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This information is currently not accessible to residents living outside of Ontario. For more information on your own province’s Safety Guidelines, please consult with your provincial Ministry of Education.

Ce contenu n’est pas disponible à l’extérieur de l’Ontario. Veuillez communiquer avec le ministère de l’Éducation de votre province pour des renseignements sur les Lignes directrices sur la sécurité de votre province.

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Outdoor Education - Backpacking/Hiking (Backcountry)


Secondary - Curricular 2018

Single day or multi-day trips, that travel more than 2 hours from the arrival of emergency medical assistance.

This activity page must be presented to the activity provider prior to the activity taking place. The activity provider must meet the minimum requirements listed on this page. For more information on planning trips using outside providers, consult Appendix O - Outside Activity Providers.

For multi-day trips, also consult the Outdoor Education – Camping page.

Consult Outdoor Education – General Procedures and Outdoor Education – Swimming (if swimming is involved).


  • Teacher – A person with a current certification from the Ontario College of Teachers, under contract by the school/board. This person is legally responsible for the students.
  • Trip Guide – An individual who has the required certifications and/or knowledge/skills of the route and activity. This role could be fulfilled by a teacher, a parent/guardian/volunteer or an employee of an outside provider, and must be approved by the school/board.
  • Parent/guardian/volunteer – An adult who has been approved by the principal and has been instructed on responsibilities (e.g., monitoring [supervision]).
  • Supervisor – A supervisor is a teacher, parent/guardian/volunteer or trip guide. This term is used only in relation to supervision ratios.
  • Outside Provider - An outside facility contracted by the school/board to provide activity services.


A fully stocked first aid kit appropriate for the number of participants must be readily accessible and waterproofed. (Consult Appendix D - Sample First Aid Kit).

A working communication device (e.g., satellite or cell phone, or satellite GPS messenger) suitable for the activities/locations must be available. This device must be maintained, waterproofed, protected and dedicated for emergency communications only.

Determine that all of the necessary equipment is included and is safe for use prior to departing on the excursion. Students must be encouraged to report equipment problems to the teacher.

A complete set of maps for the route. A copy of the map (photocopies are acceptable) and one compass per participant. A GPS to be used as a back-up only.

One whistle per participant.

A means of hydration must be available, accessible, and appropriate for the activity, location and duration of the trip (direct access to potable water, filters, purifier, chemical).

For emergency purposes, trips must not rely solely on campfires. A camp stove must be available, accessible, and appropriate for the activity, location and duration of the trip.

Sun and insect protection.

Waterproof matches and/or matches in a waterproof container.

Where appropriate, animal repellent (e.g., bear spray, bear bangers, whistles).

Backpacks appropriate for the torso size and weight of each student (e.g., approximately 25% of body weight).

Tarp(s) for shelter and ropes to secure.


Determine that all necessary clothing and footwear are included prior to departing on the excursion.

Comfortable and durable closed-toed shoes or boots appropriate to the route (e.g., hiking boots) must be worn. Students and parents/guardians must be informed of the importance of wearing footwear that has been broken in prior to the trip (i.e., not wearing new footwear).

Clothing (in layers suitable for season) appropriate to the location, activities and environmental conditions must be worn.

Rain gear and a dry change of clothing kept in a watertight bag/container must be accessible.

When long hair poses a safety risk it must be secured. Devices (e.g. hair pins, clips and barrettes) used to tie back long hair must not present a safety concern.


Only designated trails to be used.

Trip guide must be familiar with the route (e.g., length of route, terrain).

Check with local authorities for current information regarding route safety.

Appropriate environmental and sanitary practices (e.g., washroom routines) must be taught.

Special Rules/Instructions

Be aware of students whose medical condition (e.g., asthma, anaphylaxis, casts, previous concussion, orthopaedic device) may affect participation. (Consult Fundamentals of Safety)

Students must not participate in the activity until they receive information on concussion prevention specific to the activity, inherent risks of the activity (e.g. outline possible risks and ways to minimize the risks), and procedures and rules for safe play. Students must receive instruction on the importance of reporting symptoms related to a suspected concussion.

Refer to the school board’s transportation procedures related to communicating with parents/guardians the location of an off-site activity and the means of transportation used as well as to the need for obtaining parent/guardian permission.

An emergency action plan must be developed and communicated to all involved with the excursion.

Activities must be modified according to the age, ability level, language, and experience of students and the facility available.

Previous training, fitness level and the length of time and intensity of physical activity must be taken into consideration.

Activities must be based on skills that are taught.

Skills must be taught in proper progression.

Parents must be informed that backpacks are to be appropriate for the torso size and weight of the student (e.g. approximately 25% of body weight).

A principal/designate in the school, each teacher (and trip guide [where appropriate]) on the excursion, and a local emergency contact (e.g., park official, area police station) must have: a map of the route and an excursion itinerary including an emergency action plan (e.g., supervisory chain of command, emergency evacuation plan, emergency access points, local emergency contact phone numbers)

Daylight hiking only, except in emergencies.

A system for keeping track of students must be in place (e.g., buddy system).

Instructions and Communications

Prior to backpacking, students must receive instruction on safety procedures related to:

  • route for the trip, and the route for the day (reviewed each morning)
  • emergency procedures
  • signal to assemble
  • the importance of treating their feet for hot/sore spots
  • risks of the activity along with strategies to minimize those risks
  • an adequate supply of nutritious food preserved and packed to suitable weight for carrying
  • an adequate supply of safe water for one day (the group must have a water purification method and must be made aware of water sources prior to embarking on trip)

Environmental Considerations

When environmental conditions may pose a risk to student safety (e.g. thunderstorms [lightning] or student(s) with asthma, triggered by air quality), teachers must take into consideration their school board/school’s protocols and procedures related to:

  • environmental conditions (consult Appendices F-1 to F-6: Lightning Protocol, Sample Air Quality Index, Sample Temperature, Tornado, Ultra Violet Index, and Wind Velocity Preparedness Guides]); and
  • insects (e.g., mosquitoes and ticks [consult the school/school board’s protocols and/or regional Public Health Department’s website]).

Students must receive instruction on safety procedures related to environmental conditions and be made aware of ways to protect themselves (e.g. sun burn, heat stroke).

At all times the school board’s weather and insect procedures are the minimum standards. In situations where a higher standard of care is presented (e.g., outside activity providers, facility/program coordinators), the higher standard of care must be followed.


On-site supervision is required.

Supervision Ratios

(A supervisor is a teacher, parent/guardian/volunteer or trip guide. This term is used only in relation to supervision ratios.)

1 supervisor per 8 students

For all overnight excursions, two supervisors are required as a basic minimum, one of whom must be a teacher.

Where males and females participate on an excursion, both male and female supervisors are required.

The teacher must assign a leader to the front and back of the group. A leader could be a responsible student.

The front and back of the group must be within whistle contact of the teacher(s)/trip guide(s) at all times.

If the group is divided into two or more excursions, each excursion must have a trip guide with the required certifications.

First Aid

At least one teacher, trip guide, instructor, or supervisor must have a minimum of one of the following current advanced wilderness first aid certifications:

  • WMA Wilderness Advanced First Aid
  • St. John Ambulance Wilderness First Aid Level 3
  • Canadian Red Cross Advanced Wilderness and Remote First Aid
  • Equivalent to any of the above.

Follow the school's first aid emergency response (consult Appendix E - Sample First Plan and Sample First Aid Emergency Response) and the school board’s concussion protocol (consult the Concussion section).

An emergency action plan and response to deal with evacuations and lock downs must be followed and communicated to students.

Also see Fundamentals of Safety section to view complete safety requirements.