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Teen Wilderness Handbook

Teen Wilderness has been crafted to offer progressive challenges for teens. As participants return year after year, trips increase in difficulty, and participants build upon their wilderness and leadership skills.

Additionally, character development and respect are fundamental parts of YMCA camp culture, while access, inclusion, and diversity are integral parts of our community commitment.

Camper Readiness

Regardless of trip length, participants are involved in every aspect of their experience — from trip planning and on-trail adventure through returning to camp and cleaning the gear — the entire group is responsible for a successful expedition


Completing a Teen Wilderness trip is worth celebrating. That's why each participant’s experience concludes with a night of celebration before they return home.

Trip Groups

A big part of what makes Teen Wilderness unique is the strong friendships that groups form on the trail. We encourage campers to come to camp ready to meet new people and make friends. 

  • Groups are kept to 4-8 people.
  • Participants are grouped according to age and experience.
  • Sibling pairs are placed in different groups.

In Camp

Before and after going “on trail,” participants eat meals together in our beautiful dining hall. Almost all the food is made from scratch by our incredible, creative cooks. We emphasize serving healthy, delicious meals that fuel participants for their packed days at camp.

On Trail

Participants are involved in the menu planning for their trip and can tailor their trail menu to suit their tastes. Generally, meals are made from scratch out of common grocery items and specialized dehydrated goods. This allows participants to recreate their favorite meals from home and be imaginative with their meals.

Dietary Accomodations

If your child has any food allergies or dietary needs, please include these in your participant’s health records. We will do our best to accommodate special needs.

Update Health Recordslaunch

At Camp

Campers sleep in bunkhouse-style cabins, some with electricity and some without. Campers have access to “biffs” and hand washing stations. Showers are available at the end of the session before going home.

On Trail

Campers sleep in shared tents or under the stars. Depending on where trips travel, campers will either camp in an established site or create their site per Leave No Trace principles. Campers will learn the appropriate Leave No Trace practice for their travel area regarding bathroom practices. 

Sample Schedule



Campers spend the first 36-48 (or more) on-site planning and preparing for their trip. Trail Guides also foster a sense of belonging and group cohesion by setting goals and incorporating fun throughout the planning process.


Campers spend several nights traveling through and camping in beautiful wilderness areas. Regardless of what trip a camper joins, everyone will support the group by carrying gear, setting up camp together, and cooking delicious meals from scratch.


Before campers celebrate their wilderness experience, campers learn how to properly care for and put away their trail gear. Celebrations vary on each camp’s unique traditions but typically include a delicious banquet dinner and a closing campfire.


Most campers attend camp individually. We also understand that sometimes two campers may want to share a trail group. We will try to honor friend requests for up to two friends.

If you forget to make your friend request(s) during registration, please contact Customer Service.

Essential Eligibility Criteria

Our priority is the health and well-being of all our campers, along with providing a positive and enriching experience. To help you identify the skills you will need to successfully participate in a YMCA Wilderness Camp summer program, YMCA of the North has created the following Essential Eligibility Criteria (EEC).

Participant Requirements
What to Bring

Our recommended packing lists can be downloaded below. These items are not required, and you are welcome to modify the list based on unique participant needs and session type.

Packing List (PDF)launch
Documents and Records

All Teen Wilderness trips require appropriate documentation.

Health Records

We require yearly updated health records, including dietary needs, to help keep your participant safe and healthy.

The following health records are required:

  • Physical exam
  • Insurance information
  • Vaccination records
Update Health Recordslaunch

Campers traveling to Canada must provide a photo of the picture page of their Passport.

This photo should be added to their secure health records in CampDoc.

    Update Health Recordslaunch
    Fishing License(s)

    Our trip leaders do not have fishing licenses, so participants who intend to fish must carry their own fishing license(s) as required by the state where they are traveling.

    Guardian Readiness

    You are welcome to bring your child directly or register for the bus program.

    Teen Wilderness Transportation
    Health and Safety

    Safety comes first at YMCA of the North – from sunscreen and dispensation of medications to injuries and emergency care.

    Health and Safety

    Please see our Camp-Specific Handbooks (below) for behavior guidelines at each location.

    Gender Inclusivity

    We value identity exploration as an integral part of adolescent development.

    Our current practice is to organize participants into groups, including boys, girls, and all-gender trips.

    We invite participants who identify as transgender or gender non-conforming to group themselves where they feel most comfortable.


    All of our wilderness tripping guides are certified Wilderness First Responders and Lifeguards.

    In addition to their required certifications, every staff member participates in a two-week staff training that focuses on risk management, group facilitation, physical and emotional safety, equity and inclusion, and more. 

    Guides leading invitational trips participate in additional whitewater canoeing and river crossing training, depending on their discipline. 

    Above all else, our guides are great role models for participants! 


    “Snail Mail”

    Mail takes 3–4 days to arrive at camp, so send yours ahead of time, and we’ll save it for your participant when they are here.


    Storage capacity is very limited. If you send care packages, please do not send food, candy, soda, or perishables to camp. And please waive the signature for express packages.


    We do not provide email access to participants. Please do not send camper messages by email.

    Lost and Found

    We encourage participants to take responsibility for their belongings. As part of the daily camp routine, we display lost-and-found items.

    • Any items left at camp after the session are kept at the adventure center.
    • Claimed items will be held for two weeks and must be retrieved from camp.
    • Anything not retrieved within two weeks will be donated to a local charity. 
    • For sanitary reasons, we do not keep undergarments, socks, or swimwear.
    • To claim lost items, please call the adventure center. Please have a description of the item(s), including your participant’s full name, phone number, and camp session dates.

    The YMCA is not responsible for lost or stolen items.

    Camp-Issued Handbooks

    Each location is unique and has its own supplement.


    Camper Information Guide


    Camper Handbook

    Two young ladies at a climbing course

    Making Adventure Accessible

    The YMCA offers need-based financial assistance to help people access the programs that are important to them.

    Here to Help

    Have a question or need assistance?

    Our customer service team is always happy to help.