About Field Camp

This is a long page, but will likely give you a good sense of the camp if you know nothing about it and answer many of your questions…

Blue Ridge Field Camp was founded in Charlottesville in 2000 to emphasize “friendships, adventure, and wonderful memories of summer.”  Over time, the camp has grown to encompass two sites in Western Albemarle County as well as outdoors engagement programs for youths from age 6 to 16.  The backbone of Field Camp is its day and once-per-week overnight camp for boys and girls ages 6-14.   Its owner and director since the founding has been Todd Barnett.

What makes our camp unique?  First, our most salient quality is our community of campers and counselors.  We are defined by lots of things, but we thrive because of this community.  Ours is a relatively small camp, with 75-100 campers per week over the course of a summer, and no more than several hundred different campers all summer.  Given the relatively small size, we can get to know one another well. This works better, of course, when kids come multiple weeks, and most of our campers do come week after week, and year after year, making for a genuine community.  Kids always get to know one another across ages here as we spend less time in age-specific or gender-specific groups than is often the case with camps. That goes for counselors too who are less restricted to just a small group of kids within the camp. Instead, we mostly provide choices for the campers throughout the day which promotes all counselors getting to know all the kids.  It feels much more like a neighborhood or extended family gathering in the relationships that are formed.

Second, the camp’s staff is almost exclusively former campers, with an average of about 10 years experience at the camp among them.  As often as not, the counselors started at camp when they were 6 years old, and have come annually ever since. The heart of the camp is its staff–mostly vibrant high school and college students who provide excellent examples of character.

Third, we are a genuine camp camp – an outdoors camp.  We can seek shelter when necessary, but our kids spend their days in the outdoors, playing field games and board games, doing crafts, getting dirty, swimming, and so forth.  We have no electronics, and we tend to thrive in trying to find ways to make things happen and get things done with what we have, in true camp fashion. We swim only in natural water pools and streams, and our facilities date back from 80 to 110 years.  We serve high quality meals that the kids enjoy, and when they’re getting so much exercise, a tasty and healthy meal is so very satisfying.  The whole experience feels like it’s out of another era. The kids get so much exercise at camp, and grow like weeds. It’s pretty easy to understand this appeal as a parent for our kids–away from screens, engaged, physically active, surrounded by ideal camper role models, telling stories over the weekend about their camp adventures, and genuinely happy.

Field Camp has all the best features of a classic overnight camp. We do have an overnight on Thursday nights that is intended for all campers, which extends the feeling that Field Camp is more than a day camp but without the cost of an overnight camp. We tend to have very happy campers and parents, who appreciate having found this unusual summer haven for their kids.

Our only other programs are extensions of our regular camp.  The Adventure Weeks groups take trips to area outdoors destinations including local paddling rivers, hikes, and climbs, but also spend much of the week participating in regular camp activities.  The Leadership School groups, however, are more separate, with preparation for and then week-long backpacking or paddling trips at outdoors locations more distant from Charlottesville.  We think these programs work well to challenge and engage our older campers.

If you are interested in trying Field Camp for your child, sign up for a number of weeks, ideally on the younger end of our age span, and give them a chance to get to know the routine and some of the other kids and counselors.  You will almost certainly have found a long-term summer camp experience in Charlottesville, where your child will grow spending idyllic summer days in the outdoors having adventures, making friends, and collecting wonderful memories of summer.

A Friday lunch in the Lodge at Camp Albemarle

Dates/Registration Info/Fees

Week #1 (May 29 – June 2, Outdoors Adventure Week)

Week #2 (June 5 – 9, Variety Pack)

Week #3 (June 12 – 16, Scavenger Hunt)

Week #4 (June 19 – 23, Relay)

Week #5 (June 26 – June 30, The Republic of Field Camp)

Week #6 (July 3 – July 7, Elijahball)

Week #7 (July 10 – July 14, Blue Ridge Pool and Moormans River Fest)

Week #8 (July 17 – July 21, Andy Goldsworthy)

Week #9 (July 24 – 28, Film Fest)

Week #10 (July 31 – August 4, Hogs/Frogs)

Week #11 (August 7 – August 11, Pirates Week)

Week #12 (August 14 – August 18, Holidays)

Adventure Week #1 (June 5-9)

Adventure Week #2 (June 12-16)

Adventure Week #3 (June 19-23)

Adventure Week #4 (June 26-June 30)

Adventure Week #5 (July 3-7)

Adventure Week #6 (July 10-14)

Adventure Week #7 (July 17-21)

Adventure Week #8 (July 24-28)

Adventure Week #9 (July 31-August 4)

Adventure Week #10 (August 7-11)

Adventure Week #11 (August 14-18)

The weekly fees (which includes everything such as tee shirts, daily lunches, and overnight meals) are $600/week for 1-2 weeks, $550/week for 3-4 weeks, and $500/week for 5+ weeks.  A $25 per week discount is provided for all registrations prior to April 15th.  You can hold spaces for the summer by making a $600 deposit (and the deposit will be credited toward the last week’s fee).  The Adventure Weeks have the same fees with an additional $100/week. 

Cancellation and Change Policy:   We have flexibility about changing weeks of attendance prior to April 15th and as long as weeks are not full.  After April 15th, however, we often cannot honor change requests.   In the event of a family’s change of plans after April 15th, partial refunds will be made up to 2 weeks prior to planned attendance. If requesting more than 4 weeks prior to attendance, a fee of $100 will apply per week cancelled, and in the event of refund requests between 2 and 4 weeks prior to attendance, a $300 fee per week will apply. We do not maintain formal wait lists (our experience has been that families generally make alternative plans rather than utilizing wait lists), though we do our best to accommodate all families.  

The group of Adventure Week hikers including Andy Goodstein and Stewart Morris who pioneered the Mechums River walk from Blue Ridge to Camp Albemarle, 2022

Testimonials

Next year, our son will return for his fifth year of Field Camp.  It just doesn’t feel like summer without it. The quality of the counselors is outstanding, as is the focus on the outdoors, singing around a campfire, Elijah ball (a game invented at Field camp, that still bears the name of the camper who created it), playing in rivers, and respecting one another.  Todd, the camp’s founder and director, throws his whole self into this camp, and it shows. He cares about the kids, our community and our planet. The kids learn and respect this. After two years at camp, our son spent the weekends taking us on hikes around Albemarle County, as he now knew his way to various swimming holes and beautiful hikes from his summer camp experience.

Our daughter really loves being with you.  You’re a life in the country childhood, and an old fashioned overnight camp, without the weeks away from home. She’s counting the summers until she can bring her cousin along, and hoping someday to be a counselor.   The lunches are wonderful, your bus time, jokes, and songs are quoted through the year, and we can’t imagine a better summertime.

This was E’s first year at Field Camp and it was a huge success.  By the second week he was already talking about what he would be doing the next summer at Field Camp!  He made wonderful friends of all ages and stretched himself physically and emotionally. He came home tired, dirty, and sun-kissed. Who could ask for a better way to spend the summer!

Our annual rock map from 2022, an activity from the Moormans River Fest, with perhaps our best ever California

Activities

We do everything outside, passing the time of summer with both structured activities and down time for relaxation and friends. We make up and have made up many, many games, crafts, and activities over the years, so many that we don’t need any more, but always eager to try something new and fun. We put a great deal of effort into our program–what goes on each day and each week through the course of the summer–to make it genuinely engaging and fun for the campers. We want kids to be eager to spend much of their summer with us, and we try to get the mix of new and old activities just right to keep everyone happy.

The Frisbee Game at Blue Ridge Pool

Schedule

We generally hold camp at Blue Ridge (1275 Owensville Road) from Monday through Wednesday and at Camp Albemarle (1675 4-H Way) for the Thursday overnight and Friday. Camp goes from 9 to 3:30 Monday through Wednesday, with drop-off as early as 8:30 and pickup up to 4:30. For the shuttle bus, drop-off goes from 8:15 to 8:30 and pickup is available from 4 to 4:15. The overnights begin at the same times, though campers are welcome to stay the night in the cabins at Camp Albemarle. Pickup is available at Camp Albemarle any time up to 8:30 in the evening, and drop-off can take place any time after 8:30 on Friday morning.

Our mornings at camp are more structured and campers are usually divided then into 4 age-specific (but flexible) groups, though we mix them up for Rotations games on Wednesday mornings. We eat lunch at noon, and the afternoon includes read aloud stories, swim time, and an hour when campers choose an activity. The routine is a little less structured on the longer Thursdays and Friday afternoons at Camp Albemarle, with longer swim and activity times.

A Puzzle Piece from One of Andy Goodstein’s Wednesday Games

Young Campers

Our most dedicated campers tend to be the ones who start the youngest.  Our youngest are well taken care of by both by counselors and older kids, and usually become fiercely loyal to Field Camp. They then have a home camp for ten years, and sometimes longer. Their favorite down-time activity is probably searching for critters in our creek. The youngest campers have an added pool hour each Monday and Tuesday morning, and are watched closely when swimming. Private swimming lessons are available for an additional cost.

Shallow River Play at Camp Albemarle

Scholarship Program

The Blue Ridge Field Camp Scholarship Fund, a 501-c-3 tax-exempt organization, provides substantial scholarship opportunities to make our camp available to all area youth.  In cooperation with local social welfare organizations and school counselors, the Foundation identifies campers and provides full scholarships, with amounts provided matched by the camp.  Its goal each summer is to provide $20,000 to area youth to attend this camp.  In 2022, the fund distributed more than $13,000 in funding to 42 area children, mostly on full scholarships. The camp matches all contributions to the Fund. Please consider contributing to making this camp available to more deserving area youth.

Tubing on the Rockfish River during the early summer Adventure Week.

Shuttle Bus

We run a shuttle bus service from Azalea Park (398 Old Lynchburg Road) in Charlottesville for any interested families (note that it does not run Thursday afternoon or Friday morning when staying overnight).   Shuttle pickup is from 8:20 to 8:30 a.m. and drop-off takes place there from 4 to 4:10 in the afternoon. 

Thatcher’s “Pirate” Ship Performance during Pirates Week, 2022

Policies

The camp’s staff is responsible for the successful operation of the camp and for the maintenance of a safe and healthy camp atmosphere. The staff determines rules and expectations. Campers are expected to treat peers and adults with respect and courtesy. They are expected to be responsible for the consequences of their own behavior, insofar as they are capable. They are expected to treat the camp’s property and the property of each other accordingly. Parents are expected to assist and support the staff in maintaining a healthy climate. Staff members shall not use any form of physical, verbal or emotional punishment. Such behavior will not be tolerated and if it should occur, disciplinary action will be taken. Campers enrolled at Field Camp shall not engage in aggressive or abusive treatment of other campers or staff, use foul language towards others, or verbally insult or berate other campers, or destroy or vandalize camp property or the property of other campers. Staff will initially deal with behavior by reinforcing desired behavior and by verbally reminding campers, when necessary, of appropriate conduct. If inappropriate behavior persists, counselors will speak with the camper privately to determine the child’s motives and explain the reasons for the undesirability of the behavior. Parents will also be informed. If difficulties still cannot be resolved, the counselor will confer with the director, leading to a possible conference between the director, parents, child and counselor. Field Camp does NOT endorse corporal punishment or any other physical or intimidating methods of discipline. In the case of extreme, dangerous, or chronic behavior problems, campers will be sent home from camp. This decision lies with the director in consultation with the counselors. Parents must pick up the camper, followed by a discussion between the parents and the director before the camper is allowed to return. In the exceptional case in which a camper persistently fails to meet behavioral expectations, physically harms or threatens the safety of others, or continually disrupts camp despite efforts to alleviate the behavior, a recommendation for expulsion may be necessary. Responsibility for deciding to expel a camper lies with the director. Counselors are encouraged to discuss age-appropriate topics only both with the campers and when within earshot of the campers. Among those topics that they need to be sensitive about in the company of campers would be smoking, drugs, tattoos, body piercing, sexuality, dating, cults, religion, ghost or horror stories, divorce, or the personal lives of staff. If these issues arise among campers, staffers should discourage further discussion of the topic and report the matter to the Camp Director.