Back in 2016 we made a significant change to our registration process. Instead of permitting an unlimited number of cabin buddy requests, which sometimes led to webs of 12 or 15 kids all wanting to be together in a cabin with 8 beds, we limited each camper to a single buddy request. It was the right thing then, and years later, it’s more necessary than ever. Here’s why:
Camp is spontaneous. Campers who come with their friends often have very specific ideas about how their week is going to go, and when the inevitable conflicts and unknowns of a week at camp arise, they end up disappointed that their camp experience did not match their expectations. Campers who come to camp alone or with one or two friends are usually more receptive to the spontaneity of summer camp.
Camp is about new experiences. One of the beautiful things about camp is the opportunity it provides kids to form new friendships. In my first week as an Outpost camper, I met a cabinmate who became one of my best friends in high school. I came to camp with a few school friends that year, but I wouldn’t have met anyone if I came with ALL my friends. Campers who come in large groups limit the scope of their camp experience.
Friend group baggage follows kids to camp. Every friend group has its share of baggage and drama. Spending six straight days in intimate proximity with each other, expending more energy, and soaking up more sun than usual brings all this stuff out. Friends know how to push each other’s buttons. Generally speaking, we see more intra-cabin drama (bickering, roughhousing, getting on each other’s nerves) among big friend groups than we do among campers who didn’t come to camp together.
Please don’t misunderstand. Camping with a group of friends can be a lot of fun—as a camper I had a great time both with and without my friends—but our staff encourage campers to step out of their comfort zone at camp because that’s where personal growth happens. This means trying new things, facing fears, and meeting new people. My advice to campers is always the same: Come with just one friend, because there’s a good chance you’ll leave camp with a few more.