Though summer sleepaway camp was decades ago for me, I can still smell the bug spray, taste the terrible hot chocolate-coffee combo we drank, and feel the icy chill of six a.m. polar bear plunges. From hiking and making boondoggle at Mill Hollow in the Uintas to weeklong summer camp counseling at Flathead Lake in Montana, my camp memories are some of the happiest and most vivid of my childhood. As a first for so many things: first time away from home, first crush, first feeling of independence, it’s no wonder we crave to the simplicity of these days gone by.
And that’s exactly where adult summer camp comes in. A new wave of sleepaway weekend adventures means camp is no longer just for kids. Our tech-focused culture makes us long for an escape: a return to a time when we bonded over campfires—not comment pods—and cared more about fun than photographs.This rising desire to disconnect from tech and reconnect with humans is driving a nationwide rise in adult sleepaway camps, and the trend is officially in Utah thanks to The Outbound’s Pursuit Series.
This three-day weekend teams trail running, hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, and kayaking with instructional education in camp cooking, wilderness first aid, photography, and more. Unlike regular summer camp, drinking is legal, and included in your ticket price. When the day’s adventures are done, join your new best friends for great food (no camp cafeteria slop here) and cocktails, beer, and wine around the fire.Hosting nearly 500 grown ups at each event, Pursuit Series is geared more toward new outdoor adventurers, or those looking to branch into new activities. If you fancy yourself an expert outdoorsperson, you may feel underwhelmed by the difficulty of offerings, though the camaraderie, cuisine, and cocktails hours are on point for anyone.
Despite being a native Utahn, I loved camping at Snowbasin because I explored more of the resort than ever before. (Did you know the stars are spectacular from these slopes?) Beyond the nighttime views, lift-assisted hiking atop snow-covered peaks and trail running through wildflower-filled woods made me want to revisit this mountain again and again.
And when it came to skills, I gained plenty in a few short days. Mountain biking 101 helped me master the basics of cornering and climbing while cooking class with the ladies of Dirty Gourmet taught me easy recipes to class up my camp meals without a ton of effort.But what I loved most about Pursuit Series is the people. You could leave your phone out charging all day and never worry about it being stolen, and make new friends in minutes on a bike ride or trail run. At night, there was nothing better than gathering around the campfire to sip canned wine and hear stories of Pursuers who’d traveled from Texas, Minnesota, and beyond to participate. The best part? No one was obsessing over their phones or feeds. Heck, I left mine inside charging for most of the day.
During a Sony photography class on shooting in the morning light, one classmate summed up what’s great about Pursuit’s vibe. “There’s something for everyone here,” says Nick Dewey of Minneapolis. “It’s so fun to meet people from different places and try all kinds of new things.”
If you don’t have thrill-seeking friends to teach you at home, learning new outdoor skills can be daunting. At Pursuit, participants can easily try something that scares them for the first time: slacklining, rock climbing, mountain biking, and nighttime kayaking—just to name a few. On top of it all, campers go home with a swag bag full of gear to continue their outdoor adventures. Win-win.If you missed Pursuit Series this year, don’t fret. The series returns in 2020, though a session in Utah is not yet guaranteed. However, you can choose to venture beyond the Beehive State’s borders to Pursuit Series camps in California and the East Coast. Watch for 2020 date and location announcements.
Beyond Utah, hotels are stepping into the adult summer camp game too. I know what you’re thinking. What does a hotel have to do with camping? But for those looking for a camp vibe without sleeping outside, Basecamp Hotel’s inaugural Camp BC was a hit. Held in Tahoe City, California, campers slept in hotel rooms and still took part in a weekend “camp.” Think coffee classes, bike rides, happy hours, yoga sessions, communal dinners, hikes, and even arts and crafts.
We bonded with ladies who’d become friends at summer camp over 30 years earlier and sailed around Lake Tahoe on a chartered cruise. Camp included free happy hour beer tastings, camp bingo, and tie-dye bandana making. Plus, swag backpacks with mugs and s’mores kits were included in our room stay. While the Camp BC program is currently on pause, we’re hoping Basecamp Hotels brings it back this season! For hotel comfort with a camper-y vibe, book the “Great Indoors” room at either of Basecamp Hotel’s Tahoe properties. The rooms feature tented bed spaces and camp chairs your whole family will love. Happy camping!