in diet, group living, changes in itinerary, unfamiliar surroundings, homesickness, long days filled with mentally and physically challenging activities, and a routine much different than your routine at home.
  • Learn and practice Leave No Trace (LNT) wilderness ethics and techniques.
  • Engage in service learning projects (for example: building, digging, lifting, painting, construction and cleanup) for 6-8 hours per day.
  • Be open and willing to interact with new and unfamiliar cultures.
  • Wear all protective gear recommended or required.
  • Maintain a positive attitude, even when challenged physically, mentally, or emotionally.
  • Display tolerance, respect and compassion towards all.
  • Maintain good personal physical condition.

If you have any questions or concerns about our Essential Eligibility Criteria, contact the NCOAE office Monday through Friday between the hours of 8:30am – 4:30pm Eastern Time by calling (910) 399-8090, or email You can also reach us by mail by writing to:

The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education
Attn.: Essential Eligibility Criteria
9809 River Road
Wilmington, North Carolina 28412 USA