What’s Behind the Cost of Camps

Part of working on the Family Success team means having interesting conversations with our community of families and parents. I was inspired by a recent discussion I had with a fellow Trackers mom. We discussed the complexities of operating Trackers unique camps and how we budget our programs. We thought it would be helpful to share how we run Trackers camps and what our costs are to deliver the awesome one-of-a-kind programs that make us Trackers. 

Some background on our prices

In 2021 and 2022, Trackers made a conscious decision to keep camp costs lower than expected inflation of operating costs. We knew that coming out of a pandemic, families had financial challenges and yet kids needed outdoor time and opportunities to be with friends more than ever. But that didn’t change the fact our costs have continued to increase and in the last 2 years we’ve had to raise camp prices to keep up. 

Here is a handy-dandy pie chart showing where your tuition goes:

Now let’s dig into the details about what that tuition pays for. 

What we do at Trackers is complex 

  • We transport kids out into nature Trackers would not be Trackers if we didn’t adventure out into the woods! That’s our thing. We do hard things outside, and it’s awesome. Most traditional camps operate from a single location—classroom, museum, or overnight site. At Trackers, kids start at a neighborhood drop-off point, then take a bus to a wilderness/nature site. Every day. 
  • We offer over 35 camp options! Kids can learn archery, tracking, wilderness survival, fishing, boating, rock climbing, animal caretaking, blacksmithing, arts and crafts, tabletop gaming, outdoor cooking and so much more! No one offers more camp options than Trackers. 

That’s why it costs more

With the extra complexity and options, Trackers has different costs than most camps. And since the pandemic, the cost for getting kids out into nature has risen substantially. Here’s where our costs have gone up since 2019:

  • Staffing Payroll costs to staff summer camps and programs has gone up 34%. Everyone on our team works hard—really hard—and we want to compensate them accordingly. We are proud that our wages are in the upper 90% of camps nationwide. We begin every summer with a full week of intensive training, so they can safely teach kids all our awesome activities like tracking, archery, boating, blacksmithing, etc.
  • Staff-to-Kid Ratios A classroom-based day camp can have ratios as high as 1 staff to 16 kids. But because we are out in the forest with kids doing activities such as carving, archery and blacksmithing, we need lower staff-to-kid ratios to keep everyone safe. 
  • Transportation Van rental costs have doubled. Bus rental costs have tripled. That’s without adding in higher gas prices. We are one of the few day camps left taking kids out into nature.
  • Forest Sites Fees for our sites have tripled. Trackers conserves over 450 acres of wilderness, which might otherwise be developed. While also renting spaces from other camp programs, helping them to steward their wilderness sites. At these wilderness sites, kids can stealth off-trail, build forts, use bows and arrows, and adventure like some awesome 80s movie (Goonies!). We could rent space at city parks, but that also costs money and comes with many limitations, like no LARPing (aka dressing like elves and battling with foam swords), no harvesting wild plants, no building campfires. These limits don’t work for what we do at Trackers. Our mission is to get kids out into natural areas where they can get dirty and play like kids did 50 years ago.
  • Classroom Sites As air quality and heat events increase, we’ve needed to move towards renting different kinds of drop-off sites. Having these essential climate-controlled spaces that can accommodate our entire camp during the rare days we need to pivot indoors has increased our site rental costs by over 3 times since 2019.
  • More Camp Hours This year our Adventure (transported) camps have an additional hour added to each day, making them 40 hours for the week instead of the previous years’ 35 hours. 

But it doesn’t really cost more

Even with our camps being more complex, offering more choices, and having higher staff-to-student ratios, the cost of sending your child to Trackers is still very much in line with other camps in our area that primarily offer classroom-based programs. Our transported adventure camps run for a longer day and come out to the same amount per hour as most local classroom-based camps. We suggest calculating camp cost per hour to compare apples to apples. FYI, we really appreciate these other camp programs and diversity of camp offerings in our area—truly providing something for everyone.

How we addresses rising costs

  • Studio Camps In 2023 we added Studio Camps as a lower cost option for families. In these camps kids stay at one site, not needing transportation, and they offer shorter camp hours for different schedules. So we can charge less for them, passing that savings on to parents.
  • Scholarships & Discounts Trackers also awards hundreds of scholarships across our four regions, along with a range of discounts leading up to camp. Nearly 50% of our campers receive discounted tuition or scholarship awards. Our goal has always been to make camp more accessible, and we will continue to find ways to do that.

We really appreciate these kinds of conversations with families about how we make camps happen! As we navigate these times together, our commitment to providing children with unforgettable, enriching outdoor experiences remains unwavering. We understand the financial considerations involved in choosing a camp for your child and we are working hard to provide awesome camps that are as affordable as we can make them. We hope for your support so that Trackers can continue to offer unique outdoor adventures for years to come. 

If you have additional questions or need more information about our programs, costs, or scholarships available, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Our door is always open, and we are here to support you in making the best decision for your family. 


Holly Noconi

Family Communications