Proposal Tips

The following is a collection of tips, advice, and resources shared by the Ritt Kellogg Memorial Fund Advisory Committee to aid students in the preparation of high-quality Expedition Grant proposals. Click on each heading below to see more information.


An expedition is different than just any trip. An expedition is bigger, the stakes are higher, and the experience is richer. Expeditions involve challenges that at times make you feel wrecked, but like anything else that matters in life, it feels worth it. You will learn about yourself and bring essential skills back into your life. You will discover it is not about the climb, it's the value that comes from the experience with friends. - Colby Coombs '89

The committee wants to evaluate grants based on teh Ritt Kellogg expedition criteria and mission, not on whether or not your application is incomplete, sloppy, or conflicts with the CC Honor Code. - Sam Newbury '02

Climbing and ski expeditions have a special place in the Ritt Fund as Ritt was a climber and a backcountry skier. We encourage those types of expeditions and get excited about seeing one submitted. With more serious expeditions comes added responsibility to address the increased hazards. Systematically go through each step of your expedition and reveal your awareness of the hazards. We are concerned for your safety like your parents, and we want to be convinced you also care about your safety. - Colby Coombs '89


Your objectives can be both itinerary-based - completing a trail, climbing certain routes, paddling a specific section of river - and non-itinerary based. Do you hope to accomplish any interpersonal goals, hone any specific skills, document your experience in a certain way, advocate for a cause, or provide service to the place you are visiting? - Kate Macklin, RKMF coordinator


In addition to describing your location, you should include the public land designations of the areas you will be traveling through - this will help you better understand specific regulations. - Colby Coombs '89


The Wilderness Act of 1964 was a landmark for the American conservation movement. Foreseeing the inevitable creep of humanity into every corner of habitable land, conservationists and politicians created a legal framework to permanently protect areas "where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where he himself is a visitor…" and that are "primarily affected by the forces of nature." Even more relevant to RKMF expeditions, wilderness areas must offer "outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation."

No doubt, the Wilderness Act comes with controversy alongside its inspiration. Many wilderness areas are not the "pristine" landscapes, untrammeled by man, that modern, Western civilization imagines them to be. In truth, much of the wild landscape of conservationists and modern recreationists are contested spaces, and many indigenous cultures have inhabited and valued these landscapes in various ways for centuries before their designation as "wilderness."

Nonetheless, this complexity doesn't diminish the core of the wilderness ethic: places that are protected from the trappings of human society and technology, ecosystems that can thrive with only the distant impacts of industrialization, and landscapes that offer solitude and demand self-reliance.

It is the kind of experience one has when visiting a wilderness area for an extended time that the RKMF intends to support, and we encourage proposals for expeditions into legally designated wilderness areas. Of course, wild, remote places exist that aren't designated wilderness, and the Advisory Committee welcomes proposals to these areas as well.

When evaluating the destination of an expedition proposal, the Advisory Committee considers these criteria:

  • General remoteness - expeditions should be in the "backcountry" and feel "out there"
  • Distance to human infrastructure (e.g. roads that most cars could drive on) and modern technology
  • Level of commitment and self-sufficiency - places that do not conveniently allow for support from outside the expedition team and that would make an early departure difficult
  • Opportunity for solitude


When writing your daily itinerary please be consistent in your format and information so it will be easy to follow. Here is an example itinerary you can base yours off of. Note that in the example provided it asks you to include daily maps, you are no longer required to do this as long as the digital map link you include is easy to follow and includes lots of detail.

There are plenty of free resources out there to help you create your itinerary and maps - CalTopo is a free online map building resource


Longer expeditions allow you to go further into the wilderness, but most teams cannot carry more than 10 days of supplies. We encourage you to plan a re-ration that allows you to stay in the field. This can be accomplished by bush plane, or horse back, or leaving a cache somewhere. - Colby Coombs '89

If your route crosses roads and you will need to re-ration, see if you can have someone bring you a pre-packed re-ration rather than going into towns to grocery shop while on the expedition. - Kate Macklin, RKMF Coordinator.


Ursaks, bear cans, and bear hang kits can be rented from the CC Outdoor Education Gear House free of charge for your RKMF trip or expedition.

Make sure you research local regulations for the areas you are going for what food storage options they recommend or require.


When preparing your menu, think about how people will eat: will everyone eat as a group? Will people eat breakfasts or lunches on their own? Will people want to customize their snacks or will you all eat the same snacks? Having individual group members customize their meal plan will give greater variety to their food and will likely make them happier. Similarly, remember that different people will require different amounts of calories - some individual meal customization can allow people to meet their needs.

One of the most common things we see on proposals is a boring meal plan - do you really want to eat oatmeal for breakfast and PB&J for lunch for 16 days straight? You don't have to eat a new meal every day, but see if you can plan some good variety into your meal plan to keep it interesting for you. Don't overlook the value of fresh food!


Please include comprehensive lists for group equipment and personal equipment - including any technical equipment necessary for your specific expedition. Please also detail what materials you will bring in an equipment repair kit. Include quantities for each item and if you will need to rent an item, specify where you will rent it from.


Check out this example first aid kit, which will cover 2-3 people for two weeks. You can use this as a base kit which you should scale up or down to meet your group's needs. For scaling, think about what items are consumables and which are not. For items like tweezers, you only need 1 pair whether you are out for two weeks or two months, with two people or six. For consumable items like gauze, tape, and medications, you will want to scale these numbers up to meet your anticipated needs. If you have a resupply, consider having first aid items to restock with - this can help lighten your load.


This is perhaps the most vital part of the proposal. We are trying to assess if the level of anticipated risk matches your level of experience. The more significant the objective risks present on a trip, the more thorough this section should be. You should also mention any known or anticipated subjective risks for the expedition. - Sam Newbury '02

Specifically speak to:

  1. What each anticipated hazard is
  2. Your plan to mitigate the hazard while on the expedition
  3. Your personal experience in mitigating that hazard
  4. Your plan to address gaps in your experience for that hazard
  5. What you will do if you experience the hazard (what is your planned treatment/response)

Glacier Travel: When and where will your group practice fixed line ascension and crevasse rescue techniques. Before roping up and traveling on a snow covered glacier, you should build snow anchors and test them.

Skiing: When and where will the group practice transceiver searching. Include plan for forecasting and evaluating snow pack. What problems exist? Where are they located? How likely? How big? Explain your uphill and downhill travel route selections with regard to avoiding avalanches.

Rivers: When and where will the group get together and review swift-water rescue techniques? How will flow rates effect safety? What are your plans for scouting difficult sections?

Rock climbing: When and where will the group get together and review rescue lowers? Will you have enough anchor building gear for a forced retreat? How will you survive an unintended bivy? Explain as much about the descent as the ascent.

Cooking: Most accidents happen in the kitchen. Describe measures taken to reduce tent fires, carbon monoxide poisoning, hygiene.

Note that trips in May and June have often been impacted by snow in the high country and trips in August have often been impacted by wildfires.


Ritt Fund expeditions are un-supervised and participants are expected to have a self-sufficient strategy to deal with most problems. Any accident that threatens a person's life or limb or eyesight should be evacuated immediately. Participants should be able to provide GPS location coordinates over an emergency communication device. - Colby Coombs '89


Aim for food budgets to be about $10-15/person/day.

For travel to/from your expedition, the Fund will cover transportation costs, lodging, and food. Exorbitant costs will not be funded - aim for the cheapest option.


If applicable, state what an alternative mode of transportation costs. For example, if you are proposing driving in a personal vehicle, how does that compare to flying or taking a bus?


Your outdoor skills resume can also be thought of as a technical experience log. Within this document you describe your relevant previous experience in the outdoors to help qualify why your skill level is appropriate for the demands of your proposed expedition.

A backcountry resume should be tailored to relevant experience, certifications, and trainings. For example, on a climbing trip to the Arrigetch I would want to see overnight backcountry experience that includes map reading and bear avoidance, multipitch climbing experience at 2 grades harder than their proposal, experience building anchors, rappelling with two ropes, and cliff rescue techniques - Colby Coombs '89

The following are some example outdoor skills resumes that you can model yours after: Example 1


We encourage you to keep your references professionally, and ideally not from a family member. A great letter could come from a supervisor, mentor, or peer who can speak to your technical skills, experience, and decision making skills. If a family member will serve as your best reference, encourage them to be objective in their letter.

The secondary reference should complement your Letter of Reference and be someone who has a broader view of your character, judgment, and responsibility.

Report an issue - Last updated: 09/17/2021