Teen Adventure Camp Program Comparison

Comparing Outward Bound, Wilderness Adventures, Apogee Adventures, and other summer camps for teens

NOLS and Outward Bound are great wilderness educational experiences, and we highly recommend them for adults, college students, and people seeking a specific skill focus. There are other, seemingly-similar summer camps for teens that offer outdoor adventure travel, but there are many differences, which we’ve outlined below.

Adventure Treks is designed exclusively for teenagers and is best suited for young people who desire a fun yet challenging, community-minded outdoor summer camp.

Adventure Treks is super well-organized and thoughtful about everything, from preparing beforehand with detailed information on what to pack and expect, to the social dynamics of groups of teens. We loved their focus on healthy social dynamics, avoiding cliques, inclusiveness, and high expectations of the kids to participate in all parts of the trip, from making food to setting up tents. The daily evening check-ins and fun activities helped even the shyest kids feel part of things and bond and have a great time. As parents, we also really appreciated the staff’s willingness to communicate and answer questions specific to our child, and their blog posts and photos throughout the trip were eagerly awaited and assured us that Ryan was having a good time! When I picked Ryan up at the airport, the look on their face was priceless. Big, big smiles and so much more self-confidence. On the way home in the car, Ryan couldn’t stop talking about camp. They also said (about the big summit hike at the end) that they didn’t know they were capable of that. The confidence-building, willingness to do hard things and the camaraderie of a diversity of peers were priceless for my child. When I asked if they’d like to do one next year the answer was an immediate “Definitely!!!” – Dawn Behm, parent from Duvall, WA

  Adventure Treks Outward Bound Moondance Adventures Wilderness Adventures Apogee Adventures
Student-to-instructor ratio 4:1 6:1 7:1 6:1 6:1
Student return rate From 2020 to 2021, 85% * * * *
Instructor return rate Consistently between 60–85% * * * *
Extra fees? All-inclusive All-inclusive Must purchase or rent backpack, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad Must purchase or rent backpack, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad Must pay for bike rental, backpacks, sleeping bags, showers, and laundry
Director involvement on every trip Yes No No No No
Average instructor age 27 * * * *
Minimum medical certification** Wilderness first responder Wilderness first responder Wilderness first aid Wilderness first responder CPR, wilderness first aid, and lifeguard

*Proprietary information was not publicly shared.
**At minimum, Adventure Treks requires our instructors to be certified as wilderness first responders, which is an intensive 80-hour course that also includes CPR. Other companies may only require wilderness first aid (16–20 hours) and CPR and first aid (4–6 hours).

My daughter left home feeling extremely nervous about who would be on her trip, and if she could handle all the challenges that would be presented… but after two weeks, she didn’t want it to end. The instructors provide the framework for the most meaningful experience. She talks about some of the traditions and conversations they had as a group, and I am overwhelmed and so grateful for everything she tells me. THE PROGRAM JUST WORKS. The framework that Adventure Treks has in place is what makes every session work. I think the most valuable results from her Adventure Treks experience were the independence and recognition for being her 100 percent authentic self. She made all these relationships on her own. A community built with no social media and all real conversations and experiences is priceless and a sure success! She returned so happy and confident, and she loves her new friends and the instructors. – Elizabeth Lenihan, parent from Glenview, KY

At Adventure Treks, our students develop lifelong friends, find their best selves, and have an amazing, out-of-the-box adventures. There are other excellent outdoor-based programs and traditional summer camps, but Adventure Treks stands out out for many reasons:

Our directors are hands-on.
We are the only program who has a director open and close and get to know students on every single trip. Our directors spend their summers in the field and provide additional support and leadership on logistical and airport days.
Our instructor-to-student ratio (1:4) is the best in the industry.

A 4:1 ratio is otherwise unheard of in our industry. Our five- to six-person staff teams are hugely beneficial to our students: More instructors mean:

  1. More personalities for students to learn from and become close to;
  2. A larger range and depth of knowledge, skills, and experience;
  3. More flexibility in optimizing student experiences;
  4. And students will get the personal attention, guidance, teaching, and role modeling they deserve.
60 to 70 percent of our instructors return year after year (more than any other program).

They are the backbone of our trips. Read more about our rigorous interview process for new staff members.

Our instructors are older, have more experience, and go through more extensive training.

We don’t hire inexperienced college students looking for a summer distraction, like many other teen summer camps do. Our instructors are professional educators, and they return to us year after year because they’re passionate about working with teenagers in the outdoors. Both new and returning staff go through at least two weeks of training every year (senior staff receive three weeks), and spend the weeks before their trips scouting, planning, learning about their specific trips, and getting to know their students.

More important, our instructors are able to create the safe, nurturing environment we’re known for, while also maximizing the FUN and WOW aspects of the trip!

Larger student groups have more benefits.

Most other programs cap their student groups at 12 to 18. However, since Adventure Treks’ inception, we’ve successfully run larger student groups of 20 to 24. There are myriad benefits:

  1. There are more students from a wider variety of backgrounds to befriend.
  2. We spend time in both the big group and in smaller groups of eight to 12 throughout the trip, depending on the activity. Smaller groups are beneficial in activities like backpacking, where students get more personal time with each other and instructors. They’ll get to cycle through different small activity, cooking, and tent groups throughout the trip.
  3. Social dynamics are easier to manage. When you’ve got only 12 teenagers, your student spends the entire trip with that one group. With a larger group, instructors can fluidly manage social groups; if two students don’t mesh well together, we can create groups so that doesn’t negatively affect theirs or the group’s overall experience.
Tuition covers everything but airfare.

We include more in our tuition—like all outdoor equipment—with no hidden or extra costs. Other adventure summer camps not only require parents to pay for gear, but also for laundry, photos, and even showers. At Adventure Treks, we won’t nickel and dime you.

Our students come from all over.

Many other programs have large groups of students from one particular area, like Washington, DC, New York and New Jersey, or south Florida. We’re proud to attract students from all four corners of the United States, and from around the world. In 2019, Adventure Treks has the pleasure of welcoming students from 44 states and 16 countries!

We emphasize fun, personal growth, and a positive, constructive social environment.

We understand that our students are trusting us with their summer, and we make sure they don’t regret it. In fact, teenagers have such a great time that 50–60 percent of our students return to us for multiple summers (the highest student return rate in the industry). We focus not only on fun, but also on building a safe, judgment-free zone where students feel free to be their true selves. Our students are able to learn about themselves while making great friends in a respectful, positive group.

We do not offer extended solo experiences.

Students learn leadership, community-building, and outdoor skills in large and small groups—never alone.

Adventure Treks screens applicants to ensure that our students have an excellent peer group.

We make sure that our students are capable of the physical as well as the social and emotional aspects of our trips. Everyone deserves to have a great time—we want it to be easy to make new best friends!

Adventure Treks was exactly what we’d hoped for and more. Our daughter had so much fun thanks to hard-working instructors and a thoughtful plan and group. The friends and role models with similar interests were a valuable part of the program. Thank you so much; what a special summer you gave her! – Matt Wilson, parent from Bethesda, MD