Common Questions

Families often have lots of questions about what their camper’s life will be like while they are with us at camp. It's understandable to be a little worried about sending a child away to camp, especially for the first time. Here are some notes on health, safety, and common concerns we hear. Please reach out to our staff with any additional questions you have—our expert staff are here to support your camper and help them grow!

How do I know if they're ready for camp?

Wondering if your kiddo is ready for camp? Here are ways to tell if they're prepared to have a spectacular time at Girl Scout Camp:

  • Has successfully spent the night away from home, and is able to cope with new things such as new or different bathrooms, darkness, and insects.
  • Is comfortable in a group setting, including sleeping, and is able to fall asleep on their own.
  • Enjoys spending time outdoors, being active, and learning new things!
  • Likes making new friends, can get along with others, and is willing to spend time with lots of people, not just best friends.
  • Can adapt to new places and try new things (maybe with some encouragement!).
  • Can follow directions and engage with others in active camp life.
  • Is ready and willing to help with planning and clean-up, including daily group cabin chores (called kapers).
  • Should be able to move independently from place to place at camp.
  • May sometimes need a little help from a counselor, but she can shower, brush her teeth, and manage personal hygiene.
  • Is able to communicate with a camp counselor when assistance is needed.
  • And last but not least: They want to go, and has a family that is willing to let them go away for a fun, rewarding experience that builds skills and independence!

For many children, camp is the first step toward independence and plays an important role in their growth and development. Camp can be a different and new experience, and even seasoned campers may be anxious on the first day of camp as they begin to adjust to a new setting and new people.

Your camper may have second thoughts about going to camp before they leave, and that’s okay! We encourage families to keep this conversation positive and encouraging.

  • Try to avoid making deals or “pick-up promises” (e.g. “I promise I will come and get you any time” or “If you don’t like camp after the first day, we will come get you”).
  • This will make it very difficult to adjust, and often stands in the way of campers being able to work through their homesickness. We want them to be successful here, so we encourage parents to boost camper confidence rather than provide an “out” – let them know that they can do this, and you believe in them!

Our staff work one-on-one with all of our campers to try to help the child understand the feelings they are having and try to involve them in camp activities. Experience tells us that within a few days, the camper will be busy having fun and feeling secure with counselors, new friends and the outdoors. Don’t worry; we’ll call you if they’re having trouble adjusting!

This summer, hundreds of campers will experience their first taste of independence at summer camp. For many, it will also be their first encounter with homesickness—but families don’t have to feel helpless! Homesickness is normal, and you can help your camper prepare to deal with it well by:

  • Encouraging independence throughout the year.
  • Discussing what camp will be like before your camper leaves, such as using a flashlight to find the bathroom.
  • Reminding your camper ahead of time that you will not be able to contact each other via phone during your camper’s stay.
  • Contacting your camper by sending letters, care packages, and even e-mails while at camp.
  • Packing a personal item from home, such as a stuffed animal.
  • Believing in their ability to handle their own emotions and have fun at camp.
  • Being visibly excited for them, even though you might miss them as much or more!

Our camp staff has extensive experience with homesickness and they’ll be there for your camper 24/7. If you have a concern, voice it to our camp directors before camp, so the staff can help! More resources available at acacamps.org.

If your camper is a bedwetter, it’s not unusual, and you don’t have to worry. Please let us know on the camper information sheet and/or health history form. Your camper should speak with her counselor or another staff person if they have an accident, and staff will discreetly launder the bedding and clothes.

What are camp's rules?

All camp sessions start with the group coming together to create a list of guidelines for how they agree to act and to treat one another. It's important to note that the campers create this agreement amongst themselves, with guidance from their counselors.

Group agreements help to create safe and caring spaces that will enhance a sense of community and belonging. They serve as a set of clear, co-created guidelines to help participants feel comfortable with each other in an atmosphere of safety, respect and trust. Everyone shares the responsibility for the experience and once developed, a group can regularly re-visit the agreements to see if they are still working and make changes if issues come up.

Girl Scouts of Northern California strives to maintain a camp environment that is safe and fun for each camper, based on the Girl Scout Promise and Law. Our programs and camp environments are designed to provide a welcoming, anti-discriminatory experience for all, regardless of race, creed, or cultural background.

Campers are expected to be friendly to other campers and counselors. Campers have the opportunity to be active participants in designing their group agreements. Language or behaviors that hurt or intimidate other campers and staff members are not welcome.

Swearing, bullying, hitting, fighting, verbal harassment or any other disruptive behaviors are not permitted or acceptable at camp. Smoking, and/or use or possession of drugs or alcohol at camp, on field trips, or in camp vans is not permitted.

Our staff are trained youth development professionals, and have the support of experienced program directors to intervene and provide guidance if necessary. Family assistance will be sought regarding repeated misbehavior, and we will work with you to find solutions that help your camper to understand and abide by camp’s policies. Should it become necessary for a camper to leave camp due to extreme behavior, we will expect a parent/guardian to pick up a camper as soon as possible using their own transportation and at their own expense. Session fees are not refundable for campers who return home due to misbehavior.

If you have any questions regarding this behavior policy, please contact us at registration@gsnorcal.org

Camp offers a great opportunity to learn to navigate social situations while disconnecting from the digital and outside world, helping develop independence, confidence, and self-reliance. For these reasons cell phones, laptop computers, portable DVD players, iPad’s, Tablets, MP3 players, E-readers, etc. are not allowed at camp.

In order to allow campers and staff to fully enjoy and benefit from camp, we do not allow campers to make or receive phone calls, and do not allow campers to have cell phones.

  • As a parent/guardian, you may feel that talking with your camper is the only reassurance that they are adjusting to camp. However, the sound of your voice can actually promote homesickness, so we rarely allow adults to speak with their campers.

We ask that you adhere to this policy and understand that cellphones in the unit actively disrupt the wellbeing and experience of other campers. Please do not assist your camper in “sneaking” a phone onto camp, and please account for their devices before drop-off.

The exclusion of phones from our camp program is intentional, backed by research, and is considered an industry best practice by the American Camp Association. We reassess this decision every year to ensure it is in the best interest of our campers so that they will get the most out of their time at camp.

Research shows that “unplugging” helps youth to gain fortitude and a much-needed break from the pressures of media. On the other hand, cell phones have a negative impact on both the camper who has it on their person, and on the other campers in the group—they generate homesickness, bullying, and distrust that hurts the camp community.

  • Cell phones found on camp will be confiscated and held in the camp office until the end of the session.
  • Campers who need music or cameras are expected to use a device without texting, calling, or internet capabilities.

If a camper has a legitimate need to call home, we will work with them to facilitate that call from our office! Please connect with us if you have questions about our phone policy.

For the safety and well-being of our camp community, please do not send these items to camp with your girl:

  • Open-toe shoes (except for sandal use in shower)
  • Crop tops/halter tops
  • Aerosols
  • Candy, gum, or snacks
  • Electronic devices
  • Digital cameras
  • Drugs, alcohol, tobacco products, knives, or weapons
  • Money

Participants are responsible for all items brought to events or camps. Neither Girl Scouts Northern California nor the camp can be held responsible for the loss or damage to a participant’s personal belongings. It is best to have your name on all items. Any items left in the camp lost and found will be held at council for 2 weeks and then donated to a local charity.

What will camp be like?

Pods are housed in groups of 4–12 campers, and depending on sleeping accommodations staff either sleep in the same space or in a separate accommodation nearby. At night, staff members are always within earshot if they are needed.

Read more about each camp's living arrangements here.

We strive to provide well-balanced, nutritious and child-pleasing menus at camp—and of course the occasional s’more! Meals will be prepared by experienced Food Service Staff.

Special Diets & Allergies: Our food service manager is experienced at providing vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and lactose-free options and we can usually accommodate most other special diets; however, reaching out before camp will help you, your camper, and the camp prepare appropriately—especially if your camper’s needs are significant.

Please identify if your camper has an allergy or intolerance on their health from. We ask that you identify the type of allergy your camper has and provide information on managing an allergic reaction. During meal time, our staff will instruct campers with special diets as to the menu items safe and available at each meal.

  • For our gluten-free campers: although we do provide gluten-free meals, we suggest that you pack a small, well-labeled bag of food (regular grocery sack-sized or smaller) to have available to your camper. You can turn this in at check-in on the first day. We will do our best to return all unused food at the end of the session but please ask your camper to collect this before they leave camp.

  • Lactose intolerance can be managed completely by camp—no additional food needs to be sent. However, if there are specific brands that your camper is most comfortable using for dairy substitutes, we suggest that you pack a small, well-labeled bag of food (regular grocery sack-sized or smaller) to have available to your camper at mealtimes. You can turn this in at check-in on the first day.

  • Please note that, while we do minimize peanut and tree nut use at camp, we are not completely nut-free, and our kitchens are not cross-contamination free for gluten, nuts, wheat, dairy, or soy. Any snacks that are labeled as processed with or containing nuts will be restricted from campers with allergies.

Depending on the severity of allergies in camp, we’ll adjust the meal plan on a session-by- session basis to avoid offering allergy-provoking foods and cross-contamination. Please see the information an allergies below, in the safety section, for more information.

Bathroom and shower facilities are located throughout camp. Housing may include an outdoor walk to the nearest location. We will let your camper know the nearest bathroom and shower locations once they are at camp.

Please talk with your camper before they come to camp about taking care of their daily personal hygiene needs. Remind them about brushing teeth, combing hair, and washing their face every day. The staff will also support these hygiene practices as much as possible. Due to the number of people in camp and the practice of water conservation, showers are generally limited to every other day depending on the length of time in camp.

Overnight camp gives participants the opportunity to spend quality time in a safe, supportive outdoor setting while making friends and learning new skills. It draws together youth from different backgrounds and gives everyone a chance to learn from each other. Campers live cooperatively with others of the same age and interests. Campers learn to become self-reliant, confident, caring young women.

The camp staff will work with the campers to support and guide them in the planning process of their session program. This is referred to as the girl planning process. With every camper having input into the program, no two days at camp will be the same.

Before your camper comes to camp, talk with them about what they want to do while at camp. Camper input is important to us; talking about it before arrival will help your camper participate in planning with their peers.

At camp, our staff and CITs  follow the Girl Scout tradition of creating camp counselor names. So don't be surprised when your camper refers to their counselors by these nicknames!

Please be sure to list camper birthdays on registration forms and we’ll make sure campers get recognized on their special day!

Some groups may have the opportunity to take a trip out of camp. Campers will be oriented to safety guidelines and transported to off-camp sites vans driven by experienced staff of age 21 or older with good driving records. All staff drivers have passed GSNorCal’s driving check. Staff members carry a cell phone for emergencies. Programs are staffed by certified or experienced counselors who have training in First Aid, CPR, supervision and safety procedures. Staff supervising backcountry trips have been trained in the appropriate skill set, have prior experience and are trained in backcountry specific emergency procedures.

Campers participate in designing itineraries for their programs. They pack their equipment and are oriented in its proper use and care. Campers must follow the behavior guidelines set by their group and act responsibly. Behavior that deviates from the set guidelines may result in immediate dismissal from the program and from camp. If this occurs during a trip away from camp, adults will be required to come to the off-camp location immediately to pick up their camper. If a camper becomes ill during an out of camp trip, the staff will address the situation and contact camp to make a decision about the next steps. Adults may be asked to pick up their camper from the trip or camp.

Participants of all abilities—including those with disabilities and health concerns—are welcome and encouraged to join us at camp! Prior to registering, we recommend you contact us so we can make sure we are able to provide your camper with the accommodations and support they need to have a great camp experience. Our staff can also help you choose the sessions that are the best fit.

All of our camps in Northern California are located in natural areas, and wildlife is a part of the outdoor experience! This includes raccoons, squirrels, chipmunks, mice, snakes, deer, black bears, bats, and more! While at camp, campers will learn about the specific types of animals that are common to the area and wilderness safety, such as always using the buddy system, respecting animals from a distance, and never feeding them.

Like other outdoor spaces, Sugar Pine is home to bugs and mosquitoes. Each camper is asked to apply bug repellent multiple times a day, but it is possible your child will get mosquito bites. Our staff are trained to care for bug bites as needed.

How are campers kept safe and healthy?

Our staff and campers work together to take a preventative approach to health care in camp. A Health Care Supervisor is on staff and is responsible for monitoring and administering first aid and routine health care, per Treatment Protocols. Should a camper become ill while at camp, they will be admitted to the camp Health Center or taken to the nearest hospital if needed, and the camp director will contact the emergency contact listed on the camper’s health form.

The following applies to all medications, including vitamins, inhalers, prescriptions and over-the-counter medications:

  • All medications must be listed on the health form.
  • Please bring all medications to the bus loading in a labeled ziplock bag - do not pack them in her suitcase.
  • Medications must be in the original container with the camper’s name, address, and complete directions on the container. California law states that medications not in the original container cannot be dispensed by the Health Care Manager.
  • Print the medication confirmation form from your CampDoc account and include it in the ziplock bag.
  • If campers require an epi-pen, we require that you
    send 2 with her (1 for the health center and 1 for the unit).

State regulations cover the storage and dispensing of medications. All medications must come to camp in original containers and be stored by the Health Supervisor in locked compartments in the camp health center. The Health Supervisor will dispense medications as indicated by the physician’s instructions for prescriptions and/or by label instructions for over-the-counter medications. If over the-counter medications should be given different than the label, a note must be provided from an MD or NP.

If a camper refuses to take prescribed medications, this refusal is documented in the health log and the parent/guardian is notified.


Please identify if your camper has an allergy on their health from. We ask that you identify the type of allergy your camper has and provide information on managing an allergic reaction.

  • Campers who have Epi-Pens are asked to bring 2 to camp, whenever possible.

Food Allergies

Some families have found it helpful to utilize the Food Allergy Action Plan resource from FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education), to help camp staff handle their camper’s food allergies and anaphylaxis emergency care. You can upload this document to CampDoc, alongside your camper’s heath form, if you choose to complete it.

Depending on the severity of allergies in camp, we’ll make adjustments on a session-by-session basis to avoid offering allergy-provoking foods and cross-contamination. Please reach out to us if you have any concerns, so that we can provide the best possible care for your camper.

Per state and American Camp Association guidelines, all campers at Sugar Pine and Bothin will participate in skills screening and will be placed in a swimming group according to experience and ability. Campers have the opportunity to work on their swimming skills and can recheck their swimming ability partway through the camp session if they would like too, but camper safety is our top priority. If we are not comfortable moving them up a level, we will not. Campers will swim 3-5 times a week, weather permitting. All aquatic activities are supervised by certified lifeguards.

All campers are required to wear lifejackets (PFDs) in any boat, regardless of swimming ability.


Archery

  • Campers of all ages will have the opportunity to participate in Archery. A certified Archery Instructor is on staff to oversee this target sport. Archery activities are led by certified adult staff. Campers may not participate in archery unless a trained adult is present. Campers receive an orientation, including safety rules, prior to participating in this activity.

High Ropes

  • Campers entering grades 4 and up will have the opportunity to participate in High Ropes. Several experienced instructors will lead their session, which will always be overseen by an Advanced Facilitator. Campers may never climb the courses unless on belay and following all safety protocols. Campers receive an orientation, including safety rules, prior to participating in this activity.

Equestrian Program (Camp Sugar Pine)

  • Campers of all ages will have the opportunity to participate in trail rides, horse care, and/or beginner lessons. All horseback riding programming is overseen by experienced riding instructors and follows American Camp Association Equestrian Program Safety Standards.

Unit Life & Care of Camp

  • We take care of our camp together! Each camp unit may have a “kaper” or job each day. Kapers are done by the unit and may take up to 15 minutes. Camp “kapers” may include putting up flags, sweeping out kitchen shelters, or picking up trash in the unit. Counselors supervise all kapers. Depending on age and ability, campers may handle nontoxic cleaners in spray bottles to clean counters and other surfaces with paper towels. Campers are instructed to wash their hands after cleaning.

A Girl Scout is always prepared, and that includes at camp. During training, staff will learn and practice emergency weather procedures and emergency action plans. At the beginning of each session, campers will also learn what to do in an emergency, and will have practice drills during their time at camp.

If the weather is unusually hot or cold, activities are modified to keep campers safe. Weather alert radios are monitored, and there are designated storm shelters for each camp.

Please remember that, during weather alerts, phone lines need to remain open to contact different parts of camp or emergency services; please do not call during severe weather. If it is after-hours or on weekends, our After-Hours Emergency Number is 1-877-636-1912. The council answering service will contact the appropriate council staff. A staff member from GSNorCal will then contact you. In case of a natural disaster, information will be emailed and posed online.

Do not send your camper to camp if they have been exposed to a communicable disease or if they are ill.

Girl Scouts of Northern California does require an immunization history as part of the health form required for camp. Currently, the health history form does include an option for an exemption to vaccinations for medical or personal reasons. To read more about our protocols related to communicable diseases, please read Communicable Disease Protocols for Girl Scouts of Northern California.

If a participant is not immunized, they are required to complete the Immunization Exemption Form and submit with the health form via CampDoc.

Please check your camper for lice before coming to camp, as all will be screened upon arrival. Any child with lice will need to spend at least one night in the health center to receive treatment before joining their unit. You will also have the option to take your camper home to treat them there. You can learn more about lice at headlice.org.

All designated emergency contacts should be available while your camper is at camp. Camp staff may call you for the following:

  • Homesickness of your camper that is getting worse, not better.
  • Inappropriate conduct by your camper while at Girl Scout Camp.
  • Illness or injury to your camper for an extended period of time, requires medical attention outside of camp, or requires her to be picked up by the parent/guardian.

Remember that your camper will not have access to a telephone and that the telephone in camp is for business and emergencies only. If you have an urgent need to talk with your camper, contact the Girl Scout office first: 1-800-447-4475 ext 2091. During business hours (Monday–Friday, 8:30 AM–5:30 PM), the council staff contact the camp director, who will then respond to your call. If it is after hours or on weekends, and there is an emergency, our After Hours Emergency Number is 1-877-636-1912.

For camper safety and security, visitors are not permitted during camp sessions.

What are the payment and refund policies?

At the time of registration, individuals attending resident camp sessions may either pay the full amount or a $150 deposit (or $50/person for Troop and Family Camp programs). If only paying the deposit, your receipt will indicate the date that your final balance is due. Your final payment will be due four weeks before your camp session starts.

Paying by Check

If you would like to pay for the balance of your camp fee by check, please mail your payment and a copy of your receipt or registration number to:

Girl Scouts of Northern California 1310 South Bascom Avenue San Jose, CA 95128 Attn: Camp Registration

Using Cookie Reward Cards

Girls can also pay for all or part of their camp registration with the rewards they earn through the GSNorCal product programs. Girls who sell 3,000 packages of cookies can earn a free camp session at any of our council-run camps! If you are not able to afford the camp deposit before your camper completes her 2019/2020 product program, please contact us at registration@gsnorcal.org. We want to make sure that your hard-working camper is able to use her reward cards towards the camp of her choice!

Financial Aid

Any girl who lives within Girl Scouts of Northern California’s jurisdiction is eligible to apply for financial help to attend one of our Girl Scout camps! The Financial Aid application is directly embedded in the camp registration form, and we encourage all families to complete it. If you missed it at registration, please email registration@gsnorcal.org for assistance.

All camp fees must be paid no later than 4 weeks prior to the camp session your camper is attending. You can pay your bill online at DoubleKnot. Instructions are included on your registration receipt.

Your camper’s registration will be cancelled if payment has not been received by the due date. If, for any reason, you cannot meet this financial obligation, you must contact GSNorCal immediately at 1-800-447-4475 ext 2091, and we will work with you.

All camp sessions are subject to cancellation or rescheduling by Girl Scouts Northern California. If a session is canceled by GSNorCal, and the camper is unable to attend an alternate session, all fees will be refunded, including any deposit made. If a program is canceled, you will be notified by email or phone.

You may cancel your camp session orders up to 30 days prior to the session for a refund, minus the non-refundable deposit ($150). Refunds will be issued in the same form as they were paid (i.e. check, cash, credit card, Rewards Cards). Camp orders canceled within the 30 days prior to the session will receive no refund.

If you do need to cancel your camp session order, you must send a written request for cancellation to:

Girl Scouts of Northern California
Attn: Camp Registration
1310 South Bascom Avenue
San Jose, CA 95128

Email: registration@gsnorcal.org