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4 Extreme Outdoor Team-Building Activities & Tips to Get Started

Posted On: 08/14/2020

Trust falls. Show and tell. Three truths and a lie. If the mere mention of these common team-building games makes you yawn, you’re not alone.

If you ask most people for their honest opinion about team-building activities, you’ll hear plenty of negative responses. These activities can leave participants feeling lethargic, socially awkward, or even indignant. When team-building events go badly, they don’t give a team a newfound sense of camaraderie; they just leave everyone feeling bored. In certain scenarios, they can even lead to feelings of resentment.

Contrast these mundane activities with the excitement of snowmobiling at a scenic campsite, engaging in thrilling off-road races, scaling the side of a mountain, or seeing exotic animals. These experiences can provide plenty of opportunities to engage with peers.

This article will discuss four activities that are sure to maximize your team-building efforts. If you want to avoid negative feelings in your team and create a sense of true solidarity, consider trying one of the below extreme outdoor activities. These are excellent ways to generate excitement, provide bonding moments, and give every participant — regardless of their skills or interests — time to shine.

Cold-Weather Camping

Camping in cold climates presents countless opportunities for engagement and team bonding. Participating in any combination of the following events can appeal to different team members and promote communication:

  • Snowmobile Tour: Depending on your camping destination, guided snowmobile tours may be available. These give your team the chance to explore scenic vistas. There are thousands upon thousands of miles of snowmobile trails in the U.S. alone, and it would be a serious mistake to neglect to include this thrilling activity as part of your outing.
  • Sledding or Skiing: People in your group can work together in these outdoor activities. Whether you have a competitive group of participants or beginners who are just learning the ropes, sledding or skiing can be an exciting addition to your camping trip.
  • Ice Fishing: If your group needs a little downtime, ice fishing is another option. Facilitating this activity by discussing the basics of ice fishing and then having team members work in groups can be a great opportunity for socialization.
  • Snow Fort or Snowman Competition: Many team members will naturally have a competitive side, and a competition of this type is a great activity to get everyone involved — particularly if you encourage members to choose specific “roles” in the challenge. From making the largest fort or snowman to making as many as possible in a half-hour, there are several variations of this game that you can facilitate.
snowmobile touring
Snowmobile Tour lead by guide | Image by skeeze from Pixabay

This is just a sample of the options your team has during cold-weather camping. There are plenty of other games you can host when the sun goes down, from fire building contests to cold-weather first aid training sessions. These can arm your team with more skills and help them build their sense of confidence as a group.

Preparation for cold-weather camping requires a number of additional considerations, just as any other season does. Planning should be a part of the team-building process. This includes bringing adequate supplies, meal planning, and more.

How Does This Activity Promote Team Bonding?

Throughout a camping trip, various challenges and opportunities will give team members reasons to communicate and work together. As you can see above, cold-weather camping provides countless options that allow participants to demonstrate their unique skill sets while working together for a common cause. This can give each member feelings of confidence and self-efficacy, as well as a sense of responsibility for the success of the overall team.

These are ideal feelings to strengthen the sense of solidarity within a team. If well-executed and facilitated, a winter camping trip can create long-lasting memories and team bonds.

Going Off-road

Whether your aim is to help your team engage in thrilling races, explore the countryside, or simply learn the basics of an all-terrain vehicle or motorcycle riding, taking your team-building experience off-road is a great way to drum up enthusiasm and help your group release some stress.

Inspect Vehicle and Equipment for Defects

Depending on where your team is located, you may be able to have them participate in desert or rock racing, mudding, or other activities. Alternatively, you can book times with off-road organizations or at trial courses for a more structured experience. You’ll want to choose an activity and location that matches the preferences of your group:

  • Off-Road Adventures: Off-road vehicles give users plenty of flexibility when it comes to taking in the sights and sounds of nature. Just be sure to stress safety best practices when going off-road!
  • Team-Based Races: These are an excellent way to get everyone involved while evening the playing field. You can choose tracks that focus on speed or skill, giving participants some variation during the outing.
  • Geocaching: While this activity can be completed in urban areas or local parks, taking geocaching off-road is a smart way to encourage puzzle-solving and communication among group members. Hiding caches and giving teams clues as to their whereabouts can encourage collaboration.

If available, you can rent equipment and vehicles at your off-roading destination, though there are many benefits to investing in some of your own. Being able to use an ATV ramp or motorcycle ramp and load up your own company off-road vehicles gives you much greater flexibility during team-building outings.

How Does This Activity Promote Team Bonding?

While off-roading is sometimes characterized as a one-note activity that appeals to a limited demographic, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The range of options when going off-road appeals to many different types of people, and mixing up your outing with a few different activities is a great way to appeal to your entire team. This variety can highlight the different capabilities of each member of your team while giving them an opportunity to bond in the great outdoors.

Rock Climbing

Whether you take your team to a mountain range or to a local gym with climbing walls, rock climbing is an exciting prospect. While it may seem like a fairly straightforward activity, there are plenty of climbing games to enjoy:

  • Hot Lava: This game involves eliminating holds on a wall, forcing participants to think creatively and find new routes to get to their objective. When played in groups, other members can select which holds are eliminated, leading to fun problem-solving.
  • Boulder Tag: Interested in playing a game of tag while hanging on a wall? This is a fun and exhilarating way to practice new skills. Groups of team members can play against one another to add another layer of excitement and camaraderie to this game.
  • Forced Falls: Players in this game make intentional (safe) falls, and the belay partner is responsible for determining when. People in the group who have a fear of falling can address this issue head-on by playing this game.
rock climbing
Rock climbing in the wilderness | Image by Lukas Prudil from Pixabay

How Does This Activity Promote Team Bonding?

Team-based rock climbing games require communication and trust — essential building blocks for any productive relationship. It is also exciting, particularly for participants who have never tried it before. Compared to the other activities in this list, this is one of the more affordable options, but that certainly doesn’t make it any less memorable for those involved.

Going on a Safari

The last extreme outdoor team-building activity we’ll discuss is the possibility of going on a safari. If this sounds too fantastical for your budget, note that a “safari” can take place anywhere from actual exotic destinations to your local zoo; indeed, some zoos, such as the world-famous San Diego Zoo, host events for team-building purposes. Regardless of your destination, there will be plenty to see and do for each member of your group. Activities include:

  • Game Drives: Nothing gets the heart pumping (or conversation rolling) quite like an adventure through a safari zone. There are plenty of ways you can gamify this experience, such as through competitive games of “I Spy,” but it’s also wise to have your group simply bask in the moment and discuss their experiences with one another.
  • Scavenger Hunts: Segment your broad group into smaller teams, then have them compete to see who can first find every item on a list. This can include exotic animals, specific landmarks, and many other potential items. This is a great game to put team members’ perception and problem-solving abilities to the test.
  • Photography Challenges: Similar to a scavenger hunt, this involves tasking teams of participants with locating specific animals or landmarks, then snapping a photo of each. As a broader group, participants will rank each other’s work. Winners of each category can win small rewards for their photographic prowess.

How Does This Activity Promote Team Bonding?

Safaris appeal to a wide range of people due to the fact that the natural world — particularly rare or endangered animals — is a highly appealing draw. Further, many safari activities can be enjoyed without necessarily exerting too much energy, which makes this a great choice if accessibility concerns for outdoor recreation may impact the success of your event. Safaris also allow participants to experience memorable moments and opportunities for bonding that few other activities can provide.

Tips for Successful Team-Building Activities

To maximize your chances of success in team-building events, there are some general best practices that you should follow:

  • Strike a Balance Between Collaboration and Competition: People generally prefer either collaborative or competitive events. Focusing on balancing these two types of activities can do a lot to make sure everyone is engaged.
  • Prioritize Safety: While some of the activities discussed above entail a certain level of risk, be sure to prioritize the well-being of your team. This means teaching safety tips, providing protective gear to participants, and carrying first-aid supplies.
  • Invest in the Right Gear: To make participating in team-building events like those discussed here more financially sustainable over the long term, you need to invest in vehicles, protective gear, and accessories. Some parts, such as ramps, lifts, and carriers, can help you keep your equipment in good condition, in addition to eliminating potential safety hazards.