Project Wildcat (PWild)

Project Wildcat is a wilderness program that brings a small group of new Wildcats together for a week of backpacking, camping, and enjoying the great outdoors.

This is a POP experience. Registration requires you to rank POP experiences in which you are interested (you can rank only 1 or up to all 4). Students will learn of their POP placement by June 12 at 11:59 p.m. CDT. Placement is not guaranteed due to space constraints.


  • Trip fee: $400
  • Total cost of participation: $485 (trip fee + up to $85 in optional rental gear, such as backpacks or sleeping bags)
  • Fee waivers are available for many of those who receive need-based aid from the University and can be requested within the POPtrip application; the fee waiver covers the trip fee and cost of any needed rental gear


Students will arrive to campus on Sunday, September 3; the program will conclude the morning of new student move-in day on Monday, September 11. Students placed in Project Wildcat will learn about arrival time and also move-in day specifics at the time of their notification email on June 12.


Arrive to campus and then travel to  the Superior Hiking Trail in Northern Minnesota

What have past participants said about Project Wildcat

  • "The scenery amazed me, the people changed who I was, and the counselors prepared me for Wildcat Welcome and what's to come in my first year...I'll remember this week forever."
  • "The chance to step away from the fast pace of my everyday life while getting to know other Northwestern students has been an incredible experience."
  • "I feel confident, strong, intelligent, excited, and ready to work. I really feel like I have a community of people who care about me even before I go into Wildcat Welcome."
  • "On the final day, I watched the sunset on Sonju Lake from the Island and the symmetry of the colors over the water called me to a point where I could examine my past and resolve my future. So i stood there, on the rock of the lake with my hands clasped behind my back and I asked myself who I wanted to be. I finally had enough time to answer."

A few things to note about Project Wildcat

  • Almost half of students that participate in PWild have never been camping before, so experienced and beginner backpackers are all welcome! No prior experience is required.
  • Some choose to do a bit of light training to help prepare them for the new experience of hiking six hours each day while carrying a 30 pound backpack; no need to put yourself through boot camp, but exercise can be beneficial.
  • In order to unplug from technology and to be present in nature, PWild is a cell phone-free zone. Family members shouldn't worry as students will have access to their phones again beginning the morning of Move-in Day.

Meet the Project Wildcat Counselors

What does a typical day look like on Project Wildcat?

Each day on Project Wildcat is scheduled by the individual group, but there are some essential parts of the day that help give shape to a typical day.

Activity Description
Wake Up One of the best parts of trail is sleeping outside and waking up with the sunrise or the chatter of fellow group members starting breakfast.
Breakfast Boil water for a hearty meal of oatmeal or anything else that is in your group food. It's up to you! Just be sure to eat enough to start out on trail with good energy.
Breakdown Camp Take down the tarp, distribute group gear, and pack out the rest of your food. Most importantly, make sure to pick up any trash around the campsite.
Make a Plan for the Day Collectively decide on how many miles you want to hike and where you want to end with your group.
Set Out on Trail Once the campsite is completely taken down and packs are packed, it's smart to fill up all your water bottles if there is a nearby source of water. After packs are on, hit the trail.
Hike Hike 2-8 miles a day, taking breaks as determined by your group. Breaks can be for a quick snack, to get water, check for blisters, or just because you've come across a beautiful view and you want to take it in.
Lunch Once your group decides that they are hungry, stop for lunch. Nothing feels better than taking off your packs and eating some good trail food after hiking. If your group plans your routes right, chances are that you will have lunch at one of the many beautiful spots along the trail. 
Reach Your Campsite Arriving to camp marks the end of the hiking day and the start of camping life! Once your group arrives, start setting up camp. Campsite tasks include setting up your group tarp, finding a good tree for bear bagging your food, collecting firewood, and starting dinner.
Dinner Fill up on some delicious grub. Afterwards, start building a warm crackling fire and reach the natural state of PWild, community building and reflection after a long day on trail. 
Fire Time Sit under the bright stars and talk, tell jokes, and share life stories around the campfire. On a good night, s'mores and other treats may be included. If the weather is good, stargazing is a must. There's nothing quite like sitting under shooting stars and unbelievably clear constellations with a group of 10 new friends. 
Settle in for the Night With your belly full, body warmed, fire extinguished, and food bear bagged, crawl into your sleeping bag and get ready for some deep zzz's. Snuggle with your 9 other group mates and fall to sleep to the symphony of snores and sounds of the nighttime wilderness.