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Frequently Asked Questions

Parents and campers looking for the best summer camp experience possible usually have a lot of questions. Hopefully you will find the answers to some of yours below.

Want the Q&A in Spanish? Get it here: Preguntas Frecuentes de Unalayee

Deciding to go to Unalayee:

Q: Where do the campers sleep while at Unalayee?

A: Most campers choose to sleep on the ground, under the stars with their group mates. Sleeping outside with camp friends is part of the Unalayee experience. Some campers bring their own tents to sleep in. Unalayee provides tarps to sleep under in the case of bad weather and we have covered platform tents which are reserved for severe weather situations only. Campers sleep in sleeping bags on top of ensolite or Therm-a-Rest pads. Although it is always nice to have one’s own equipment, Unalayee has many sleeping bags and pads which campers can borrow if needed once they arrive at CampU. There is no need to reserve these items in advance.

Q: How are meals prepared at Unalayee?

A: Everyone helps cook and clean for all meals at Unalayee. Campers are split up into groups of 8-10 people who convene for each meal and share the duties of preparing the meal, cooking it over an open fire, and cleaning up using water heated over the fire. The entire meal preparation, dining experience, and clean-up is done outside!

Q: What kind of food is served at Unalayee?

A: At Camp Unalayee we understand that campers have all kinds of different eating preferences and restrictions. We are very sensitive to vegetarians and vegans, as well as gluten, dairy, and nut allergies. With allergies in particular, we can do a much better job of ensuring your camper eats only foods that are good for them if we have prior notice of the allergy.

In base camp, the menu includes foods like: oatmeal, pancakes, eggs, potatoes, french toast, cold cereal, bagels, toast, fruit, sandwiches (tuna, egg, cheese, PB&J), pasta salad, hot dogs, hamburgers, mashed potatoes, french fries, mac & cheese, sloppy joes, stir fry & rice, tostadas, spaghetti, garlic bread, salad, and a variety of desserts.

On the trail, the menu varies more depending on the hike, but some mainstays are: cream of wheat, oatmeal, cold cereal, fruit, crackers, cheese, salami, tuna, beans & rice, soup, mac & cheese, pasta, mashed potatoes, and lots of trail snacks!

Q: Will my camper be in a group with others their own age?

A: At Unalayee we strongly believe that camp is an opportunity for kids to build relationships and learn to work with people different than themselves. Although we try to group kids so that no one child is the only one of their age or gender, we strongly believe that mixed groups challenge our campers to grow and ultimately improve their experience. 

Q: How much hiking/backpacking will my camper do?

A: Backpacking is an integral part of our program and we get our campers hiking from the moment they get off the bus on Day One. The length of their backpacking trips will depend on their physical ability. All campers will have to hike around camp to get from one activity to another. 

Q: Are Unalayee backpacking trips safe?

A: The health and the well being of our campers is the highest priority at Camp Unalayee. However, it is important to recognize that there is, and always will be, a certain degree of risk in the very nature of a Unalayee Program. Overnight backpacking trips into the wilderness, often over steep and rocky trails, are the core of our program. Our campers and staff travel deep into the wilderness on trips from 3 to 30 days in length, where the nearest professional medical care may be over 24 hours away and accessible only by two-way radio. Our trips at times take routes off trail where terrain is variable and campers may encounter snow, boulder fields, loose ground, or creek crossings.

Camp Unalayee has invested in the quality of its risk management practices by participating in Risk Management Training offered by the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), an organization with over 50 years of experience managing risk in wilderness environments. We have dedicated ourselves to creating thorough risk management policies and procedures, training our staff on risk management and in-the-field decision making, planning trips that meet individual campers’ abilities, and reviewing all incidents and accidents in the field. We have invested time and resources in these practices because the health and well being of our participants is one of our highest priorities. As a result, we are very proud of our impeccable safety record.

Q: What are the Essential Eligibility Criteria to participate in Unalayee Camp for Kids programs?

A: Each participant must… 

  • Move through various terrain, including but not limited to dirt trails, boulder fields, snow fields, and creek crossings independently or with the assistance of a companion.
  • Carry a backpack with one’s personal items for a 2-night overnight backcountry trip.
  • Understand and apply safe backcountry principles.
  • Participate in Camp Unalayee’s emergency procedures in the event of an accident.
  • Effectively perceive, understand and follow directions by others so that they will be able to successfully execute appropriate and perhaps unfamiliar, techniques to manage hazards.
  • Stay alert and focused for hazards while backpacking such as tripping hazards, cliffs, loose ground/rocks, snow, and fast moving water.
  • Work effectively as part of team/family. This may require problem solving and a willingness to accept differences.
  • Contribute to a safe learning environment; no harassment of others for any reason.
  • Be willing and able to participate in daily group chores and tasks.
  • Learn and practice Leave No Trace techniques
  • Learn and safely perform fundamental camping skills necessary to stay generally healthy and safe, including staying hydrated and fed, protecting oneself from the elements (sun, rain, etc.), and avoiding environmental injuries such as hypothermia and sunburn.
  • Live in a remote backcountry environment for 10 or 15 days where conditions may vary depending on weather. 


Now that you have enrolled for a Camp Unalayee program:

Q: What does my camper need to bring to camp?

A: Check out our equipment packing lists:

Equipment List for Base Camp

Equipment List for Trail Programs

Q: What temperature sleeping bag does my camper need?

A: Night temperatures can get fairly low at Unalayee, especially earlier in the summer. We recommend a 20 degree or better sleeping bag.  Sleeping bags that pack into compact bags are also recommended for ease in backpacking. If your camper does not have a sufficient sleeping bag, we can lend them one once they arrive at CampU.

Q: My camper doesn’t have a backpacking backpack. They would like to borrow one from Unalayee, do I need to reserve it beforehand?

A: We understand that many beginning campers may not have a backpack which is suitable for overnight wilderness trips. As such, we have many available for campers of all sizes to borrow up at CampU. There is no need to reserve one in advance. We will outfit your camper when they arrive at camp.

Q: Does my camper need to bring their own tent or tarp?

A: Although some campers choose to bring their own tents to CampU, it is not required. Unalayee provides tarps for campers to sleep and store their gear under. If your camper chooses to bring a tent, please note that only direct family members are allowed to share a tent. 

Q: Can my camper use their cell phone as a camera?

A: No. One of the core values of Camp Unalayee is wilderness immersion, and part of that is “unplugging” – getting away from the technologies which occupy so much of our time. In general, electronic devices are not allowed at Unalayee. Your camper may bring a stand alone digital camera. Please make sure the battery is fully charged or that it has replaceable batteries – there is no where to charge it at Camp. We also encourage campers to bring one time use disposable cameras.

Q: What if I have to cancel my registration?

A: A $200 per camper deposit is required at the time of enrollment to hold your spot. This deposit is non-refundable after June 1st. There is a $100 cancellation fee for all cancellations (will be taken out of deposit.) No refund will be given for cancellations fewer than 30 days before the start of the session. Cancellation requests due to medical emergency or illness, accompanied by a doctor’s note, will be considered for a transfer of fees to another program or a refund minus the cancellation fee.

Q: If my camper is sent home from camp for inappropriate behavior will I get a refund?

A: There are no refunds for campers expelled for inappropriate behavior. Inappropriate behavior includes possessing any weapon at camp, violence or threats of violence, use of illegal drugs or alcohol, smoking, stealing, repeatedly displaying an uncooperative attitude or disrespect for others, and any other action that in the director’s opinion threatens the health, safety, or well-being of any person or operation of Camp.

Q: If my camper has to go home mid session due to illness or injury will I get a refund?

A: There are no refunds for campers who must leave camp mid-session due to illness or injury.

Q: What will happen if my camper gets homesick?

A: For most, summer camp is an opportunity to be independent, learn self reliance and experience adventure. For a few others, missing home, pets, and friends is a natural tendency. While homesickness is usually mild and temporary, it’s not fun for your child – or for you.

Here are a few tips to help you prepare your child for homesickness:

  1. Discuss ahead of time what to do if your child starts feeling homesick. Write down your ideas and pack it in their bag. Some ideas might be: talk to a friend or counselor, do something fun or new, think about something good that happened that day, write a postcard home, remind them about how proud of themselves they’ll feel after a successful session away.
  2. Don’t promise an early pickup. This puts your child’s focus on getting home – and it sends the message that the experience won’t be a success. Please give our staff the opportunity to work through, to the best of our ability, our time tested procedures.
  3. Talk about camp before they go. Ask questions together and discuss what camp might be like and what they might expect. Check out our website together and explore program descriptions and the daily schedule. Talk about some of the fun activities they can look forward to experiencing while at camp.

Want more tips on preparing for Homesickness? Check out this great article by the American Camp Association

How we approach Homesickness at Unalayee:

We believe that Camp is a place where kids develop self-efficacy, confidence, perseverance, resilience, inner strength, and independence. Often that growth is challenging for campers and homesickness can be a part of that process. At Unalayee we are dedicated to helping campers work through and learn from their homesickness – not only are they growing into confident individuals, they also learn to appreciate their family and friends that much more.                         

  1. The first person to handle homesickness is the counselor. They will:
    1. Spend one-on-one time with the camper.
    2. Find out what the camper likes to do and try to do it with them.
    3. Set short-term goals for the camper to reach.
    4. Encourage the camper to write home.
    5. Campers will not be allowed to call home.
  2. If the counselor’s attempt fails to resolve the camper’s distress the camper will be brought to the Director.
    1. They will continue to work with the camper with the help of the camp nurse, support staff, or other counselors.
    2. Counselors, the Director, and or other Camp staff will check in with the camper regularly to ensure they continue to feel better.
  3. In extreme cases where the camper’s health is being affected or other campers’ experiences are being negatively impacted, parents may be contacted, as they know their child best and will be able to advise camp staff on how to proceed. If parents are to be contacted, the following parameters will be followed:
    1. Camp staff will call the parents while the child is NOT present.
    2. Parents are invited to leave their child a message encouraging them, but are discouraged from talking to their camper on the phone.
    3. Parents are assured that the camp staff will do everything possible to help the camper through their homesickness.
    4. Ultimately the decision if a camper will or will not leave Camp due to homesickness is the parent’s.
  4. In the case that a parent decides their camper should leave camp:
    1. The decision is final.
    2. There will be no going home and coming back to camp.
    3. Parents must pick their child up at Scott Mountain Summit as soon as possible.
    4. Please note: No refund will be given to campers going home early with homesickness.

Q: What kind of communication will I get from Camp while my child is there?

A: One of the core values of Camp Unalayee is wilderness immersion, and part of that is “unplugging.” Campers have no access to the phone or internet while at Camp. We encourage campers to write letters home and encourage you to write to your camper.

Although Camp does have a phone for emergencies, this line is not available for general calls from parents or for camper use. We make it a point to only call parents in the case that we need more information about their child, or their child has a medical or behavioral problem that we need assistance with. 

There is no internet access at Unalayee. We do try to send out photos of the campers once per session via e-mail, but it is not always possible to get internet access to do this. 

For staff:

Q: How do I apply to work at Camp Unalayee?

A: If you would like to apply to be a summer camp counselor, please e-mail our director at Please include a little bit about yourself and why you want to work at Unalayee.