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Essential Eligibility Criteria

Our priority is the health and well-being of all our campers and providing a positive and enriching experience.

The YMCA of the North’s Wilderness Camps – Camp Widjiwagan and Camp Menogyn - offer summer programs focusing on teenage wilderness trips.

  • Depending on age and experience, camp sessions range from 5-50 days, and trips travel across North America.

  • YMCA Wilderness Camp trips operate in remote wilderness areas, and our groups travel by foot or canoe.

  • On backpacking trips, groups hike each day and camp in a new location each night.

  • On our canoe trips, groups paddle across lakes and portage (carrying all your gear on paths connecting lakes) multiple times daily and camp in a new location each night.

  • All the areas we travel to require primitive camping, meaning no established shelters or bathrooms exist. 

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).

  • The General Criteria apply to all wilderness programs. We have also created additional criteria for each type of trip: canoeing, backpacking, or climbing (Menogyn only).

  • If you are unable to meet certain criteria, please get in touch with us. We may be able to make a reasonable accommodation unless it would change the trip's fundamental nature, compromise your camper’s safety or the safety of other campers or counselors, or place an undue financial or administrative burden on the YMCA Wilderness Camps.

  • Please ask questions regarding your camper’s health, medical, and accessibility needs before registration. If we cannot accommodate your camper at one of our Wilderness Camps, we may be able to accommodate them at another YMCA camp.


After instruction, each camper must …

  • Be able to understand verbal and/or visual instructions.
  • Be able to understand basic safety instructions or directions in English in an emergency.
  • Be able to communicate personal distress, injury, or need for assistance. 
  • Be self-sufficient in basic self-care and hygiene, such as hydration, nourishment, bathroom use, and dress. 
  • Be able to adhere to medication and treatment plan outlined by parent/guardians and their medical professional(s) if needed.
  • Be able to refrain from using alcohol, tobacco, controlled substances, and misuse of prescription or OTC drugs. 
  • Be able to understand environmental and equipment-related risks when explained and follow instructions related to those risks even if Wilderness trip staff is not present.
  • Be able to adapt to the physical and emotional rigors of a wilderness environment, at minimum a day from advanced medical care, for the entire length of the wilderness trip.  
  • Be able to walk unassisted over uneven terrain.
  • Be able and willing to contribute to group tasks and responsibilities. 
  • Be able to contribute to and maintain a physically and emotionally safe environment for self and group members.
  • Be able to respect the wilderness environment and adhere to Leave No Trace principles. 
  • Be able to act independently and as a part of the community.

After instruction, each camper must …

  • Be able to carry packs and other gear items weighing at least 40 pounds over rough terrain for up to 1 mile with rest breaks as needed.
  • Be able to wear a Personal Flotation Device and maintain a face-up position in the water while wearing a PFD.
  • Be able to sit in a canoe for up to 4-6 hours a day with stretch breaks as needed.
  • Be able to grip and control a paddle.
  • Be able to enter and exit a canoe independently. 
  • Be able to re-enter a canoe from the water with assistance.

After instruction, each camper must be able to carry a backpack weighing at least 50 pounds while hiking over rough terrain for 4-6 hours, with rest breaks as needed.

Rock Climbing

Menogyn Only

After instruction, each camper must …

  • Able to wear a climbing harness and helmet correctly. 
  • Able to participate in belaying and climbing activities.
Camp Basics

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.


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 focusing 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! 

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.
  • At Widji, sibling pairs are placed in different groups.

In Camp

Before and after going “on the trail,” participants eat meals together in our beautiful dining hall. Our incredible, creative cooks make almost all the food from scratch. 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 from common grocery items and specialized dehydrated goods. This allows participants to recreate their favorite meals from home and be imaginative with their meals.

Dietary Accommodations

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 Records launch

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.

Sample Schedule


Campers spend the first 36-48 hours (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.

Friend Requests

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

Packing List

Recommended packing lists are included in the Camp Handbook for your chosen location.


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


“Snail Mail”

Mail takes 3-4 days to arrive at Camp. We encourage you to send a letter for your camper to receive when they return from their trip.


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

The YMCA is not responsible for lost or stolen items.

  • Please clearly label all clothing and gear.
  • Lost and found items will be held for two weeks.
  • To claim lost items, please call the Camp.
  • Items will be sent down on the next bus for retrieval at the Shoreview bus stop.
  • Anything not retrieved within two weeks will be donated to a local charity.
Documents and Records
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 Records launch

Campers traveling to Canada must bring a valid passport to camp. Campers must also upload a file of their passport data page to their CampDoc account before arrival.

Please Note: Wait times for passports may be as long as six months. Families are responsible for securing passports in advance of their child's session. Refunds will not be granted for those who do not receive their passports in time. We will work with you to find another trip if a passport is not acquired.

Update Health Records launch
Fishing Licenses

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

Camp Policies
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.

Behavior Guidelines

Behavior guidelines vary by location. Please see the Camp Handbooks for your chosen location.

Health and Safety

Health and safety details vary by location. Please see the Camp Handbooks for your chosen location.