The Out-Camping Activity at Summer Camps for Kids

Smiling Kid Camping out at Kids Summer Camp

The Confidence Gained on the Out-Camping Activity Has Been Immeasurable for Me.  The Empowerment Felt and Embraced in My Heart will Carry with Me Forever! 

The out-camping activity at summer camps for kids involves all of the campers hiking out and camping overnight either under the stars or in tents.  The activity will usually be limited to summer camps as the weather conditions are much warmer and predictable.  Many summer camps for kids and outdoor organizations around the country offer this uniquely impacting camp activity.  

It was always my favorite activity at camp when I was a kid, with the school engaging in fun expeditions that sometimes required weeks of training before the camp session.  One of the reasons that this activity is so inspiring is that little has changed in its delivery over the past decades.  It is still the same raw, beautiful, and unplugged outdoor experience that it has always been.  Except these days, the gear is FAR more comfortable than days of old. 

The Right Preparation is Key to These Activities. 

And it doesn’t have to be super expensive either.  The worst feeling is to hike your way out there only to realize that a highly important piece of your kit is sitting at home.  It has an immediate effect of sapping your confidence, and will continually haunt your mind throughout the rest of the experience.  We have all made these mistakes at one time or another.  

I still remember the gutting feeling of hiking 10 miles into the backcountry to one of my favorite hot springs and realizing that I had forgotten a key cooking ingredient for the main courses.  Cooking oil.  Doesn’t sound like a major mistake, but boy was it a hassle cooking all the food out there.  Turned out to be a tough ask to find a viable replacement for this in the outdoors.  The cleanups turned out to be prolonged and immense.  Thankfully I was hiking with mates, and they were far more forgiving than clients would have been.    

Keep in mind that it can be tough to absolutely ensure that your campers are fully packed despite your best efforts of immediately checking the packs before departure.  It feels like a Houdini trick sometimes when random items disappear from campers packs and end up back in the cabin.  

I recall one VERY cold night of sleeping under the stars in the mountains with a sleeping bag that couldn’t zip up on the sides.  It was a situation where the sleeping bag fault was realized by one of the teens at the end of the hiking day.  I ultimately decided to give up my own furnace of a sleeping bag to allow the teen to sleep comfortably.  The cold cut right through the side of the bag and that night yielded maybe 2 hours of sporadic sleep the entire time.  

It definitely wasn’t the easiest night for me.  But I was treated to one of my favorite shows, the majestic display of stars and constellations in the mountains!     

Two Different Adventures At Summer Camps for Kids.

Camps separate their out-hiking activity into two different groups depending on age and maturity.  The two adventures will be very different in regards to difficulty, length, goals, and bathroom access.

For The Younger Campers – 8 to 13 Years Old

The younger campers will hike around 2 to 3 miles away from camp to a pre-evaluated clearing with some kind of primitive bathroom.  Numerous, outside authorities actually demand some established form of bathroom access for the kids.  The clearing will be close to a backcountry dirt road that will allow easy delivery of meals and camping gear.

Camp meals will usually be prepared by the camp kitchen that day and then delivered right before mealtime.  Camps may or may not use open fire pits.  This will depend on the local, state-imposed fire restrictions.  A decision to have a campfire or not can be beyond the control of the camp.  Fines from illegal fire use can be exceptionally expensive.

The adults will sleep around the kids and ensure that nobody is sleeping too close to any tree-lines or rocks. The camp medical technician will probably hike with this group given its larger size and the younger ages of the hiking group.

Campers will return the following morning, usually before breakfast or they may have a light breakfast before they hike back.  The session directing team will be eager to hike back as soon as possible as some campers don’t sleep quite as well.  Especially if its there first time sleeping outside and with no sleeping pad.  The campers will wake up with some energy, and the adults will want to take advantage of that before they crash due to potential over-stimulation and lack of sleep.

For The Older Campers – 14 to 17 Years Old

The older campers will embark on a longer, tougher, and goal-based out-camping adventure.  This could involve summiting a local peak or reaching a prominent, local natural feature (such as hot springs, lake, waterfalls, etc.).  The hikes will typically be between 5 and 8 miles away from Camp and may be inaccessible by road.  Bathroom options might also be limited.

All of the main course food will be carried in packs by the hiking group.  The food will be basic staples with some kind of protein that can simply be reheated with boiling water or in pans.   As well as many healthy snacks, such as fresh fruit, in-between on the trail.  The camp gear will include some type of portable water filter to ensure healthy drinking water for the kids.

An experienced out-camping specialist with previous guiding experience should be leading the hike on a pre-evaluated trail.  This specialist should have a basic, active medical certification (such as Wilderness First Aid).  They should also possess an objective, calm temperament, and be that calm in any storm.

Keep in mind that when hiking in the mountains, under tree canopy, or in narrow canyons, weather can and will creep up on everyone. It is not always possible to see incoming weather with suitable preparation time. Waterproof clothing should always be included and packed at the top of the pack for easy access.

 Safety Considerations For All Campers At Summer Camps for Kids

Camps cannot allow kids to hike wet and cold for prolonged periods unless worsening conditions necessitate hustling back to camp.  This is referred to as “overexposure” in the outdoor guiding world.  Fortunately, this situation is entirely preventable with the right gear and preparation.  Always remember that mother nature can change her mind on a dime, and freak storms can always occur.

Localized lightning, the potential for flooding, and wildlife encounters are the real uncontrollable concerns for an experienced backcountry specialist in terrains below the snowline. There are numerous, effective techniques to handle the potential likelihood of any of this happening.

Some more established kids camps out there can offer winter out-camping activities.  If their out-camping adventure takes the hiking group into any prolonged backcountry areas at higher altitudes above the snowline, extra precautions NEED to be considered.  The out-camping specialist MUST have at least an active Level 1 Avalanche Certification and carry an avy probe.   And every camper should be carrying an ice axe and know how to use it.  

Keep in mind that proper ice axe use is entirely dependent on muscle memory.  That basically means that if you haven’t thoroughly practiced how to quickly use the ice axe, it won’t be of much use to you in that highly stressful moment.  Any camps taking kids into these areas will build into their schedule significant blocks of time committed to this kind of practice.  

I have actually experienced a minor slip on ice deep in the North Palisades of the Eastern Sierras.  We were 30 miles to the nearest road at the time and were coming down from the tiniest bivvy spot I have ever slept in.  I can tell you that the moment happens exceptionally fast and the mind will be a bit frantic.  It was actually one of the scariest experiences I have ever had in the outdoors.  It only lasted seconds, but the immediate shock and stress were brutal.   

This picture is of a couple of mates and I at the famous “U-Notch Hotel” in the North Palisades.  Just enough space for 3 people.  I’m the one with the black beanie.

How You Can Prepare For Out-Camping at Summer Camps for Kids.

Ensure They Have A Sleeping Pad To Lie On.

Starry nights in the outdoors will be MUCH warmer with a sleeping pad underneath the sleeping bag.  It is important to know that we lose the majority of our body heat through the ground.  This is why it is crucial that a sleeping pad is used to provide a level of insulation from the ground.  

There are two kinds of sleeping pads: closed-cell form and inflatables.  I can tell you from many personal experiences that the inflatable sleeping pads are FAR more comfortable and easier to carry than the traditional form kinds.  

There are even sleeping pads out there that will provide up to 5 inches of loft from the ground.  And most will include a stuff sack and a repair kit.  A sleeping pad can make ALL the difference for a good night sleeping in the great outdoors.

Handy Hands-Free Illumination.

Headlamps are the best option for personal lighting at summer camps for kids, and in the outdoors in general.  They are light in weight and allow for hands-free lighting for campers in unfamiliar locations.  They’re also much more durable, with most also featuring water and shock resistance.  

Stay away from rechargeable options!  Its much easier to carry replacement batteries than trying impossibly to jimmy a fix around a broken USB cable or drained battery charger.  The most reliable and dependable option is always, depending on the headlamp, carrying extra AA or AAA batteries that can be bought almost anywhere.  

Keep Those Pesky Bugs Off Of Me!

Bug resistant bracelets are both affordable and very effective.  They can usually be found at your local dollar store.  One will last about 2 to 3 days, so be sure to buy enough for your kids entire camp experience.  Keep in mind that clothing repellency treatments that spray on will only last a certain number of washing cycles.  And most of these treatments will not last a full 4 to 8 week summer season.

Head nets are very helpful in ensuring that your camper wakes up naturally, and not with the dreaded bug alarm clock.  The bug alarm clock is when a fly keeps hovering by your ear in the early morning hours.  It is very annoying, difficult to stop, and will inhibit any further sleep.  Pack an outdoor head net for your kid to ensure a peaceful nights sleep.

Trekking Poles Prevent Aching Backs & Knees at the End of the Day.

Trekking poles provide additional stabilizing support for your camper.  And will drastically reduce the possibility of a rolled, sprained, or broken ankle.  It will also leave your kid or teen feeling much more comfortable at the end of the day.  I personally use trekking poles myself for longer hiking days and with any serious pack weight.  I love that at the end of the day, my arms ache a bit but never my legs or knees.  

What Camping Gear Does The Camp Provide For Out-Camping At Summer Camps for Kids?

Summer camps for kids and other outdoor organizations are expected to provide the lions share of the kids camping equipment.  This will include all of the group gear.  It will be carried and handled by the adults.  However, it won’t include some of the most important and personal camping gear for your kids and teens.  Such as their sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and hiking boots.  It will typically include:

Cooking Stoves and Fuel
Tents and Shelter Set-Ups
Water Filters and Purifiers
Fire Starters and Group Lighting Tools
Radios and All Communication Tools
GPS Units and Other Navigation Aids
Bathroom Basics (such as toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and trowl)
Food / Scent Storage Containers and Tools (including hanging kits)
Group Safety Equipment (such as an avalanche probe above snowline)

The camp or outdoor organization should have inspected and cleaned all of the gear far in advance of the out-camping activity.  

That’s A Wrap!

Hopefully, this post on the out-camping activity at summer camps for kids is helpful, insightful, and enjoyable for you.  I would not be the person I am today if it hadn’t been for these absolute stand-out highlights of my childhood.  These experiences will create ripples of confidence, inspiration, and empowerment that will firmly lodge themselves in your kids and teens Hearts. 

Their out-camping adventures will open their eyes to the world and help them to realize that ALL of us have great strength within.  We just have to find it to be able to unleash it.  I have never known a better place for finding not only your deepest strength but also your best self than the wonderful world of Camp.  This post is a part of our KCE Camp Tidbit – Your Kids Out-Camping Essentials.  Have a great time preparing your young camper for their unforgettable outdoor adventure!

“I could travel the world and see all the wonder and beauty that it holds, and would still say that true beauty can be discovered most fully in a sunrise over the mountains at camp.” 

– Former Camper

For more of the best kids camp tips and insight, subscribe to our free and exclusive KCE Camp Tidbits emails.  Confidence building is a major part of any awesome outdoor adventure.  Being properly equipped is key.  Nothing saps your confidence like being unprepared.  Never let it happen to your kids!  Check out our essential Kids Camping Bundles.

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