We believe great things happen where kids and mountains meet.

Backyard Basecamp is a youth mountaineering program. Based in New York City and the surrounding mountains, our programs take 2nd through 9th graders camping, hiking, and backpacking. Basecampers face challenges where teamwork and tenacity are essential. We teach wilderness and survival skills, conservation and environmental protection, and help grow self-respect, empathy, and resilience. Participants will experience a life that is simple, unplugged, and close to nature; enabling them to grow in physical skills, imagination, and self-confidence. To this end, Backyard Basecamp maintains a small enrollment and ensures guides are highly qualified and trained. Our programs are designed for Basecampers to experience year after year - deepening the bond of our community and evolving your child’s skills as a mountaineer as they grow.

Our Mission

Our mission is to put kids on mountains. We provide youth with a foundation of nurture in nature that enables them to confidently experience living and playing in the wild, through which they learn self respect, build empathy for others, and grow to love and protect the environment.

The mountains are calling and I must go!
— John Muir (1838-1914) Naturalist & Activist

Our Values

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As Basecampers, we have a shared vision of what it means to show up and pitch in. Developing the following qualities will make the best adventures possible - both at camp and in life! Leaders and activities can help support you in learning these skills, but ultimately, it’s up to you!

  • RESILIENCE - positivity in the face of challenges and failures

  • CREATIVITY - using imagination and sharing new ideas

  • CRITICAL THINKING - using reason to solve problems 

  • COMMUNICATION - respectful conversations and collaboration

  • INITIATIVE - independence to self-direct 

  • MINDFULNESS - ability to quietly reflect 

  • ADAPTABILITY - willingness to change and be flexible

  • LEADERSHIP - confidence in guiding others

  • SERVICE - attitude of outward thinking 

  • ACCOUNTABILITY - being part of a team that depends on you.


Promise to Yourself: “I promise myself willingness to try, forgiveness if I make mistakes, and hope for success.”

Promise to Others: “I promise others kindness. I will listen, support, serve, and encourage them.”

Promise to the Earth: “I promise the Earth to love and experience the beauty of nature whenever possible. I give the work of my hands in service and the sound of my voice in activism to keep her clean for generations to come.”

A Day in the Life of a Basecamper

Basecampers know that the best adventures are had in the beautiful and wild outdoors. While at Basecamp - you will get to hike, swim, climb, backpack, and camp! You will feel the forest calling you to explore paths, the lake inviting you to jump in, and the mountains daring you to climb them. We hope you get a feeling of excitement and anticipation when you think about all the fun we will have in the outdoors. Here’s a look at a day in the life of a Basecamper. (This story is from the perspective of a Pioneer-age Basecamper)


You wake up to the soft light of sunrise coming through through your tent’s walls. You hear the twitter of birds while you roll over to wake up your friend. While you lace your boots up you hear your camp leaders starting to help the others build a fire to cook breakfast. Soon, the smell of bacon mixes with the floral spring breeze as you spoon eggs into your mess kit bowl. Your friends ask your guide which Cairns you’ll be working on today. He tells you, “Today we’re finishing our Fire Safety and Cooking patches and we’ll be starting our hike after lunch!”

A while later, after you’ve successfully built a fire with your team, you head to your tent to ready your pack. With a full water bottle, a packed lunch and a rain coat (since the clouds are coming in), you set out with your Crew to tackle the 2 mile loop around Breakneck Lake. You wanted to finish your Animal patch on your hike so you bring your Field Guide with you to sketch some observations if you get a chance during a rest. It starts to rain after 20 minutes on the trail - a summer storm that feels warm and refreshing on your face.

Once back at Basecamp, you lay your shoes out to dry in the sun that’s peeking through the clouds, and quickly change into your swimsuit. You and your friends run to the lake ready to cannonball jump, when someone suggests you go canoeing instead.

Drenched from your friends “accidentally”pushing you in the lake (you got them back though!), you dry off and get ready to prove your fire-building and cooking skills to your Crew during dinner. You play board games and tell stories around the fire. Tonight is game night so after some board games and laughs, you end the evening crunching a gooey S’more. Before you head to your tent for the night - you look up to see thousands of stars sprayed across the sky along the beautiful Milky Way. You crawl into your sleeping bag and whisper about plans for the next day with your buddy, and fall asleep happy.


What better place to be than Basecamp? What better things to do than explore the beautiful Earth? Having an eager, positive, and grateful attitude will help you grow and learn as a Basecamper. Basecampers are friends, storytellers, nature-protectors, and leaders. You will soon discover the honor of being called “Basecamper,” and the privilege of being a part of the Crew at Backyard Basecamp.

Next, we’ll go over three main activities you’ll participate in as a Basecamper. Experiences in these areas will help you learn the skills of living outdoors, grow connections with nature and other, and master Cairns and achieve Summits to eventually reach the pinnacle of Backyard Basecamp: Everest.

Outdoor Adventures

Camping, hiking, backpacking, trekking, biking, climbing, swimming, kayaking, fishing, skiing, snowshoeing, and much more are all ways we can have fun in the great outdoors. At the core of Basecamping is adventure.

As a young Basecamper (Bushwhackers, Explorers, and Pioneers) you’ll learn the basics of discovering the outdoors. Our youngest friends learn how to observe and question the natural world, how to journal and record their experiences, and develop beginner outdoor skills like navigating, cooking, hiking, and setting up camp.

Once you get a little older (Groundbreakers, Trailblazers, and Voyagers) you will put your learning to the test in increasingly demanding and wild environments. The hikes will get longer and your pack may get heavier, but you will be able to reach higher mountains, better help your Crew, and try more technical feats. Picture walking fifty miles along the Appalachian Trail, building your own shelter and navigating your way. Think about traveling to Spain to trek for three weeks along the Camino de Santiago - able to physically handle such challenges. This sort of adventure only comes after months of preparation and education.

Make sure to keep a record of your miles in your Field Guide Record. Tracking miles hiked, biked, and trekked will become valuable memories of your time spent at Basecamp and adventuring with your family. You will also use your mileage tracker to show you have reached the next Summit requirements.


Basecampers pitch in wherever possible to help our fellow Crew members, guides, family, and community. Keeping an eye out for ways you can serve during your day. This “how can I help?” attitude will not only make others happy - it will make YOU happy! When you give your time, energy, and resources to help others, you will feel more empathy (love) for others.

During Backyard Basecamp’s summer programs, we often find ways to help others and the environment. You might participate in a park clean up, help mix compost, or plant new flowers in a garden. You’ll see opportunities to serve new friends and find ways you can use your talents to help your whole Crew.

There’s a reason we refer to “Basecampers” as CREW. You are a valuable member of our mountaineering team, and you’re ability to notice situations and pitch in is vital! Be prepared to dig in and get sweaty, and probably a little dirty sometimes.

You can record your Service Hours in your Field Guide Record. Record both “official” service projects and personal acts of kindness. This record will serve as a journal to remind you of the times you were able to help, as well as a sign that you are ready to advance to the next Summit.


As Basecampers, we are not satisfied with merely appreciating the beauty of outdoors. When you observe, touch, taste, listen to, and spend time outside, your love of “Mother Earth” will grow. Wanting to protect the environment is a natural result of time spent outside.

Conservation of nature starts at home with small everyday habits. At Basecamp we learn ways we can adjust or improve our habits. Composting, recycling, reducing single-use plastics, shopping locally, conserving energy, using renewable energy where possible, and opting for more energy efficient travel are just a few ways you can help protect the beautiful places we will visit.

While living outdoors, Basecampers hold each other accountable to “Leave No Trace, ” or, to show no signs that humans were there even after we’ve hiked through or camped there. We learn about ecology of our area and may even see the negative impact humans have had over time. We learn how to be an activist and use our voice and actions to teach others about protecting nature.

In your Field Guide you can record both your personal goals as well as your conservation goals in the Goal section. If you commit to helping your family bring reusable bags to the grocery store or to starting a composting bin in your home, write it down! This will help you hold yourself accountable to any goals you make and help support your family in protecting nature together.

Why climb Everest? Because it is there.
— Geore Leigh Mallory (1886-1924) part of first team to summit Everest

Set Your Sights on the Everest Summit

Committing to master Cairns and reach Summits is key to your success along the Backyard Basecamp Trail. You’ll see as the mountains get higher that your skills become more than just a fun activity, but an integral part of helping your Crew reach real and figurative Summits.

Basecampers know they can learn from doing hard things; climbing mountains, carrying packs, staying positive in the face of hard weather, pitching in to help another Crew member, and working day after day to reach goals. But just like we learn on the mountains - the best views are usually hardest to reach. Your hard work will lead to great rewards: positivity, pride, and confidence!

You will find the Trail to Summit requirements in Chapter Three. Review the Cairns online or in your Field Guide. Set your sights on achieving the honor of reaching Backyard Basecamp’s highest award: the Everest Summit. It will take hard work to get there, but Basecamper, you are up for the challenge!

Leadership Opportunities

As a Basecamper, you are a part of a team. No matter how young you are or unskilled you feel, your fellow Basecampers and guides will depend on you. Leadership opportunities abound at Basecamp: both in small ways and in official positions.

As a member of the Crew, each Basecamper will be given responsibilities by your Guides. You may be in charge of navigating the trail that day, checking first aid and water preparations, cooking the meals, tending the fire, cleaning up camp, storing food from animals, helping identify plants and animals with the field guides, leading the Firesides, or helping younger campers. Your jobs will likely change day to day. However, if you don’t follow through, your Crew may suffer by having a poorly cooked meal, or taking the wrong trail!

For our older Basecampers, during the weeks of Basecamp, your Crew will have a rotating Captain. This position is earned through your actions in pitching-in and showing kindness to other Basecampers. Your Crew will vote for Captain each week. It is an honor and responsibility to earn this position. Your Guides will look to the Crew Captain to help prepare for hikes and activities. Captains also need to ensure each of the Crew members is owning their individual responsibilities.

Whether or not you’ve been asked to help, it’s always better to be looking for ways you can serve and lead. Taking initiative and solving problems without being asked will help you become the best Basecamper you can be.

At our annual Backyard Basecamp Summit, we recognize those Basecampers who show outstanding leadership in the areas of Service, Conservation, Outdoor Adventuring, and Leadership.



Continue to CHAPTER 3: