Camps That Kick Ass


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My parents were reasonably earthy, but I’m convinced my passion for the outdoors came from Manito-wish, a Wisconsin summer camp that, like any real camp, includes a true wilderness trip. If you’re at all concerned that your child is becoming a thin-skinned lily-dipper, consider booting your beloved into the wild—with a trustworthy guide, of course. Here are our five favorite spots.

Camp Manito-wish YMCA, Boulder Junction, Wisconsin:
Every kid starts out canoeing. But as you get older, the options become longer—up to 50 days—and the destinations more exotic, including places like Nunavut (canoeing), Ontario (sea kayaking), and Alas­ka (backpacking). Ages 10–19; one-, two-, and four-week sessions;

KieveWavus, Nobleboro, Maine:
The structure is very similar to Manito-wish’s (above). Daily programs include the usual fun stuff—tennis, sailing, riflery, etc.—but every camper must also go on canoeing, sea-kayaking, or backpacking trips of increasing length. Ages 8–15; ten- and 26-day sessions;

Shaffer’s High Sierra Camp, Sattley, California:
Kids can either choose to do a little bit of everything or sign up for “program tracks” that specialize in mountain biking, backpacking, riding horses, or rock climbing. Ages 8–17; one-to-eight-week sessions;

Camp Cheley, Estes Park, Colorado:
Cheley is a big commitment—it only offers four-week sessions—but kids get the full Colorado experience, including raft trips down Poudre Canyon, top-roping at on-site rock faces, and, for the older kids, a shot at summiting a fourteener like Longs Peak. Ages 9–17;

Camp Mondamin, Tuxedo, North Carolina:
While backpacking and canoeing trips remain a focus at this 88-year-old institution, it’s expanded its repertoire over the years to include things like tubing, rock climbing, and mountain biking. Boys only; sister camp is Camp Green Cove ( Ages 6–17; five-day and three- and five-week sessions;

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