We Welcome Your Application to Join Us!
We build each of our groups with care, keeping the groups small (no more than twelve students), and paying close attention to age, grade, gender, and the mix of hometowns and schools. Our goal is to put together great groups — groups where nice kids thrive in a supportive, wholesome, and caring environment. Please note: availability as shown is based on students traveling without a friend; if your child is interested in traveling with a friend, please call our office for availability.
Important Information about Availability
This departure of this trip has good availability. Apply as soon as possible since availability changes quickly.
This departure of this trip has limited availability. Apply as soon as possible, and on receipt of your application, if space is still available, we’ll confirm a spot for you. If all of the spots are taken, we’ll call you to discuss options.
This departure of this trip is currently full — please call us to discuss options.
How to Apply
Apply online using a credit card for the $795 deposit (your card will not be charged until we confirm a spot for you). Applications are reviewed in the order in which they are received (we do not hold spots over the phone).
When to Apply
The flow of applications starts in July and peaks in January/February. Some groups fill by the December holidays, and others will have space into the late spring. Our advice? Apply as soon as possible — it only takes a few minutes — and we’ll get to work right away to find a great spot for you.
Call (413.458.9672) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). We look forward to hearing from you.
Hike the best of Switzerland.
Two weeks in a mountain paradise.
Alpine Explorer is a legendary trip with roots that go back to the 1980s when Overland’s founders, Tom and Liz Costley, hiked the Wasserngrat and marveled at the views from the top, then stopped at the Geltenhütte for a picnic below waterfalls of Alpine snowmelt.
Have you ever thought to yourself: I can’t believe how beautiful this is? Well, that happens a lot on Alpine Explorer.
The Alps are so beautiful, in so many ways: deep green valleys, giant snow fields (in the summer!), enormous glaciers, towering mountains. But there’s small beauty, too, and just as impressive: a flower-decked chalet, a village perched on a hillside, a high summer pasture.
The best way to see, to experience, to fall in love with the Alps is to hike them. And hike them we do. These are great hikes: a day’s worth of work on the trail will give us a summer’s — maybe even a lifetime’s — worth of beauty, fun, and satisfaction.
And we hike them together. We’ll be talking and laughing and singing, telling stories, playing games, and becoming great friends who share every moment, every mile, every laugh, every smile.
In the end, well, in the end, you won’t want to leave. But that’s okay. You’ll come back. We’re sure of it.
Good Things to Know: The 2023 itinerary has been carefully crafted to start with a series of day hikes (light packs with lunch and water) to get the group out on the trails near Gstaad to explore. Afterwards, we’ll take a day off from hiking and train to Montreux (about 90 minutes away through a landscape of mountains, hills, and villages) to catch a boat on Lake Geneva, a 60-mile-long sliver of sparkling blue snowmelt.
After a day of cruising the lake and stopping at small towns along the shore, we’ll return to Gstaad and prepare for our backpacking trip across the Bernese Oberland. This is why we’ve come here: to put together all we’ve learned about hiking and camping as we traverse the best slice of the Alps.
The backpacking trip ends above Kandersteg at the Blüemlisalp Hut — the high point of our trip. At every step along the way, whether it’s day hiking or backpacking, the camping is sweet: one of the things that’s really, really nice about hiking in the Alps is thru-hiking from village to village (where there are all the services you might need). We’ll stay in campgrounds with full facilities (and that means showers!). And, the meals? Well, even in the tiny mountain villages we’ll hike through there’s just about everything we’d like — granola and fruit for breakfast, fresh bread, cheese, sliced meats, hummus, apples, and plums for lunch, and dinners that include stir-fry and pasta and green salads with lots of great stuff tossed in.
What’s it all add up to? Maybe the best two weeks of hiking in the Alps!
Sharing the Moment
Teamwork & Triumph
Stunning Swiss Views
Backpack the Bernese Oberland
Need to Know
Included in Trip Fee
- Group gear
Not Included in Trip Fee
- Personal gear and clothing
(see what to pack)
- Airfare to and from the trip start and end
- Travel protection (recommended;
learn more about the benefits)
Hike the best of the Swiss Alps.
Day 1: Trip Start
We’ll meet in Zurich and travel as a group to the Bernese Oberland where we’ll set up camp for the first six days. We’ll cook dinner, get to know one another, and prepare for our adventure in the Alps.
Days 2-5: Day Hikes near Gstaad
Surrounded by towering snow-draped mountains, we’ll explore the lush, green Bernese Oberland on day hikes. We’ll explore river valleys, scramble up to passes, and stride along ridges. We’ll see a beautiful part of Switzerland as we hike and picnic, laugh, sing and tell stories.
Day 6: Lake Geneva by Boat
We’ll take a day off the trail to rest up for our backpacking trip. We’ll travel by train to Montreux and catch a boat to explore this absolutely beautiful lake with the Alps to the south and vineyards to the north.
Days 7-11: Thru- Hike the Bernese Oberland
We’ll put on our backpacks and head east, from village to village, and from valley to valley, each day bringing new delights. An evening spent at the cozy Gelten Hut, in the shadow of the Wildhorn massif, is a true highlight.
Days 12 & 13: The Blüemlisalp Hut and Trip End
To celebrate two weeks of exciting exploration, great fun, and new friends, we’ll lace up our hiking boots for a final challenge hike to the Blüemlisalp Hut. This hut, perched below the glaciated Blüemlisalp massif, offers a fitting final vantage point to look back on our two weeks together in the Alps!
Proud of our accomplishments, we’ll take the train to Zurich and prepare for our upcoming departure. We will check in for flights, do laundry, shower, clean our gear, and pack up. We’ll finish the day with a celebratory dinner in Zurich and then head to our final accommodation.
9 nights of comfortable frontcountry camping. Campground facilities will vary but most include access to bathrooms, flush toilets, showers, and laundry facilities.
2 nights in an Alpine hut with access to toilets, running water, and sleeping bunks.
1 night in a youth hostel in Zurich before flights home.Itinerary may vary by group and is subject to change.
"I loved hiking by the glaciers because it was difficult yet very fun and rewarding. I also loved exploring nearby towns. All of the leaders I had were wonderful, funny, and caring. I love Overland! "
"We cannot believe how much we all grew because of this trip. As parents we had to step back and send her off. Isabelle came back with a new confidence about her. An amazing experience. "
What to PackDownload PDF
Weather conditions in the Alps can change quickly, and having the right gear is essential. Good, waterproof rain-gear and warm layers will ensure your child stays comfortable throughout their trip.
Cotton clothing (which won’t keep you warm when wet) should be avoided.
Questions about what to pack? Email trip planner Dave McCahill.
- Internal Frame Backpack
65-85 liters or 4,000-5,100 cubic inches. Before purchasing a backpack, find your backpack size by measuring your torso length and your hips (instructions are available here). We recommend getting fitted at a store and trying on multiple packs.
- Draw-String (Gym) Bag
Lightweight/compressible bag to hold carry-on items on the plane, and for day hikes early in the trip. A large daypack is not necessary, since groups will not be able to store extra luggage during their thru-hike.
- Navy Overland T-Shirt (1)
We will send every student an Overland T-shirt prior to the trip. Please wear this T-shirt to trip start.
- Synthetic T-Shirt (3)
- Synthetic Shorts (2)
- Fleece Pants (1)
Please do not bring cotton sweatpants (they are heavy and bulky and will not keep you warm if wet).
- Synthetic Hiking Pants (optional)
Lightweight and quick dry material. Non-cotton warmup style pants are acceptable.
- Synthetic Long Underwear Top & Bottom (1)
- Underwear (5)
- Wool and/or Synthetic Socks (4)
- Winter Gloves or Mittens (1)
Insulated, warm and waterproof. Avoid knit and porous materials.
- Winter Hat (1)
- Hat with Visor (1)
- Fleece Jacket or Pullover (1)
- Lightweight Synthetic or Down Jacket (1)
- Raincoat (1)
Waterproof material (e.g., Gore-Tex, or similar) is required. Your jacket should be large enough to allow layers underneath. Ponchos are not acceptable.
- Waterproof Rain Pants (1)
- Waterproof Pack Cover
If your backpack does not come with a cover, we recommend buying a cover one size larger than your pack.
- Synthetic Sleeping Bag
A lightweight, compact synthetic sleeping bag rated to 15 degrees Fahrenheit or less. A synthetic sleeping bag is required for this trip; down is not appropriate as it does not insulate if wet. Your sleeping bag should compress into a stuff sack no larger than 20" in length.
- Sleeping Pad
¾-length or full-length closed cell foam (thin and firm) or lightweight, backpacking style inflatable pad.
- Bowl, Mug & Utensils
6" to 8" plastic dish or bowl with top, insulated plastic mug, spoon, fork, and knife. These don't need to be special camping utensils (a Tupperware dish and regular utensils are fine).
Please bring an extra battery/batteries.
- Water Bottle
One 1-liter bottle. A Camelbak or similar water carrier is acceptable.
- Adjustable Trekking Poles
To add stability, reduce strain on the knees and improve balance while crossing unstable surfaces.
- Waterproof Hiking Boots
Choose comfortable boots designed for hiking with a pack (i.e., mid to high cut for ankle support). Boots should be waterproof. Break them in before the start of your trip.
- Camp Shoes
Closed-toe shoes to wear around camp. Crocs or water shoes are ideal.
- Synthetic Camping Towel
A medium-size synthetic camping towel (synthetic camping towels dry much faster than regular towels).
- Travel Size Toiletries
- Sleeping Eye Mask & Foam Ear Plugs
- Sunscreen (SPF 15+) & Chapstick (with SPF protection)
- Gallon Sized Ziploc Bags (10)
To organize and waterproof your gear and small items.
- Large Trash Bags (4)
To waterproof your gear.
- Package of Moleskin or Molefoam
To protect your feet from blisters.
- Camera, Charger & Extra Batteries (optional)
A digital or disposable camera.
- Personal Journal or Book (optional)
- Health Insurance Card
Please bring an original or copy of your health insurance card.
Please bring a passport that is valid until at least six months after your trip end date.
- Passport Photocopies
Make at least four photocopies of your passport and visa (if applicable). Leave one copy with your family and put photocopies in both your checked luggage and carry-on luggage for the flight, separate from your original documents.
- Spending Money & Miscellaneous Expenses
Each student should bring cash or a debit card to cover spending money and miscellaneous expenses. Debit cards provide a good exchange rate. Alternatively, leaders can also help students convert cash to local currency at the airport at the start of the trip.
Spending Money: While all meals and activities are included in the trip fee, we recommend $25/week for spending money (for example: for souvenirs or an occasional drink or snack beyond what is provided to the group as a whole).
Miscellaneous Expenses: Most Overland students will incur some expenses while traveling (for example: an equipment repair or baggage fees at trip end). Please add $100 (in addition to spending money), to cover these expenses. Please note: We have found that pre-paid debit cards and AMEX cards do not work internationally.
Things to Know
- Students should bring at least two reusable face masks on their trip.
- Your group will have access to laundry periodically.
- Please do not bring your smartphone (or any other electronics).
If your child brings a phone for use while en route to their trip, Overland recommends you do not send them with an expensive smartphone; instead bring an inexpensive prepaid cell phone. All phones will be collected on arrival and returned at departure. Please see our FAQ's for more information on phones and other electronics.
- Do not bring any type of knife or multi-tool (such as a Swiss Army knife or Leatherman tool).
- If you are flying to your trip, wear your hiking boots and carry your sleeping bag and sleeping pad on the plane in case your checked luggage fails to arrive on time.
- Pack everything in your large backpack. Do not bring additional luggage.
A lightweight drawstring (gym) bag is ideal for holding carry-on items on the plane, and for day hikes early in the trip.
- There are no reimbursements for lost, damaged or stolen items.
Please schedule expensive items—phones, cameras, etc.—on your homeowners insurance policy.
If you’re looking to purchase a backpack, fleece layers, etc., for your child, we encourage you to consider borrowing, renting, or purchasing lightly used gear. Especially for children who are still growing, using pre-owned gear can reduce both waste and cost.
Please note that some items wear out over time, and are best to purchase new (for example, a GORE-TEX raincoat). As with any gear, please make sure the items fit your child well. If you have any questions, please give us a call (413-458-9672) or email us (email@example.com).
Here are a few reliable places where you can purchase used items:
How challenging are Overland's hiking trips?
We offer a wide range of hiking trips to ensure we have something for all of our students.
Our Explorer trips, designed for students in middle school or early high school, offer a range of day hikes, an introduction to backpacking, and activities off the trail, such as rafting and kayaking. Expedition trips are a step up in difficulty. These trips have longer backpacking sections and activities off the trail include rafting, rock climbing, and mountaineering. We offer a range of levels and locations so students can find a trip that’s a good match for their interests.
If you have questions about our trips or would like our help selecting the trip that’s the right fit for you, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Does my child need to have previous experience?
While no previous experience is required, we have high expectations of our students.
We expect your child –with your help– to select a trip that is appropriate for their interests and abilities. You should spend some time familiarizing yourself with the details of the specific trip and help your child understand what to expect.
We also expect our students to prepare ahead of time: to review the packing list, gather clothing and gear, and complete whatever training the trip requires (for recommended training please see the Before You Go tab).
Once the trip begins, your child should be ready –and excited– to contribute to a wholesome and enthusiastic group in which each member feels welcomed and valued.
How is hiking in Europe different than hiking in North America?
Hiking in Europe is a mountain experience, but not a wilderness experience. On all of our routes in Europe, we hike through valleys dotted with small towns and villages, over passes used for centuries, and below some of the world’s most spectacular peaks. The trails are generally quite well-maintained, and there are almost always other hikers– of all ages!– on foot nearby.
What are meals like at Overland? Can Overland accommodate allergies and intolerances?
Meals at Overland
Good food (and plenty of it!), excellent nutrition, and fun are the goals of Overland’s meals. Each group buys, prepares, and eats all of its meals together. Our students, with their leaders’ supervision, prepare all meals. A typical breakfast has cereal, milk, juice, and fruit; most lunches are sandwiches (or wraps) with a variety of fillings, plus chips, and fruit; dinners reflect easily prepared group meals like pasta, burritos, and stir-frys (all of which will typically have a selection of sauces and fillings). At Overland, meals are a group experience, an important way to foster connection with and consideration for other group members.
Allergies & Intolerances
We recognize there are many young people with food allergies or intolerances. We welcome these young people’s interest in joining us, and we ask parents of a prospective Overland student with an allergy/intolerance to please consider the following important information.
Most meals at Overland are prepared in basic kitchens (or outdoors), and groceries are typically purchased from small stores with limited choices. As a result, meals are prepared and served in what may be allergen-contaminated environments, and on many trips allergen-free/gluten-free foods are not readily available. While we cannot guarantee allergen-free meal settings, we will do what is reasonable to provide allergen-free/gluten-free foods on those trips where available.
In all things, our top priority is to help maintain all students’ well-being; to this end, all Overland leaders are trained to recognize and respond to allergic reactions, including administering antihistamines and epinephrine (both are carried in every trip’s first aid kit); leaders carry cell phones, and in some cases, satellite phones, so that should the need arise, emergency personnel can be contacted and their services requested. It is important for all prospective parents to understand that many groups travel in remote areas where emergency services may not be easily or readily accessible.
Our Admissions Process is Collaborative
During our admissions process, we will review all submitted Allergy Questionnaires to understand the applicant’s allergy/intolerance. We will then consider whether or not the applicant’s allergy/intolerance may be reasonably accommodated. If our admissions team has any concerns, they will contact the parent. In this conversation, we will seek to learn more about the allergy/intolerance, and we will discuss the available grocery stores, emergency services, and medical facilities on the applied-for trip. These conversations generally have one of three outcomes:
- The applicant is placed on the applied-for trip if the applicant otherwise qualifies.
- We offer a different trip if the applicant otherwise qualifies.
- We recommend waiting a year and re-applying.
Managing Food Allergies/Intolerances is a Partnership
Our commitment is to the health and well-being of each of our campers. Our goal is to partner with parents and campers—a partnership in which:
- We clearly describe our trips and policies;
- Parents clearly describe their child’s allergies or intolerances and their child’s maturity level and capability to self-manage their allergy or intolerance.
- We work together with parents in a collaborative and interactive process to determine if there are reasonable accommodations that can be made so that otherwise qualified applicants can participate in our trips.
- Students on an Overland trip take an active role in managing their allergies, including reading food labels as needed, eating only those foods with known ingredients, and seeking a leader if a reaction is suspected.
Meals: Vegetarians & Specialized Diets
Every summer there are many vegetarians who join our groups and who enjoy meat-free meals. We are happy to welcome these students as long as they understand they will share in the group’s meals but will simply have the meat portion withheld. For example: sandwiches at lunch with hummus, lettuce, tomato, and cheese (while the rest of the group has sandwiches with sliced turkey or ham); pasta at dinner with a tomato sauce (while the rest of the group has pasta with a meat sauce). We sometimes have requests from applicants with specialized diets—vegans, for example—to provide separate, specialized meals. As much as we might like to accommodate these applicants, the limitations of our kitchens, the size of available grocery stores, and the importance of group meals make it impractical to provide separate, specialized meals.
How often will there be access to showers and laundry? Will my child have to bring quarters and detergent for laundry?
Staying clean and comfortable is important at Overland!
Most trips have frequent access to hot showers. This ranges from nearly every night on some of our Introductory, Service, and Language trips, to every couple of days on many hiking trips, to longer stretches–three to five days, sometimes a little longer–on some of our more challenging trips. The goal on every trip, however, is to take showers when they are available!
In general, on every trip we do laundry once a week— this is typically in a laundromat with funds and detergent provided by Overland (and it’s usually a lot of fun!).
My child doesn't have experience being away from bathroom facilities. Will Overland's leaders teach and support the group?
Yes. We want each of our students to feel completely supported.
Every one of our trips will spend some of their time in areas with access to bathroom facilities, many of which include flush toilets, running water, and trash receptacles. Our youngest students, and those participating in service and language trips, will spend most of their time in settings like these.
All of our hiking trips will spend time away from areas with bathroom facilities. In preparation for a day hike away from facilities, or for a longer backpacking section, our leaders will teach the group about backcountry bathroom practices. In most cases, this will include digging a cat hole (a shallow six-inch hole) in a private location away from water sources. Leaders will also provide every group member a small bag to pack out toilet paper (and other paper products, e.g., pads and tampons).
Our leaders will also make sure that group members are supported with menstruation information, needs, and supplies (i.e., pads, tampons). We recommend sending your child with a supply of these items. If your child needs additional pads or tampons, the leaders can provide them.
What are Overland’s policies on phones, electronics, and communication?
To maximize independence and self-reliance, we do not permit phone calls, emails, or text messages to or from our campers. Your child will call home on arrival and departure with our phones and assistance, and in the case of an emergency. If your child brings a phone for use while en route to Overland, please do not send an expensive smartphone. Instead, an inexpensive prepaid cell phone will do. All phones will be collected on arrival and returned at departure. While we will take reasonable steps to prevent damage, theft, or loss, we will not make any reimbursements for lost, damaged, or stolen phones.
Cameras are welcome but please do not bring any other electronics (e.g., iPods, iPads, Kindles or other readers, GPS or similar devices). All electronics (except cameras) will be mailed home on arrival (at your risk and expense).
Communication: We’ll Be In Touch With You If Needed
Our leaders in the field check in with our office regularly; they carry cell phones (and in some cases satellite phones). Anytime a camper is treated for an injury or illness by a doctor or other medical personnel, parents are notified by our office. A director will call the parents to explain the nature of the injury or illness, the sequence of events leading up to the injury, and/or the steps leading to the treatment. Parents are typically able to speak with the medical personnel, with the leaders, and with their child.
Can I send mail to my child during a trip?
Getting a letter, card, or postcard while on an Overland trip is always exciting.
Please keep in mind that sending mail to your child on an Overland trip is different than sending mail to a traditional camp because your child will be on the move. Our experience has been that mail often does not arrive on time, and sometimes even when it does, post offices, campgrounds, and other mail stops do not reliably deliver mail to our groups.
For these reasons:
1. Please do not send anything valuable – please send letters, cards, or postcards only. If mail is late, lost, or misdirected, Overland’s leaders and staff are not able to return to the post office (or other mail stop) to collect it.
2. Please use the US Postal Service first-class mail only; do not use UPS, FedEx, or DHL (many of our mail stops accept US Postal Service mail only).
3. Please do not send overnight letters: many overnighted letters arrive before or after we arrive and are sent back. For this same reason, please do not send mail that requires a signature upon delivery.
4. Please allow one week for delivery to U.S. mail stops.
5. Please allow two weeks for postal delivery to international mail stops.
My child’s birthday is during the trip — can I send a gift?
We recommend that you send a letter, card, or postcard instead and save the gift for when your child returns home at the end of the trip (and, don’t worry; your child’s trip leaders will make sure there is a celebration!).
Can I send my child a care package during the trip?
We recommend letters, cards, or postcards instead of care packages. If, however, you send a care package, bear in mind that many don’t make it to the intended recipient (because we’re moving), and that many aren’t returned to the sender.
Where does this trip start and end?
You will need to arrange transportation for your child to and from Zurich International Airport (ZRH) at trip start and trip end. We will provide more specific travel information once we have placed your child on the trip.
What is Overland's Covid-19 policy?
Please tell me about safety at Overland.
Safety and risk management are at the forefront of our decision-making–from trip planning to leader training to supporting our groups in the field.
We cannot guarantee absolute safety–no program can. All recreational activities include inherent risks. Therefore, we strive to manage the risks that we can, knowing we cannot eliminate them.
We work hard to recruit, train, and support our trip leaders so they can create the kind of trips that have made us successful since the 1980s.
Please click here to read more about our approach to risk management and our accreditation by the American Camp Association.
What is Overland's admissions process?
When we receive your application, if your first choice is available, we will:
(1) email you to thank you for your application,
(2) send you a link to access your Family Portal, and
(3) charge a deposit of $795 to your credit card.
If your first choice is not available, we will email you to discuss options.
For more information, and to access our application, please visit our Apply page.
Before you Go
Get ready for an Alpine adventure.
Students going on Alpine Explorer should prepare for:
- Full days of outdoor activities led by two caring Overland leaders
- Day hikes to viewpoints and mountaintops
- A multi-day backpacking trip designed for first-time backpackers
- A fun, supportive, and wholesome Overland experience
We expect you to arrive to your trip fully prepared for all activities.
Preparing for the Hiking
On Alpine Explorer, you will hike on well-established trails over a wide range of terrain, from meadows to hills to mountains. You'll start with day hikes where you'll carry just the essentials for the day (snacks and lunch, water, a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen, bug spray, and a raincoat). As the group's skills and fitness increase, you'll set out on a multi-day backpacking trip. While backpacking, you will carry all of your belongings (clothes, sleeping bag, and pad), some group gear, food, and water. Typically when backpacking, pack weights average about 30% of a hiker's weight. In the month before your trip, you should break-in your hiking boots (wear them a lot!) and complete the pre-trip training (see below). Once on your trip, you'll find that enthusiasm and a positive attitude will help to make the trip a success for you—and for everyone in your group.
- 4 weeks before your trip: three 45-minute hikes or walks in your boots.
- 3 weeks before your trip: three 60-minute hikes or walks in your boots.
- 2 weeks before your trip: three 90-minute hikes in your boots with a backpack loaded with 10% of your body weight.
- 1 week before your trip: four 2-hour hikes in your boots with a backpack loaded with 20% of your body weight.
Preparing for an Overland Experience
Overland trips are wholesome, structured experiences with high expectations of each student’s behavior. You are expected to be supportive, enthusiastic, positive and helpful. We ask that you leave your cell phone and electronics at home (cameras are always welcome), so you can fully engage with your group and your trip (you will have the opportunity to send letters and receive mail at designated mail stops, which are shared in the spring). Arriving ready for a challenge — and prepared to contribute to an enthusiastic group — will go a long way toward creating a successful trip. Please contact us if you’d like to discuss preparing for your Overland trip.
This summer, we are asking all of our students
- To be vaccinated for Covid-19, and we recommend being up-to-date on available boosters.
- To test before their trips. The test can be a clinic-based PCR or rapid antigen test, or a home test. Please note: (a) We will not require families to upload the results of these tests (unless the family has received an exemption or exception to our vaccine requirement); (b) If your child has had (and fully recovered from) Covid-19 within 90 days of their trip start, there is no need to do a pre-trip test.
- To mask up when traveling to your trip. In airports and on planes, please mask up. This could help keep you—and everyone in your group—healthy for the duration of your trip.
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Overland offers introductory, hiking, language, and service programs domestically and abroad for students in 4th through 12th grade.