Lair of the Bear

Outside the Bay Area
All Ages
Editors' Notes: 

Located in Pinecrest, CA

Parent Reviews

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Archived Q&A and Reviews

Are there brown families @ Lair of the Bear camp?

Feb 2015

Looking for new reviews on Lair of the Bear family camp. We are new to UCB and to family camp. We are also a mixed race family, black & white with 2 biracial children. I'm wondering what the population of campers is? The website shows a very homogenous population. I would love to hear feedback from campers and counselors on the camp's diversity. anon

Lair is predominantly white, but there are quite a few families of color. I'm not sure if you know how the Lair works, but once you are assigned a tent (really more like a tent/cabin) it is yours for life on that specific week, as long as you renew every year. The family who has had the tent next to ours for the past 5 years is a biracial lesbian family with 3 kids.

Lair is not for everyone (no matter what their shade), but I always recommend to anyone who is curious about it to try it out. It's an amazing communal experience, rather heavy on the Cal rah-rah, and your kids will have a blast.

If your kids are babies or toddlers, I would recommend Oski. It's geared more toward young families. Blue and Gold are better for families with older kids, and have more of a party atmosphere. 8th year Camp Blue

Our mixed race family (I'm Asian and my husband is Caucasian) went to a mini-weekend at the Lair. I so wanted it to be a wonderful experience since I'm a Cal grad and loved the idea of a summer tradition for my little boy. As much as the staff was wonderful and welcoming, the other campers were almost all white and very cliquey. I felt that our family felt out of place. The worst was when there was a mom who gathered all the kids except for my little boy and an Asian girl for a picture without inviting them. This happened right in front of them. I couldn't believe it. Pelina

My family is caucasian but my daughter's best friend is mixed race and she comes with us every year. There are other mixed raced families the week we go, but it would be wonderful if there were more. It's a great camp for the kids. They love it and look forward to going back every year. Lair camper

full disclosure: we are not a brown family. But, your question touched on something our family thinks about and discusses, so hopefully my perspective is at least a little useful.

We went to the Lair for the first time last year (we were one of a handful of former Tuolumne families). Yes, there were brown families. I would say there were about as many as we had seen at Tuolumne, or slightly more, but I would be hard pressed to come up with a percentage.

For reference, we were at Camp Oski the last week of the summer (when Blue & Gold are closed).

We are going again and I hope that all types of families feel welcome there! If the website's photos are off-putting for your family, we should let them know! newish Lair family

Fantasic question. I am a 40+ year Lair camper, staffer, and manager who now camps with my husband and three Asian children (my husband and I are white).

There are two ways to look at race at the Lair. The first is that the Lair does not accurately represent either the population of UCB or of the U.S. in terms of racial mix There are usually ''token'' staff members of color and a few families of color each week. On the other hand, I've never found the Lair to be institutionally racist. Jokes tend to be at the expense of Stanford rather than color. And sexism is much more likely to be a part of scripted shows. I have heard from staffers of color, however, that what goes on in their world away from the campers can be a bit more pointed.

Camps Gold and Blue are structured around competition with each other in sports. Friday's ''Big Game'' on the softball field pits the two camps against each other and tensions can run high. This Us vs. Them attitude is stronger in more sporty weeks. Oski, on the other hand, has no ''rivals'' and, I've heard, is much more welcoming because of it.

Our family loves camping at the Lair and I enjoy watching my kids eat s'mores, look at the stars, and generally recreate my childhood. hope this helps!

August 2009

My family (me, hubby, and two boys: 3 1/2 and 1 1/2) is making our first trip to Lair of the Golden Bear in September, for a three-day weekend. We are joining two other families with kids around the same age (some a few years older) who also have never been before.

We're looking for advice on what to bring. Will a pack-and-play fit in the tent/cabin, or should we find something smaller? Is mosquito netting for over the beds a good idea (those canvas walls look pretty porous and I get eaten alive by mosquitos)? What should you never go to the Lair without?? Are we allowed to break out a bottle of wine at the campfire after the kids are in bed?

I'm also curious about what to expect in general, given our sons' ages. How have other 3-year-olds enjoyed the experience? Any advice for keeping a very active toddler entertained at the Lair?

There was some good advice in the archives from 2001, but I'd love any additional advice from people who have been more recently. Lair Newbie

Hiya, I have been going to the Lair for 40 years (yikes!) and will be taking my little ones there next week (they are now 5 and 3, but the oldest wnet first at 3 weeks old).

In terms of your specific questions: 1. Yes a pack and play will fit (you can move one of the cots outside and use it as a couch, if need be).

2. No, you don't need mosquito netting over the beds; though it doesn't hurt to bring some spray. Mosquitos aren't usually a big deal (though some years are worse than others).

3. Absolutely you can bring wine, beer and other forms of adult beverages. Just can't have glass at the pool or alcohol in the dining hall.

4. You should definitely bring sheets for the beds. Nice to bring actual bedding; and make sure you have lots of blankets as it could be cold at night...though sleeping bags (WARM ones) are ok too (but you still need a bottom sheet to cover the mattress).

5. You should bring 2 for cold things and one for dry (there are tons of squirrels who will eat your snacks if you aren't careful).

6. I would bring some ''Overnites'' or other thick diapers for night. For some reason my kids who never soak through diapers at home did up there...and would wake wet and COLD. No fun for anyone.

7. Definitely bring rain gear and WARM coats, even if there is no prediction for rain. The weather is unpredictable and usually wrong on Yahoo.

8. If you have a jogging stroller or other stroller with large wheels, it would be nice to have. Don't bother with one that has small will just get stuck every where.

9. Don't worry too much about entertaining your toddler. There is plenty for them to entertain themselves with...they seem to really like dirt, rocks, the KK and just the basics that are there.

On the Alumni Assoc. website, there is a packing list, I think. Feel free to email me directly and I can help you with other stuff if you like (and send you my sister's packing list that she put together a couple of years ago. Nikki

Hello, we have been going to the Lair for 9 years, since our kids were toddlers, and it has been a fantastic holiday most years. I can answer all your qs and concerns. Please e-mail me, or we can talk in person if you like. amritas

We've done the weekend twice now (last time in June) with our 4 year old daughter. We all love it! The cabins are huge so a pack 'n play will fit easily. There are a lot of beds, some bunk beds, in the cabin that take space. Bring the wine and beer and enjoy. We always bring: electric blankets, extra blankets, pillows and bedding, clothesline for hanging wet towels and swimsuits, small bag for carrying toiletries to bathrooms, hairdryer, cooler for food and drinks (though they feed you well 3 times a day), cash for the store, camp chairs, and jackets/sweatshirts for nighttime. We haven't found the need for bug spray in Pinecrest so I don't think mosquito netting is all that necessary. (The bugs usually feast on me too.) Have fun! Lair fan

August 2008

Re: Family camp next year for 6 and 7 year olds?
Our family went to Lair/Bear camp this summer for the first time, and we are not UC folks. Pros: great food, very friendly staff, swimming pool, Pinecrest Lake 5 mins away for fishing, swimming, and kayaking, tennis courts,friendly campers, a few nights of funny entertainment, plenty of planned activities for the kids, no bugs. Honestly, I can't think of any solid cons. Anon

Feb 2007

Is there anyone who has been to both the Lair and Feather River who can help me decide which camp to go to with my husband and 2 year old? Please compare location, facilities, the crowd, and most importantly, the kiddie corral. And if we go to the Lair, which camp to choose? As a kid I went with my friend's family to Camp Blue so I have a loyalty there, but is there really a difference? What about the new Camp Oski? Happy Camper

This single mom attended both The Lair and Feather River Camp last summer with my then 3-year-old. It was our first time at each. We enjoyed both, but found that FRC was perfect for toddlers. Everyone on staff was gentle and fun and truly enjoyed the little ones. We were there over 4th of July, and the kids made their own costumes as a project, then got to wear them in a parade around camp which included horses. Then, an old fashioned barbeque (delicious, AND with excellent vegetarian food options) followed by traditional games - water balloon toss, 3-legged race, etc. There was family dancing on the terrace outdoors, viewing the moon and space shuttle and the sun (with a special telescope) with the knowledgeable and always entertaining AstroWizard (he's especially great with kids). One night there was a movie outdoors under the stars and popcorn. We loved feeding the horses, putting pennies on the train tracks (frequent trains), and swimming in the river, collecting pine cones. The kiddie corral staffers were great - really connected with the kids, even outside of the official corral times.

We enjoyed The LAIR, too - especially the kiddie pool - but the camp seems more appropriate for older kids and adults, not toddlers. I found one of the campfire skits really inappropriate for kids (Saturday Night Live style portrayal of a retarded girl in restraints ?!) and misogynistic commentary during a staff/campers inner tube water polo game with mostly male participants (woman camper misses a shot - loudspeaker commentary: ''That's why we don't let them play!'') The staffers at the kiddie corral didn't seem particularly good with kids - it was more like an assignment for them. My son wasn't ready to be left there alone. These things were relative small in the bigger picture - we did have a good time at the Lair and plan to return - but since you asked...

In summary, we found that FRC has family energy/orientation whereas The Lair has college student energy/orientation.

Also, FRC has a BATHTUB!
Happy Camper

July 2001

We are making our first trip to a Lair of the Bear Alumni camp this August, and wonder if anyone who has attended previously has advice on things you brought or wish you had brought that were helpful (going with two kids, ages 5 and 3). Thank you! Claire

We're new Lair families, having gone to Camp Blue for 'just' four years. Our kids are moving into their pre-teen years, and LOVE going, but I think the Lair will soon pall. Yours are the perfect age!

As for what to bring (beyond the excellent list provided in your packet): the Lair is really dusty. A clean mat/rug or two so you have a place to stand while dressing or taking shoes off before bed is very helpful. Easy slip-on rinsable shoes/sandles/zories for dashes to the bathroom, and a washcloth or towel you don't mind getting dirty to wipe legs/feet off with before you get into bed. Water bottles. Extra towels (the ones the kids take to the pool tend to get pretty grubby!)

Every tent cabin we have had has two singles pushed together in a corner as a couples bed. This is not very comfortable with two sleeping bags zipped together! We bring twin bottom sheets, a king top sheet, and a comforter instead. Temperatures at night vary wildly from year to year (including below freezing and above 80), so again, sleeping inside a bag is not always the best option.

On Sunday morning there is no coffee until breakfast, which is something like 8:30 or 9:00 AM. This will seem like a long time if your three-year-old wakes you up at 6! I have taken a coffee maker in past years; don't know if I will this year.

Your favorite beverage for the pre-dinner hour. A cooler is optional; you might want to just bring a bucket and fill it up with ice. This year we are looking for some good compact folding chairs.

White t-shirts or other items to tie-dye.

Age-and size appropriate sports gear (e.g., small tennis rackets, tire inner tubes for water polo).

Ask for bed safety rails (if needed) at check-in. Make sure the adult beds have bed boards (if you even suspect you will want one) before you make the bed --you may need to flag down the staff who will be cruising around with a small pick-up truck carrying the bed rails and boards.

Also, a certain attitude of flexibility --every year I meet someone who didn't realize that this was a camp experience and were dismayed that the cabins are tents, you have to walk to the bathroom, there is little choice at meals, etc. Even (last year) the couple who complained that the tents didn't have level decks outside and that you couldn't park next to your tent.

Me, I am ecstatically grateful that my kids get to go camping, I can go hiking/swimming every day without arranging a babysitter, and I don't have to cook a thing...

See you at the Lair (Week 11), Chris

The things we wish we'd known the first time we went were:
1) its very dusty there, cool at night and hot in the afternoon.
2) you'll have an electrical outlet in your tent, and an overhead light.
3) you can get one of those bedrail things that keep your kid from rolling out of bed.
4) Coffee is available in the morning and at 9:00pm. If you need an afternoon jolt, bring a coffee maker (see #2)
5) you can do laundry if you need to and there is a little store that gives change and sells sundries -- but didn't have stamps (!)
6) there is an unlimited and free supply of ice, which makes it handy to have an ice chest for cold drinks for your kids and yourselves.
7) many folks host cocktail parties in the evening, and some folks get a little carried away with home decorating - you'll see
8) camp food is simple but mostly good, you may find the dining hall loud (we didn't mind) seating is open. We sat with different people often, and used it as a way to meet folks. Our kids never sat with us at all -- but they're older than yours (9 and 12).

Most importantly, the staff is very good - high energy, fun, a great bunch of kids. We were there in June this year -- doubtless they will be more tired, but more experienced than they were with us. They do lots of evening entertainment, work like dogs and fight for the right to work there (how bad can it be?) We felt that our kids were safe at the Lair, and we had some nice times with just the two of us (can you imagine that!!!) The most important thing I can tell you from our experience is that our kids loved it, we loved it, and now we're stuck with the prospect of going back every year forever... so you're warned, that could happen to you, too. Heather

I've gone for a number of years as an adult and for many years as a child. Here are some suggestions of things we bring each year (for me and my two sons) in addition to clothes, towels, toiletries, etc: reading light with clip, extension cord, rope or other line for hanging up wet suits and towels, chairs and a card table for evenings outside your tent, warm clothing in the event that it gets cold (which it can in the evening), t-shirts for tye dyeing, a coffee pot and coffee (b/c I don't always like to get up for breakfast), cooler for drinks (they supply free ice), tatami mat or old throw rug for the cabin floor, flashlights for everyone, hats, sunscreen, bug spray,baseball mitts for adults who want to play in the various baseball games, hiking boots and back packs for hikers. Hope this helps! Dana

I recommend bringing warm clothing. It gets very cold up there around this time of year. It's best to dress in layers that you can take off. Bathing suits and floatation devices would be nice since they have a swimming pool. Small amounts of money because they have a store up there that's open during the day. DO NOT KEEP ANY SWEETS OR CANDY IN YOUR CABIN. Racoons will eat through your bags and get them. Have fun. Kevin

I suggest bringing a folding lawn or beach chair for each member of the family and some books for quiet time (young ones will need a chance to rest from all the activities of the day). If your three-year old is diaper trained, then you will be able to leave 'em in the Kid Korral (kids love it) and get some free time for yourself. Otherwise, you may want to hire one of the staffers as a babysitter for a few hours.

For a break on the drive up, Columbia is a state park that preserves the Gold Rush era. There's a blacksmith, short trail rides, a hotel, a few restaurants. a candle-making shop, etc. It's nice for kids and adults, and there's often wholesome food for sale on the street, like roasted corn on the cob.

The Oakdale Cheese Factory and Pure Joy (east of Oakdale) are also nice food/play stops. A family favorite is listening to Charlotte's Web read by the author (available on CD and tape) on the drive. Mary

I grew up a 4th week Camp Gold camper and remember my mom packing some really useful stuff: a clothes line for hanging bathing suits and towels (she strung it up between trees), sandals to wear in the shower, a card table and chairs, an ice chest for juice and bottled water, a Coleman lantern, flashlights for all of us and lots of sunscreen and bug repellent. oh, and a Cal songbook! Have a great time! Alexandra

Cal has a family camp near Pinecrest. They have a mini-weekend to try the place out; otherwise, it's by the week. You have to join Cal Alumni Assn to go, but you don't have to be an alum. We went one year but found Berkeley Tuolumne Camp far, far superior. Less rah-rah; more natural setting (river swimming rather than a pool, eg). Linda (3/99)