Different Types of Summer Camps
There are thousands of different camps across the U.S., so getting started in your quest to find the right one can certainly be intimidating. While it’s true that no two camps are exactly alike, we’ve broken a few of the more common varieties down based on programming, activities, who they are owned by, and who their intended camper is. This is by no means an exhaustive list of every kind of camp that exists, but it certainly covers the basics, and hopefully offers you significant guidance and inspiration to find the camp that is ideal for you. Even across the examples offered here, keep in mind that each camp will vary greatly in the benefits they offer, including pay, healthcare, housing, and quality of food.
Types of Camps By Program (how they operate)
Before anything else, decide on what kind of a schedule you’re willing to commit to. Different camps have different operating dates, times, and even seasons.
Often located closer to large metropolitan areas, these camps operate within hours more similar to a regular school day, where campers are dropped off in the morning and go home each evening. In many cases, day camps work together with local facilities to offer a weekly schedule that includes outings such as pool days, library visits, and field trips.
Sometimes called ‘sleepaway camps’ these camps offer a variety of sessions that can range from one to eight weeks. Typically, campers will be bunked with other kids of a similar age in a cabin or dorm, and will get the chance to experience a variety of activities and evening programming. Though popularized by the iconic east-coast camps, residential camps can be found all across the country.
Conference and Retreat Centers
Some camps have year-round operations that are not always focused on traditional “summer camp” offerings. For some, their summers are run in the style of a typical residential camp, with other programming running through the “off-seasons”, and for others, they run their own unique programming for the entire year. A few examples of these unique programs include team and leadership development, corporate retreats, rental accommodations, outdoor education, and weddings.
Types of Camps by Activity
The following examples of kinds of camps are specific to the activities they focus on, or what the campers do while at camp. If you are called to teach or coach a specific subject or find a camp that aligns with the field you want to work in, choosing a camp based on activities offered might be the best choice for you.
Some camps either offer academic or other educational enrichment activities or operate with a sole focus of advancing skills in a specific field. Space Camp might be one of the most well-known examples, but some camps specialize in Math, Science, STEM, Coding, Robotics, Chess, Entrepreneurship, IT, and even Mathematical and Scientific Research.
Most summer camps have an arts and crafts program, but some camps are entirely art-focused. Wherever your artistic interests may lie, there is a program or camp out there for you. There are camps that offer programs in Ceramics, Painting, Fiber Art, Digital Art, Filmmaking, Writing, Culinary Arts, Dance, Theater, Music Theory, Composition, Photography, Circus and Performing Arts, Stagecraft, Costuming, Stage Makeup, and oh so many more.
Different types of adventure camps may be focused on challenge course activities, wilderness pursuits, or both. Many organizations incorporate a challenge by choice approach and often focus on personal growth, emotional intelligence, and leadership skills. Wilderness programs may take on the form of traditional backpacking, or might focus on kayaking, rafting, horse packing, mountain biking, rock climbing, or some combination of those and more.
Camp isn’t only for kids, in fact, there are plenty of camps that cater specifically to adults. They may focus on fitness, therapy, nature, personal growth, activities, or they may simply provide recreation and unforgettable fun.
There are many religious-affiliated camps that are oriented around faith-based activities and studies.
Summer camps can provide a safe and nurturing environment where different people with a multitude of different needs can make new friends, participate in one-of-a-kind activities, and experience the peaceful reprieve of nature. These camps may provide one-on-one attention, offer specialized medical care, or even provide social or academic coaching. Some camps cater to multiple different needs, while others focus on one category, such as autism, muscular dystrophy, Asperger Syndrome, ADHD, autism, limb differences, cancer, and countless more.
Certain camps serve members of organizations such as Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Campfire, and Salvation Army. If there is an organization near and dear to your heart, you may consider seeing if they have a camp that is affiliated with them!
Underprivileged and At-Risk
There are a handful of camps whose mission is to ensure that people from all backgrounds are given an opportunity to experience the beauty of nature and community that can often only be found at summer camp. Non-profit camps serve populations from many different incomes and cultural or ethnic backgrounds.
Types of Camps by Population Served
There are many camps that serve specific populations and operate in a way that is best suited to their intended campers. If you know that you’d like to work with a certain demographic, consider looking for a camp that is in-line with your goals.
Non-profit organizations use surplus revenues to further their goals instead of distributing those revenues as profit amongst the owners. Oversight and direction of a non-profit camp is not the responsibility of an owner or subject to the desires of shareholders, but is rather most often managed by a board of directors.
Many privately-owned camps have been around for a long time and are steeped in their own personal traditions and values. Private camps may operate for profit, which means that they may make changes since they are often delivering a specific product at a market-driven price.
Types of Camps By Owner
If the way a camp’s decisions are made, you may take special care in choosing a camp based on the kind of ownership they have.
If there is a sport that enough people are passionate about, there will be a camp that focuses on that particular sport. There are sports camps that try to include the traditional camp experience into their programming, and others that focus entirely on the development of the skills of one specific sport.
Many camps are not oriented around just one of these activity types. These camps incorporate many different activity types to provide a varied experience for their campers. Some even choose to focus on communication styles, emotional development, and educational philosophies.
Most camps are nestled into stunning natural surroundings, be they mountain, forest, coastline, or desert, but there are camps whose mission is to make nature the main focus of the summer. Nature-focused camps may offer programming that includes Outdoor Education, Environmental Studies, Gardening, Backpacking, or Survival Skills, and may include features like Motor-Free Lakefronts and Tech-Free Sites.
While equine programming is sometimes offered as a daily activity at traditional sleepaway camps, there are entire camps across the U.S. dedicated to horsemanship that cater to beginners, advanced riders, and everything in-between. Specialties range from Western and English riding to care and maintenance of horses, jumping skills, hunting, stable management, showmanship, and overnight trips.
Now that you have an idea of some of the many kinds of camps available, we hope you find the one that’s a perfect fit for you! If you’re ready to know more about some of the different jobs available at camps, check out our article here!
Want to learn more? We make it our mission to gather all the necessary information to help you find your perfect camp job.