In Victoria, Australia, school outdoor-education programmes are unusually wide-spread and well established. Is any form of outdoor education essential? I use this question to develop a critical reading of outdoor-education discourse in Victoria. I contend that this discourse has been dominated by universalist and decontextualized understandings of outdoor education which fail to account adequately for the development of particular programmes, ignore important social, cultural, geographical and historical differences, and are flawed as a basis on which to build outdoor-education theory. I show that outdoor education must be understood not only in broad national contexts, but also in local and regional contexts, and that outdoor-education programmes must be understood as particular contributions to existing relationships between particular communities and particular regions. To do so requires a critical reappraisal of how experience is comprehended and geographical location accounted for in curriculum studies.