Student Life

Phoenix Outdoor Program: Pre-Orientation

2022 Dates TBA
Phoenix Outdoor Program logo with campfire and phoenix, moon setting between pine trees.

The Phoenix Outdoor Program (POP) is an outdoor pre-orientation with two trip options: POP Base Camp and POP Expedition.

POP Base Camp takes place at an established campground. During the program, groups of 8-10 incoming first year students will be paired with upperclass student leaders who will lead them through outdoor skill development, different forms of outdoor recreation, and preparation for the first year at UChicago and beyond. Students on this trip will be in the front country with access to washrooms, but will still sleep in tents for the duration of the program.

POP Expedition takes place in Manistee National Forest in Michigan. Similar to POP Base Camp, participants will be placed in groups of 8-10 and paired with two upperclass student leaders. Expedition Campers, however, will go on a backpacking trip, carrying everything they need for themselves and their group on their backs. Students in POP Expedition will learn outdoor skills that they will immediately put into practice. Students on this trip will be in the backcountry with no access to washrooms except on the first and last day.

Whether you have never slept in a tent before or you're already comfortable navigating by map and compass through wilderness areas, there is a place for you in POP.

While there are many programs on campus designed to welcome new students to the UChicago community, POP is unique in its setting and in the demands that students must face while cooking meals, sleeping in tents, and spending full days outdoors with one another. This outdoor program is a one-of-a-kind chance for students to have experiences that are not possible on campus while also forming small group bonds with their new classmates and upperclass mentors.


    Dates: 2022 Dates TBA

    Spaces Available: 120

    Cost: $500 - POP is a need-blind program and we are committed to ensuring everyone who wants to participate is able to do so. Financial assistance is available for qualifying students and there is gear to borrow, free of charge. There will be a section of the application form where you can request financial aid and gear.

    Inclusions: Housing, meals, and transportation are included in the cost of the program. Students will be responsible for incidental/personal expenses as well as transportation to campus prior to the start of the program.

    Gear: Students will need all items on the gear checklist, but students do not need to purchase any items that they do not expect to use after the POP Trip. Group gear will be provided by POP and there is plenty of extra gear for participants to borrow, free of charge. There will be multiple opportunities to request to borrow gear, the first of which will be on the POP application. 

    Please note that students may apply for and participate in multiple Pre-Orientation or Summer Experience programs, provided the dates of the program do not overlap.

    Backpacking and camping can be an expensive activity, but the Phoenix Outdoor Program is committed to ensuring all students who are interested can participate in this opportunity. In order to assist students with the cost of participating in the program, you can request financial assistance as part of your application. POP Pre-O is a need-blind program, and a request for financial assistance will have no impact on how your application is reviewed. If accepted into the program, you will receive a notice of the financial assistance available to you before you need to make a decision about whether to participate in the POP Pre-O or not.

    The campground we have reserved for POP Base Camp has accessible campsites designed for campers with disabilities. There is accessible parking, a path of travel to an accessible cabin, a roll-in shower with bench, accessible sink, raised fire pit and accessible picnic table. We also have hiking poles available for those who require them and can discuss other accessible gear - please feel free to reach out to Katie at if you have any concerns around accessibility!


    Participants will go on hikes, engage in small group discussions, and participate in skill building sessions led by the POP Rangers. Participants will learn about Leave No Trace principles, how to set up a camp, using a map and compass, cooking in the outdoors, and more. Most importantly, students will have a chance to bond with fellow first years and upperclass leaders in a small group setting, as well as learn more about UChicago and feel better prepared for Orientation and the year ahead.

    Absolutely! Participants will have a variety of different experience levels and we will be covering all the skills you need to know to have a great camping experience. There will also be gear available to borrow, free of charge, so you don't have to worry about getting gear in case it's not an activity you want to pursue long-term.

    We have plenty of camping gear for you to borrow, but we do not have extra shoes, boots, or other clothing. For all those accepted into the program, we will be sending out a gear request form over the summer.

    Here are some ideas on where to get clothing items listed on the gear checklist:

    • Borrow from friends and family!
    • Army Navy Stores
    • Goodwill, The Salvation Army Store
      • Fleece and wool options can often be found as well as nylon or synthetic (non-cotton) running pants
    • Sierra Trading Post
    • Uncle Dan’s
    • REI – choose the outlet link for clearance

    If you are still having trouble or concerns about getting the gear you need, reach out to Katie at

    You may still apply without your CNetID. However, you should ensure that you claim your CNet ID submit your UChicago Card ID photo before you come to campus for POP. You will receive information on both of these processes over the summer.

    Because housing will not yet be open during pre-orientation, you will not be able to bring all of your term-time items with you for POP. We recommend shipping your term-time items to your residence hall or bringing them during the move-in period on September 21 and 22. More information on the move-in process will be forthcoming on the Orientation website.

    Yes. Participants will be asked to indicate specific dietary requirements or any food allergies on the program acceptance form, but we have accomodated a wide variety of dietary restrictions and allergies. 

    If you have specific concerns about this aspect of the trip, please contact Katie at

    We have put several policies in place to make sure students can participate in POP safely:

    1. Students will be required to bring and wear masks during the program, as well as follow any distancing protocols that are in place from the University, city, or state.

    2. Buses from campus to the campground will have windows open for air circulation and will be filled to half capacity to ensure proper distancing.

    3. At the campground, students will be placed into their small groups and will remain with those groups for the duration of the program. We will have the full campground for our program, so no one outside our program will be staying there.

    4. Students will receive their own cook kits and single person tents.

    5. Because the program takes place completely outside, this will also limit the potential for Covid-19 spread.

    These policies may change as we move into the summer. We will be in touch with all participants as the situation evolves.