Adventure Treks: A Leader in Teen Adventure Camps

Amanda Fox01 Apr, 2019

Type “teen adventure camp” into Google, and several reputable summer programs with great intentions, a safety focus, sound philosophy, and strong leadership will appear. However, there are significant differences between these programs, including with ours: We’ve designed Adventure Treks to be the most consistent and highly rated teen program that delivers genuine, long-lasting growth outcomes, resulting in the highest staff and student return rate in the industry. Here’s why Adventure Treks is a leader in the outdoor teen adventure industry.

Adventure Treks succeeds because of a relentless focus on creating the most substantive programs for teens. We are one of few programs still led by our founder, John “Dock” Dockendorf, and our director, co-owner, and America Outdoors board member Dave “Dmac” McGlashan has more than 20 years of experience in the outdoor industry (14 of which have been with Adventure Treks). Our year-round administrative staff have an average tenure of six years with Adventure Treks.

Limited enrollment

We believe in a smaller, more personally sized program. While many programs enroll literally thousands of teens per summer, a student body that large affects quality (even if it maximizes profitability). We’ve chosen to limit enrollment to 450–500 teenagers per summer; this allows us to create the strong, inclusive communities we’re known for and provide the personal attention our students receive. This also engenders a group of close-knit instructors who truly get to know their students and watch them grow up over several years.

Hands-on director leadership

Though our office is headquartered in western North Carolina, our regional directors (including Dock and Dmac) spend their summers out west: They open and close every trip, get to spend time with each and every one of our students, and support our instructors—thereby monitoring quality and observing firsthand, rather than over the phone. Dock met with every single trip starting in 1993, and he still greets hundreds of students every summer. No other program has this level of director involvement in every single trip.

More experienced and mature instructors

We’ve run educational programs every fall for a dozen private and public schools since our inception in 1993. This offers the opportunity for instructors to gain additional experience, in addition to the two to three weeks of training they receive in early June. Outside of the summer and fall seasons, our staff are professional educators in many capacities: college professors, teachers, naturalists, ski instructors, and more. Our team of instructors return year after year because they are passionate about what they do; they’re not simply looking for a summer diversion.

Along with our uniquely high instructor return rate, we also have the most experienced instructors of any comparable program. Our trip leaders have, at minimum, three seasons of Adventure Treks experience, and many have been with us for many more seasons. Other companies, including reputable ones, allow first-year instructors to lead trips, entrusting students to people with little to no company tenure or formal observation. (Learn more about our 2018 trip leader team here—2019 bios will be published in the next month!)

In addition, for many other programs, undergraduate college students make up the majority of their instructor population. Very few, if any, of our instructors are currently undergrad students; those who are still in school are pursuing a relevant degree, are at least 21, have previous experience working with teens in the outdoors, and have demonstrated significant maturity and skill. College students may be able to bring energy and rapport to a trip, but we don’t believe that 19- and 20-year-olds are truly mature enough to be role models for or have enough experience to lead students on logistically difficult, travel-based trips in the U.S. or abroad.

Higher ratio of staff to student

Our trips are led by five- to six-person instructor teams, maintaining a 4:1 ratio of student to instructor. Most other programs have two or three instructors per 10 to 18 students. Besides bringing a wide variety of personalities and experiences to our students, more instructors means smarter decision-making regarding risk management. It also allows flexibility in handling late flights, lost baggage, illness or minor injuries, early departures, etc. For example, on a 13-student trip with two instructors, if one staff must leave the group to take a student with a minor illness to the doctor, that leaves one staff with 12 students—the entire trip is significantly affected. That minor illness may force that student to depart early instead of recover quickly and remain on the trip because having only two instructors means they don’t have the coverage to juggle extenuating circumstances along with scheduled activities.

Larger groups

Most other programs limit each trip to 10 to 18 students, whereas we enroll 20 to 24 students on each adventure. Similar to our staffing goals, our students enjoy having a wider range of personalities and students from more cultures to get to know. Having more students means we spend some activities, like backpacking, in smaller groups of 8 to 10, and others, like whitewater rafting, in the big group. Our students cycle through small activity, cooking, and tent groups throughout the trip; our goal is that they spend small-group time with every other student and instructor on the trip.

Plus, it helps us manage social dynamics to truly optimize every student’s personal experience. Friends from home and siblings or cousins who attend a trip together get to spend some time together and some time apart, providing them a truly unique but shared experience.

If you’d like to learn more about how Adventure Treks stands out from the pack, please don’t hesitate to call us at 828-698-0399; we are always available and happy to get to know your family!


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