Frequently Asked Questions
Thinking About a Trip
Who can participate?
Our trips are designed to be inclusive of all individuals, regardless of age, background, or ability. With safety as our top priority, we are happy to discuss which itineraries are the best fit for you.
What is the minimum age to participate on a WI trip?
There is no minimum age requirement to participate on a WI trip. For a paddling trip, we require all participants to wear a personal flotation device (PFD). Families with children under 30 pounds would need to provide their own PFD. For most family trips, children should be able to sit comfortably in a canoe or kayak for 1 hour or more. Please use this criteria to decide whether or not your child would be a good fit on any particular trip.
For family and day trips, youth under the age of 18 must attend with an adult family member or friend who is over the age of 18.
What is the mix of group members like on most trips?
The exact group mix is different on every trip, but most groups consist of 1-4 Wilderness Inquiry staff and 6-15 participants including people of all ages, genders, backgrounds, and abilities, including participants with disabilities. Children under age 18 are welcome on family trips when accompanied by an adult. You are also welcome to assemble your own group and plan a private trip with us.
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 focus on what people can do, not on what they cannot. Our experience shows us that attitude is more important than physical ability.
Please remember that these trips are adventures, not packaged tours. Expect your muscles to be sore at least once on the trip! The exact nature of your specific trip will depend upon many factors, including the weather, your group, and your own interests and needs.
What type of food do we eat during the trip?
You’ll be pleased by the food we offer. Cookbook author and food guru Beth Dooley joined our staff a few years ago and she has infused our menu with flare! Typical menus include meals like pesto pasta, chicken burritos, stir-fry, deli sandwiches, and blueberry pancakes. The exact menus vary trip-by-trip. On longer wilderness expeditions, we bring more nonperishable foods that keep well for days without refrigeration. On international trips, we tend to eat the local cuisine. Some trips, like A Taste of the Apostles, feature local foods as a special focus. We can accommodate most dietary restrictions and preferences- please note this information on your registration form.
How does it work for a solo traveler to join a trip?
Many solo travelers join our trips. Our leaders are excellent at fostering group cohesiveness and inclusion so you should feel welcomed on whichever itinerary you choose. There is a good chance you will not be the only solo traveler on the trip.
Do I need paddling experience to join a canoe or kayak trip?
Paddling trips with WI are appropriate for beginners and seasoned paddlers alike. On the first day of all trips, basic paddling strokes will be taught by the trip leader. Each trip gives participants multiple opportunities to practice their skills. Participants with more experience will have plenty of opportunity to paddle during the trip, and even to help teach less experienced paddlers!
Can I rent equipment from Wilderness Inquiry?
Wilderness Inquiry provides guided experiences. We do not offer gear rental without the guide services. We provide gear, meals, and professional guides on all of our trips.
Registering for a Trip
How far in advance do I need to register for a trip?
Our trips fill up at various times; the exact timing is hard to predict. If you are hoping to travel over a specific set of dates, be sure to register as soon as possible. Many of our trips fill quickly. If we are running multiple trips to a particular destination and your dates are flexible, you can wait a little longer to register. But the sooner you register, the sooner we can confirm that a trip will be running!
What is included in the trip price?
Trip fees cover all of your needs while you are in the wilderness — including equipment, food, guides, permits, etc. You are responsible for bringing personal clothing. Personal gear can be borrowed upon request. On many trips we offer transportation to and from the starting location for a modest additional fee.
Airfare is not included in the trip price and it is the responsibility of the participants to provide their own means of transportation on any international trips.
How can I get more information about a specific trip or program?
We try to include as much detailed information as possible about each trip on the website, so this is a great place to start. If you have additional questions, please contact us at 612-676-9400 or email@example.com. Our staff are very helpful and knowledgeable!
What are my transportation options on a WI trip?
WI will provide you with directions to your destination. For all trips, you have the option of meeting your WI trip leaders at a particular meeting place near the trip destination using your own transportation. For some trips, WI provides the option of riding in a 15-passenger van from a separate meeting place for an additional fee. Van space is limited and available on a first come, first served basis. Transportation options will be explained during the online trip registration process. Airfare is purchased independently from WI. Contact us if you have questions regarding transportation for a particular destination.
Do we provide our own airfare when joining a Wilderness Inquiry trip?
Yes. Participants are responsible for arranging their own transportation to the trip meeting place. This includes airline travel when necessary. Past participants have recommended Travel One for assistance in arranging a flight. Travel One can be reached at 800-247-1311 or at their website.
We encourage you to wait until you receive your trip confirmation materials before purchasing nonrefundable airfare. When traveling by airplane, it is generally a good idea to purchase travel insurance.
What if I want to switch trips after I pay?
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 — $50 transfer fee.
Less than 3 weeks — no transfer allowed.
For trips outside the United States:
12 weeks prior — $50 transfer fee.
Less than 12 weeks — no transfer allowed.
What are my odds of getting on a trip after joining a waitlist?
Space becomes available on waitlisted trips on a case-by-case basis. It is more likely that a space will open on a domestic trip roster, than on an international trip roster. We encourage you to register for the waitlist so we are aware of your interest, and then to call us at 612-676-9400 to discuss the specifics of the trip you are interested in.
Who can I talk to about some personal concerns?
The best thing to do is call us at (612) 676-9400. Our staff members are ready to answer your questions in a personal and confidential manner. Our number one goal is to make sure that you and the other members of your group are safe, comfortable, and have a great trip.
Preparing for a Trip
What should I bring on my trip?
Once you complete the registration process and are confirmed for a trip, a confirmation packet will be emailed to you. The packet will include a detailed packing list and additional details about your trip.
You should supply your own clothing and personal items; we will supply the rest (tents, other camping equipment, meals, etc).
Requests to borrow personal gear such as sleeping bags and ground pads can usually be accommodated.
Here you can find some additional suggestions for extended trips!
Can I borrow equipment?
Wilderness Inquiry has an equipment warehouse filled with gear that can be borrowed for no additional cost. We encourage participants to bring their own clothing and personal gear such as sleeping bags and ground pads. Requests to borrow personal gear can usually be accommodated on a first-come, first-served based. WI also provides adaptive gear (paddles, canoe/kayak seat pads, etc.) when appropriate.
Are alcohol and tobacco allowed on a trip?
We follow the basic rules of etiquette here, and also the law. If you are an adult of legal age and you smoke tobacco or enjoy a glass of wine, you may do so on most of our trips, however we do not allow these choices to become a distraction or disruption. For safety, liability, and quality group experiences, we do not tolerate abuse of alcoholic beverages, nor use by any minor or vulnerable adult. No smoking is allowed in vehicles, indoors, or in tents. No illegal drugs or firearms are permitted. If you have questions, please call.
Some of our trips for adult populations include alcoholic beverages on the menus, such as our A Taste of the Apostles trip. You may purchase your own alcoholic beverages on trips which feature meals in restaurants.
How do I reach my trip leader?
Our trip leaders will call you within a week before the start of your trip. If you don't hear from them, or if this is an emergency, you can call us at (612) 676-9400 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can I bring my dog on a Wilderness Inquiry trip?
We love dogs at Wilderness Inquiry, but not all trip participants do. And not all parks allow dogs. For this reason, registered guide dogs are the only dogs permitted on a WI trip.
We can include guide/assistance dogs on most of our trips. If you would like to bring your registered guide dog on a trip, please call us at (612) 676-9400 to discuss details.
Trip Fees and Cancellations
What is your cancellation/refund policy?
Your 10% deposit is non-refundable. If you choose to cancel your trip:
For trips in the continental United States:
• 6 weeks prior to start date — we will refund fees paid minus deposit.
• Less than 6 weeks — we will refund 50% of the total trip fee, or 100% of fees paid can be transferred to a future trip.
• Less than 1 week— no refunds will be issued.
For trips outside the continental United States:
• 12 weeks prior to start date— we will refund fees paid minus deposit.
• Less than 12 weeks — we will refund 50% of the total trip fee, or 100% of fees paid can be transferred to a future trip.
• Less than 2 weeks — no refunds will be issued.
In the rare event that WI cancels a trip, or we are unable to serve you, all fees are immediately refunded, including the deposit. Unfortunately, we cannot be responsible for personal expenses such as airline tickets. To protect your investment in your travel plans we recommend purchasing travel insurance. Information on travel insurance is included in your trip confirmation packet. If after registering you wish to switch trips, you may do so subject to availability. Fees may apply.
Under certain circumstances, such as death of a family member, change in health status, loss of employment, etc., we may make exceptions to our refund policies. Please let us know immediately if your plans change!
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 to support need-based scholarships. Certain restrictions apply. Financial aid is available for a select number of trips only and typically not available for international trips. Click here to apply for financial aid. This website also shows a list of trips that are currently eligible for financial aid. Check back often, as this list is updated regularly! Call 612-676-9400 for more information.
How do I pay for a trip?
Most people pay online by major credit card. We also accept checks by mail and gift certificate redemption. A 25% non-refundable deposit is due with your registration. Your full balance is due six weeks before your trip.
Can I purchase a gift certificate?
Yes. A purchased gift certificate can be applied towards any Wilderness Inquiry trip, and never expires. Click here to purchase a gift certificate. or call Suzanne at 612-676-9408
Can I pay more to have my own room on a lodge-based trip?
Yes, most times a single supplement is available on a lodge-based trip. Exact cost and availability depends on the trip.
Can a person use the CADI waiver program to pay for a WI trip?
The rules of what CADI (Community Alternatives for Disabled Individuals) waiver funding can be applied towards vary from county to county. We have had participants use CADI funding to pay for trip fees in the past. Applying for financial aid is an option as well.
Some of the trip information on your website is different than the trip catalog. Why?
While it does not happen very often, sometimes dates, fees, or activities change after we print our trip schedule. We also add new trips all the time. Our website is the most up to date source of information and always supersedes trip catalog information.
Do trips get canceled if not enough people sign up?
It is very rare that we cancel a trip after a participant has signed up. However, earthquakes, volcanoes, and illness do happen. In the rare case such an event happens, we guarantee we will do our best to find an alternative that meets your needs and mitigates any loss. You may consider trip insurance if this is a concern. Check out: Trip Mate
On the Trail
What is expected of me during the trip?
WI trips are group oriented and cooperative in nature. If traveling in the wilderness, participants typically help out around camp, including meal preparation and clean up. Lodge-based trips tend to have more meals prepared and served in restaurants and kitchens. If you’re unfamiliar with camping, WI staff will teach you what you need to know and will assist you in whatever areas you need. Participants should expect to help out with daily camp activities based on their individual ability level.
Are you able to handle special diets on a trip (vegetarian, Kosher, Halal, etc.)?
Yes, we are able to accommodate most dietary requests, from preferences to allergies. Be sure to list any dietary restrictions on your confidential health forms during the trip registration process.
Wilderness Inquiry proudly offers a Kosher menu option on our private, custom trips. Some Kosher foods can also be made available on our general public trips, but separate Kosher cooking equipment is typically not provided. All food items on our Kosher menu are certified by OK Kosher or OU Kosher. If a more specialized Kosher menu is desired, participants have the option of providing their own Kosher products. WI may be able to provide specific Kosher products for an additional fee upon request.
How many people stay in each tent?
This depends on the trip. On most trips, tent space is plentiful and we are able to accommodate most requests. Some trips in more remote wilderness areas require us to pack-in all equipment. In these cases, we may ask participants to share a tent as appropriate. Typically, there are 2-3 people per 4-person tent.
What level of service do trail staff provide?
Our trail staff are responsible for leadership and support on all trips. They will help participants in all areas - from setting up camp to leading hikes to lending a hand over rough terrain. Our trips are cooperative in nature, so we ask all participants to pitch in with daily camp activities to the extent that they are able.
What are the qualifications of Wilderness Inquiry trail staff?
All of our staff are trained wilderness leaders with current safety certifications. Our leaders have a wide variety of experiences but share a passion for the outdoors and connecting with people. The positive experience with our guides on trail is consistently ranked as one of the most rewarding aspects of joining a Wilderness Inquiry trip.
How are bathroom breaks handled during a trip?
Simply let your trip leader know when you need to use the restroom, and they will ensure your needs are accommodated right away.
There are established toilets in most of the places we travel. In places where these facilities are not provided, we bring a portable commode on our trips, which provide much of the comfort and stability of the toilet in your house. We pay special attention to privacy and hygiene, putting the commode in a secluded place, erecting tarps and visual barriers, etc. We always bring plenty of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and soap for hand washing.
Please contact us for more information about accommodations on a specific trip.
How structured is the daily itinerary during the trip?
Most trips have planned activities throughout the experience. The exact length, timing, and order of these activities is typically flexible, but varies from trip to trip. Wilderness Inquiry staff will take individual preferences under consideration, but activities will be chosen based on the best fit for the entire group. Sitting out of a particular activity is always an option. Participants can choose to use their spare time to hike, canoe, or just hang out around camp and relax. As long as staff leaders know of your intentions, most activity choices can be accommodated.
What types of kayaks and canoes are used on your trips?
We use stable, 2-person kayaks on all of our kayak trips. These are very big and carry a lot of gear, and can be used as a 3-person kayak if a participant needs to sit in the boat as a passenger. Everyone will get the opportunity to paddle and stern a boat if they want to.
On some trips we use tandem canoes made of either Royalex or Kevlar depending on the location, participant group, and portages.
On other trips, particularly on big open water like the Mississippi River, we use our handmade 24-foot Voyageur canoes. These boats are specifically designed for safety and stability. Each boat fits 10 people.
Do you serve people with disabilities?
Yes, the reason Wilderness Inquiry was started was to ensure that people of all abilities could enjoy the wilderness.
Some trips and activities are more or less accessible depending on your situation and the location of the trip. If you have a disability or health concern, please describe it on your confidential registration form. We review every registration and will call you to discuss any questions we have regarding your ability to safely and successfully participate on the trip. Our goal is to deliver the best experience possible for all participants while working to provide universal access to the outdoors.
I have limited ability in my upper body. Is a paddling trip appropriate for me?
Most WI paddling trips are a great fit for anyone with limited upper body abilities. Our canoes and kayaks are fully accessible and we have a variety of adaptive equipment to assist you. Please provide as much information as possible regarding your accommodation needs on your registration form.
Can I participate on a WI trip using a wheelchair?
Our mission is to provide equitable access to the outdoors. Some of our itineraries are inherently more wheelchair-friendly than others. After working with participants to determine which experience is best for them, our trained staff utilize a number of field-tested adaptive gear and practices to ensure participation of all group members.
We require use of a manual wheelchair on most of our trips. Chairs that are collapsable and have knobby tires are very helpful, as are balloon front tires. Most modern, manual wheelchairs are adequate. Please call 612-676-9400 if you have questions.
What type of wheelchair tires would be suitable for your trips?
We require participants to provide their own manual wheelchairs. Chairs with mountain bike tires, knobby tires, or balloon tires work best on trail. Most modern, manual wheelchairs are adequate.
Can I bring a power wheelchair on a Wilderness Inquiry trip?
We require the use of a manual wheelchair on most of our trips. Please call us at 612-676-9400 or email email@example.com to discuss the possibility of using a power wheelchair on a specific trip.
Does WI provide adaptive equipment to accommodate a disability?
WI provides adaptive gear (canoe/kayak seat pads, adaptive paddling equipment, etc.) to suit a wide range of needs. Please list specific accommodation requests during the trip registration process and contact us with any questions at (612) 676-9400 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Participants who require the use of a wheelchair must provide their own manual chair during a trip.
I have a child with a disability. Would a family trip be appropriate for them?
Yes. All of our trips strive to integrate persons with and without disabilities, including children on our family trips. Call us at 612-676-9400 if you have questions. Otherwise, you can register for a family trip and we'll call you when we receive your forms.
I have a disability and require the support of a Personal Care Attendant (PCA). Can my PCA attend the trip for free?
For most camping trips within the continental United States, the answer is yes! We want you to have appropriate support from somebody you are familiar with, and we want your PCA to attend. If you do not have a PCA you'd like to attend, we will try to find a suitable PCA to assist on your trip. We cannot guarantee that a PCA will be available.
For most lodge-based and international trips, a PCA may need to pay a reduced fee.
Does Wilderness Inquiry provide trips specifically for people with cognitive disabilities?
Yes! WI's Gateway to Adventure trips are intended for participants with cognitive disabilities. Gateway trips are designed to help participants with cognitive disabilities learn outdoors skills and have fun in nature. Some participants on Gateway trips attend fully integrated trips with Wilderness Inquiry after learning basic skills.
I have a hearing disability. Do I need a sign language interpreter to attend the trip?
This depends very much on your specific situation. We typically ask interpreters (SLIs) to go on trips with our participants who have a hearing disability. If a participant is able to bring their own sign language interpreter, this usually works best. SLI's trip fees are compensated on regional trips and greatly reduced on other domestic and international trips. If you cannot provide a sign language interpreter, WI will attempt to find one to attend the trip. We cannot, however, guarantee that an interpreter will be available.
What is the minimum age for kids on your family trips?
There is no minimum age requirement to participate on a WI family trip. We require participants to wear a personal flotation device (PFD) at all times when on water for safety. The smallest PFD we provide for children requires a minimum weight of 30 pounds. A family with a child smaller than this weight limit would need to provide their own PFD or would be unable to participate on the trip. For family paddling trips, children should be able to sit comfortably in a canoe or kayak for 1+ hour at a time. This should guide whether or not a child would be a good fit on any particular trip.
Is there a discount on family trips?
Yes. All youth participants under the age of 18 pay 50% less than the adult rate on all family trips. Click here to see a list of our available family trips.
Would my teenager enjoy a family trip with WI?
There are typically both teens and younger children on our family trips. We often offer a variety of activities so that participants of all ages have an enjoyable trip!
Will age-appropriate activities be offered for children on a family trip?
Yes. Your trip leaders will offer age-appropriate activities for children at different points throughout the trip.
Do I need international travel insurance if my health insurance doesn’t cover me on an international trip?
If your health insurance doesn't cover you while abroad, it is a good idea to consider a basic travel-specific insurance. WI does not offer insurance, but many companies do. Check out:
Which immunizations do you recommend when traveling to an international destination?
Prior to departure, we recommend that you check with your doctor as early as possible to ensure you are up to date on your standard immunizations. Your doctor is in the best position to recommend specific vaccinations to specific destinations.
What makes Wilderness Inquiry special?
In a word, 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.
Where is Wilderness Inquiry located?
Wilderness Inquiry's main headquarters is in Minneapolis, Minnesota with a base camp in Little Sand Bay, Wisconsin. However, WI leads trips all over North America and the world.
Who is the founder of Wilderness Inquiry?
There were many people involved in establishing Wilderness Inquiry, but most consider Greg Lais to be the founder. Greg began providing opportunities in the outdoors near the Boundary Waters with a group of friends back in 1975. Since its inception, Wilderness Inquiry has grown from operating from one cabin in the North Woods to serving more than 40,000 people annually. For more information, please visit our History and Mission page.
How can I obtain hands-on experience with WI before I apply?
We encourage all prospective staff to volunteer at WI or participate in an event to find out more about us. One good way to do this is to sign up as a Trip Assistant (TA). TAs go on trips at a reduced fee in exchange for their services. Sometimes TAs provide additional strength or balance in a group. Other times a TA may be assigned to assist with an individual with a disability. This is a great way to get a better understanding of what our trips are about, as well as the expectations we have for our trail staff. Click here to apply for a volunteer position.
Does Wilderness Inquiry offer full-time or career positions?
Yes. Most of our hiring processes involve seasonal or part-time work, but we do occasionally have full-time openings. Wilderness Inquiry currently has approximately 15 full-time career positions. The people in these positions are dedicated professionals who perform a wide variety of functions. Wilderness Inquiry is a growing organization, so new positions are created from time to time as well.
Click here to see a list of current employment opportunities.