FAQ

We know that it’s a big decision for you to join in a Wilderness Inquiry adventure, especially if you have not traveled with us before. If you have a question please contact us. You can e-mail Greg Lais, our founder and Executive Director. Greg has 35 years of experience with Wilderness Inquiry and he loves to help people get the answers they need. You can also call our office at (612) 676-9400. We like to talk on the phone!

What makes Wilderness Inquiry different?

In a word, it’s the relationships. WI participants frequently tell us how amazed they are that a group of people who barely know each other can come together as a community. These experiences really do help us discover, explore and deepen relationships—with others, ourselves and the natural world.

On all our trips you will experience beautiful destinations, fun activities, excellent instruction, good food and quality gear. But these things are just the beginning of the adventure—not the end in itself. We are passionate about helping people fully engage in life through shared adventure. This passion is shared by our participants, some of whom have gone on 40+ trips with us. Steve, a participant on a WI trip to the Green River, said it best:

The atmosphere of cooperation and trust we enjoyed created a strong feeling of community in our group. Barriers were broken down. We met each other as human beings rather than the labels we carry in our everyday lives. I’d go anywhere with these people!

Who else goes on a Wilderness Inquiry trip?

WI trips are open to people of all ages and abilities, including persons with disabilities. We usually have an equal number of men and women on our trips, which includes couples, single people traveling alone or with family and friends. People truly do come from all walks of life, but if we had to stereotype our “typical” participant she would be a 48-year-old highly educated professional.

Who can participate?

Our trips are generally divided according to the following groups:

  • Adults: Most of our trips are geared for adults who range in age from 18 – 85 years old. The average age is around 50. Prior experience is usually not necessary but it’s good to have an open mind and a passion for adventure.
  • Families: Since 1994 we’ve conducted a wide range of family trips. Some trips, like Itasca, are designed for families with young children, while others are geared for families with kids aged 12-17. The activities, distances traveled, and campfire chat reflect these target age groups. Families of all shapes and sizes join in on these trips, including many single parent and non-traditional families.
  • Women: Since 2004 we’ve offered trips just for women. These trips are usually the same itinerary as a regular WI trip, except that the staff and participants are all women.
  • Youth: Each year we do many trips for youth groups from schools and other organizations.
  • You: Wilderness Inquiry is all about including everyone. Join us!

Do you serve people with disabilities?

Yes, we are very committed to integrating people with varying levels of ability on our trips. In fact, Wilderness Inquiry was started to demonstrate that people with disabilities can enjoy wilderness just like everyone else—on its own terms. Over the years, we’ve come to realize that the notion of “disability” is a very relative concept, mostly related to one’s attitude. Integrated wilderness travel tends to remove stereotypes people have about “disability” and helps us all recognize our common humanity. We focus on what people can do, not on what they can’t do. Our philosophy is to treat each person as an individual rather than as their disability. Our goal is to integrate persons with disabilities seamlessly into our trips without making a big deal about it, and we’ve been doing it successfully since 1978.

Read more about Integrated Adventure.

How do you serve people with disabilities?

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The Rick Shaw in Action in Tikal, Guatemala

We think it’s easy to do. Some people need assistance transferring or moving about, and our staff help do this. If a person needs more assistance with things like activities of daily living, we arrange to bring along a personal care attendant. We also use a variety of field-tested gear adaptations. For example, we developed a little device we call the “rickshaw” which quickly converts a wheel chair into a two-wheeled cart that dramatically increases mobility on rough terrain. We also have special seating adaptations for canoes and kayaks.

We register participants and staff on trips with the group’s competence in mind, meaning that all individual strengths and weaknesses are considered in context. We just can’t have everyone paddling and no one cooking, or everyone portaging and no one telling jokes. Our trips wouldn’t work that way. If you have a disability and you’re wondering about our ability to serve you, please call or e-mail our office. We do have various assistive devices, and over the years we have served well over 100,000 people with a wide variety of disabling conditions.

Do you offer financial aid?

Yes. We believe the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors should be available to everyone. To keep our programs as financially accessible as possible, each year we raise funds from alumni and others. Financial assistance is need-based. Certain restrictions apply. Use these links to apply for financial aid online or download the application form.

Does WI do trips with pre-existing groups?

We do many “private” trips with schools, families, scout groups, businesses, other non-profit and for-profit organizations. We pride ourselves on being flexible and accommodating, and can customize meals, or the destinations, length of your trip – you name it. Get more information on our group trips webpage, or call (612) 676-9400.

How physically demanding are WI trips?

In general, we have a moderate pace that allows individuals to enjoy the backcountry without becoming exhausted. Each group may include people with a wide range of ability levels. We work to ensure that the overall group make-up is strong enough to have a positive experience. There are often opportunities for extra activities if you want more of a challenge.

We consider where you are in terms of skills and conditioning–whether neophyte or seasoned veteran, physically fit or overweight. We don’t mean to trivialize those issues, but, in our experience, those things are the “small stuff” compared to things like compassion and teamwork.

We focus on what people can do—their ability and what they are willing to do—not on what they cannot do. Our experience shows us that attitude is more important than physical ability.

Please remember that these trips are adventures, not packaged tours. The exact nature of your specific trip will depend upon many factors, including the weather, your group, and your own interests and needs.

Where do I go to the bathroom?

In many of the places we travel there are established toilets. In places where toilet facilities are not provided, we bring a portable commode which provides much of the comfort and privacy of the bathroom in your house. We pay special attention to privacy and hygiene. If you have bathroom concerns, please do not hesitate to ask. We have a theory that concerns over toileting are a major reason why some people do not participate in outdoor adventures. Please talk to us if you are one of these people!

What are the qualifications of WI trail guides?

All our guides are experienced wilderness leaders and have gone through extensive training programs. Every year, trail guides come from all over the country, bringing with them a wealth of experience, knowledge and commitment–several have been leading WI trips for over 30 years! Regardless of the trip you choose, you will love the trail guides–they are the best thing about Wilderness Inqury.

What level of service do trail guides provide?

WI trail guides provide support and a safe atmosphere. On the trail they are leaders, coaches, organizers, cooks and friends. Most people can’t believe we find such wonderful people to lead the trips. From your pre-trip call, a week before the trip, to your final departure from the group, WI guides work incredibly hard with a smile on their faces. They usually don’t put chocolates on your pillow, but they will bring you a nice cup of coffee in the morning!

WI trips are cooperative in nature. On most trips, this means you will sleep in a tent that you and your tent mates set up. You will also participate in camp chores such as cooking, starting fires, and other camp activities.

What is included in the trip price?

Trip fees cover most all of your needs while you are in the wilderness, including equipment, food, staff, permits, etc. You are responsible for bringing personal clothing and a sleeping bag. On most trips we offer transportation between the put-in and several different locations for a modest additional fee.

What are your refund policies?

Your 25% deposit is non-refundable once you are confirmed for your trip. See conditions for cancellation below:

For trips in the United States:

  • 6 weeks prior — we refund all fees paid (minus deposit).
  • Less than 6 weeks but more than 3 weeks — we refund 50% of the trip fee (minus deposit).
  • Less than 3 weeks — no refund.

For trips outside the United States:

  • 12 weeks prior — we refund all fees paid (minus deposit).
  • Less than 12 weeks — no refund.

If WI cancels a trip, we will refund all fees paid to WI, including the deposit. However, to protect your investment in your travel plans we recommend purchasing travel insurance. Information on travel insurance is included in your trip confirmation packet.

What if I want to change trips?

If you would like to switch to another trip once you have registered, the following fees will be applied:

For trips in the United States:

  • 6 weeks prior — 1st transfer is free; $50 for any additional transfer.
  • Less than 6 weeks but more than 3 weeks — $50
  • Less than 3 weeks — no transfer allowed.

For trips outside the United States:

  • 12 weeks prior — $50
  • Less than 12 weeks — no transfer allowed.

Do you conduct other programs in addition to the trips?

Yes. WI provides a variety of programs and services, besides extended trips, that are also designed to provide opportunities for people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities to be active in the outdoors. Learn more about Wilderness Inquiry’s many programs.

How can I get more specific information about a trip or program?

We’ve tried to put a lot of information about each trip on this web site, but it’s impossible to include it all. Please call or e-mail us if you have questions. We’d also be happy to provide you a list of individuals who live in your area and have been on the trip of interest to you.

Who can I talk to about some personal concerns?

The best thing to do is call us at (612) 676-9400. Our staff is ready to answer your questions in a personal and confidential manner. Many people have concerns about issues such as toileting in the wilderness—no need to be bashful about talking to us. Our number one goal is to make sure that you and the other members of your group have a great trip.

If there is an issue or question about your participation, we will be up front with you and either help you solve it or refer you to some other place—nobody wins if you get in a situation that’s not right for you. In some cases we may ask you to consult with your physician. Most of the people who answer the phones at WI lead trips themselves — they know what it takes to make a trip a success!

Ask Greg any additional questions you may have.