To a student who’s never experienced outdoor adventure (or even gone camping), Adventure Treks’ teen summer outdoor adventure camps can seem like a daunting experience: We sleep in tents; we rock climb, hike, climb mountains, whitewater raft, mountain bike, and more; and we join a brand-new community of people, mostly (if not entirely) comprised of people we’ve never met.
But don’t be intimidated! You may already have a picture in your head of what Adventure Treks is truly like, but we want to make sure that we dispel the most common misconceptions about outdoor adventure, and make sure you know how fun and accessible our trips really are.
Misconception #1: I’ll be the only student who comes without a friend.
Truth: Most students come to Adventure Treks for the first time by themselves! In fact, we encourage students to come without a friend from home. Something our alumni appreciate and value about our community is how it allows them to rewrite their narrative, if they wish, and become the person they want to be—not the person they may feel pigeonholed into being at school.
Though we have a maximum of 24 students on our trips, we limit the number of friends from home to no more than three. This helps “level the playing field,” if you will, so that cliques aren’t already formed when the trip starts.
Misconception #2: It’ll be hard to make friends in a big group.
Truth: At Adventure Treks, we prioritize friendships and community from the moment you step off the plane. Our instructors work hard to make sure that no student feels left out or excluded in any activity, whether that’s making a meal or playing Camouflage. (This is where your admissions paperwork comes in handy; our instructors pore over every parent and student questionnaire and get to know each student as well as possible before they arrive.)
Based on our experience, big groups of 20 to 24 students with five to six instructors is a huge advantage: In the beginning of the trip, our instructors intentionally split the big group into two or three smaller groups so that students have more opportunities to get involved in trip dynamics (cooking, setting up camp, etc.), thus staying busy and getting to know each other better. In these small groups, students get more personal time with each other and with instructors, and this is where their friendships truly start to take root. We then come back into the big group after a small-group activity to celebrate what we’ve just accomplished. The small groups also give our quiet leaders a chance to find their voice.
Misconception #3: Everyone must be a rock star athlete.
Truth: Nope! You don’t have to be the captain of the soccer team or a marathon runner to attend—and succeed at—Adventure Treks. Every trip has a variety of activities, and each activity is completely accessible to both beginners and those who have experience. In some of our more technical activities, like mountain biking, we’ll group students based on their ability; that way, we can provide a more personalized experience in terms of what skills they’re ready to learn.
We do ask that students arrive with a good level of physical fitness. While you don’t have to be an elite athlete, those who prefer to lounge on the couch and play video games all day will probably struggle at Adventure Treks. Being able to jog two consecutive miles at a 10:00 minute-per-mile pace is a good baseline for fitness. Hiking, cycling, playing sports, and generally being active will help you enjoy your outdoors experience with us even more.
Misconception #4: Backpacking is awful. It’s just walking uphill with a heavy pack.
Truth: Again, nope! We know backpacking sounds intimidating to the new AT student. However, if you ask 10 Adventure Treks students after they arrive home from their trip about which activity was their favorite, nine of them will probably exclaim “backpacking!” without hesitation. (The 10th person might insist that it’s whitewater rafting.)
What does backpacking actually entail at AT? We don’t just walk uphill with a heavy pack for miles on end. It’s walking through fields of wildflowers, up and over mountain ridges, besides streams and waterfalls, across snowfields… where we hike, the landscape possibilities are endless. It’s asking each other riddles and playing trail games as we walk. It’s eating lunch on driftwood logs on the Lost Coast as we watch bald eagles soar overhead. It’s learning to navigate a trail map and thumbing through nature guides, looking for local fauna and flora. It’s getting up at midnight to hike by headlamp, giggling as we race to beat high tide on the Olympic Coast. It’s getting to soak in the prettiest scenery you’ve ever laid eyes, with peers who are becoming friends for life, as you allow yourself to open up and be the best version of yourself. (For a more in-depth answer, read our blog on backpacking here.)
Misconception #5: Everyone will know more than me.
Truth: Some students do arrive to Adventure Treks having climbed at their local indoor rock wall, or hiked in a nearby state park, or rafted with their family. But most of our students participate in these outdoor activities just with us, over the summer. That means it’s been about 11 months since they’ve last rock climbed, or sea kayaked, or even pitched a tent.
For all students, no experience is necessary! Our five to six instructors are there to teach you everything you need to know, from how to use a backcountry stove, to how to lace up your hiking boots most efficiently, to how to size and pack your backpack, to how to ride a mountain bike. Remember, everyone will be new at something, and you’ll pick up outdoor skills in no time.
Misconception #6: We’ll be eating nothing but freeze-dried camping meals.
Truth: Nothing could be further from the truth. Delicious, filling food is integral to the Adventure Treks experience. We want our students to eat well, and to eat often. For the most part, anything you can make on a stove in your kitchen at home, we can make anywhere at Adventure Treks! At every meal, we’ll have “seconds” available to anyone who needs an additional helping. And if it’s between meals, snacks are always close at hand. (For examples of meals that we eat, please click here and here.)
Vegetarian? Gluten-free? Don’t like dairy products? No problem—we can accommodate that. (If you have food allergies or dietary restrictions, please give us a call so we can talk through your needs!)
We hope this helps put to rest any nervousness you may have about becoming an Adventure Treks student. If any other questions or concerns arise, please don’t ever hesitate to contact us at 828-698-0399. We are always happy to chat!