By Diana Simeon
A summer camp experience can impact teenagers in many positive ways. Especially an outdoor adventure camp. These camps take teenagers into the wilderness. It may be a backpacking trip in Colorado, canoeing through Maine’s Northwoods, rock climbing in the American Southwest, or sailing in the Florida Keys.
You name the adventure, there’s probably a camp offering it. So, what to look for when evaluating outdoor adventure camps for high school students? We asked Scott Chapman, wilderness director for the New Mexico-based Glorieta, for his advice.
1. Start by asking your teenager for outdoor adventure camp ideas. Really, this is about your teenager, so he or she should be in the driver’s seat when it comes to the type of activity—and even location (depending on budget, of course). “Talk to your teenager about what they’re up for,” recommends Chapman. “But make sure you really help them understand what the trip will be like.”
2. Be bold. You may wonder how your teenager—who can’t be bothered to put her dirty cereal bowl in the dishwasher most mornings—could possibly manage the challenge of an outdoor adventure camp experience. But teens totally can, stresses Chapman. “Parents tend to underestimate their teenagers,” he says. “If they’re up for trying it, let them.”
3. Ask questions. It’s imperative that parents do their research about a camp’s staff and their experience with the outdoors. Chapman advises asking questions like “How long has the camp been around? How long have they been offering that particular trip? How are the guides trained? How do these things compare to the rest of the industry?” Make sure you are comfortable with the safety rules for the outdoor adventure camp you’re considering and the outdoor adventure camp activities your teenager will be participating in.
4. Understand the camp’s approach. Last, but not least, Chapman suggests parents also take time to understand a particular camp’s philosophy about wilderness experiences—and specifically what they believe it will teach your teenager. “Look at the mission of the organization,” he recommends. “At Glorieta, we’re a Christian organization, but other organizations may be more focused on, say, leadership. Understand why they are doing outdoor adventures. How are they leveraging the experience for your teenager?”
What Teens Get from an Outdoor Wilderness Adventure Camp
Often, teenagers return from these outdoor adventures with newfound confidence, skills, friends, and passion for the outdoors.
“One of the powerful things about outdoor adventure is that teenagers get the chance to confront something difficult and overcome it,” says Chapman, who’s camp offers outdoor adventures for middle school students through college. “They get to face the unknown which is one of the greatest teachers.”
Diana Simeon is managing editor of Your Teen.