Gallagher Overnights: The Ultimate Guide

What are "overnights?"

As our Gallagher Glossary so astutely states, overnights are:

"A mid-session trip with your lodge to stay overnight at one or more campsites somewhere on the Puget Sound. These water-based trips build lodge unity and core muscles."

Overnights are one of the longest-standing traditions at Camp Gallagher, and they're a big part of what sets us apart from other summer camps in the region. Overnights are sweaty, salty, epic adventures. They're hardcore!

One-night for middle schoolers, two-nights for high-schoolers, these mini-breaks from main camp are an opportunity for lodge groups to bond together and share in the simple joys of outdoor living. From cooking over an open fire to sleeping under the stars, overnights are what camping is all about.


The preparation

The evening before overnight day is a packing frenzy, both for campers and staff. While campers are busy narrowing down their must-haves (sleeping bag, yes; hula hoop, no), staff are bartering over boat options, consulting tide books and gathering essential gear. The camp cooks are busy portioning ingredients for overnight meals, and the directors are doing a million behind-the-scenes tasks to ensure lodges depart without a hitch. 


The overnight spots

Whether you fancy a short paddle to a fresh water swimming hole (ahem, Anderson Island) or an epic voyage north (Blake Island—it's really been done!), your lodge is spoiled for choice when it comes to overnight spots. Together with your lodge leaders, it's up to YOU to consult the tides and plan an overnight that works best for your lodge as a whole. All overnight spots have their perks and their challenges. All are BEAUTIFUL in their own way. 

Check out our crowdsourced map of overnight sites as of March 2018. 


The transportation


Canoes & Big Canoes

These classic summer camp vessels remain a fantastic way to tour the South Sound. Campers partner up, paddle up, and work together to synchronise their strokes. The middle section of the canoes are great for storing equipment and allow for easy access to snacks. Another option is the 12-seater canoe, capable of holding an entire lodge!



Our two-person kayaks, with their sunken seats, put campers right at the water's edge as they glide smoothly through the salty Sound. Once campers get the hang of the double-sided kayak paddles and the figure-eight paddling technique, these boats can really cruise! 



Typically reserved for our most senior campers, our sailboats are the crème de la crème of overnight transportation. Simply put up the sails, slather on the sunscreen and let the wind push you to your campsite. No wind? Bring a book. We could be here a while...


The San Juan

Arrr, matey! The San Juan is our pirate boat—it's old, wooden, heavy and just a wee bit menacing. Sailing the San Juan for overnights is a rite of passage for Gallagher campers. There's history in this boat. Ne'er does the San Juan return to Gallagher without a story to tell. 


The food

Write here…

Overnight meals are up to the Head Cook (e.g. what's in the fridge 😜) and can vary depending on lodge leader preferences, but here's a list of some standard overnight meals enjoyed through the years:

  • Foil dinners (pictured). This classic camp entrée takes lots of prep and lots of patience, but it's well worth it. To cook: wrap veggies, meat, cheese, tater tots and Johnny's seasoning in Bisquick-lined tin foil and place over simmering coals (rotating, flipping and checking regularly). The result? The best homemade hot pocket you'll ever eat. 
  • Bagels + cream cheese + Goldfish crackers + pepperoni. Don't knock it 'till you try it. As legend has it, this iconic overnight sandwich began as a happy accident when the various ingredients collided during rough seas. A star was born. Overnights have never been the same since. 
  • Mac 'n cheese. Easy, cheesy, beautiful one-pot meal. Add hot dogs ("monster dogs") and broccoli if you're feeling fancy. Add ketchup if you're feeling gross. 
  • Oatmeal. If you've remembered to clean the pot after last night's mac 'n cheese, then this is a fantastic hearty breakfast before a long day on the water. Layer with brown sugar to taste. 
  • PB & Js. We aren't too good for peanut butter and jelly, and neither should you be. On allergy-free weeks, this is a staple lunch of overnights. Someone always gets the sandwich made with the heel of the bread and hilarity ensues.  



So, what do you actually DO on overnights? 

Much of the fun of overnights is the journey itself. However, there's always fun to be had at the destination too. What lodges get up to depends on the overnight spot, proximity to the "real world," and general energy levels.

Certain overnight sites have must-visit attractions, such as the lake on Anderson Island or the store at Jarrell's Cove marina. Others are surrounded only by natural beauty and the perfect opportunity for lodges to make their own fun. Card games, storytelling, hair-braiding, stone-skipping, hiking, swimming, frisbee, napping — on overnights, activities tend to crop up organically. Lodges can make of overnights what they wish!


The return

On the final day of overnights, campers set course for a speedy return to Camp Gallagher. Back at main camp, when a lodge is spotted on the horizon, we ring the camp bell signalling the group's eminent arrival. Everyone already at camp gathers on shore to help the lodge unload and carry their boats to dry land. It's communal living at it's best and quintessentially "Gallagher."


The hike report

🎶 Tell me why?? Ain't nothing but a big canoe. Tell me why?? Ain't nothing but some seal poo. 🎶

That, my friends, is the beginnings of a great hike report. Feel free to take that opening line and run with it. You're welcome.

The hike report is the song lodges write and perform at the first campfire back in main camp. Typically written to the tune of an easily recognizable song, these melodic tales are filled with inside jokes, references to sore arms and more than a few wild exaggerations. Lyrics are written in colorful marker on giant butcher paper and lit by flashlight. A steady flashlight-holder can make or break the performance. 


Overnight DOs and DON'Ts 

  • DO PACK LIGHT. Not only is boat space limited, but the more you bring, the heavier the load and the slower the journey. 

  • DON'T LEAVE YOUR TIDE BOOK AT CAMP. Tides in the South Sound are idiosyncratic, varying greatly from harbor to harbor. Studying the tide charts can be the difference between carrying your boats 5 yards or 50 yards. 

  • DO RESPECT THE CAMPSITE. Tidy up after yourselves and keep the noise down at public campsites. 

  • DON'T FORGET THE SUNSCREEN. Slather it on thick and often if you don't want a nasty burn (and if you don't want to disappoint the camp nurse!). 

  • DO SING SONGS. Sometimes it's the only way to get you through that final hour of paddling. Singing is inevitable. Camp songs, Disney songs, One Direction—you always end up singing. Don't even try to fight it. 

  • DON'T NEGLECT THE BOATS. Be sure to carry them well out of the tide's reach, or tie them up properly, so that they don't float away! You don't want to end up marooned on Hope Island FOREVER (although that would be kind of cool). 

  • DO DRINK LOTS OF WATER. Fill up those Nalgenes, folks. 

  • DON'T SURROUND YOURSELF WITH RACOON FOOD. What's racoon food, you ask? Everything. Everything is racoon food. Make sure to secure your snacks in racoon-proof tubs before turning in for the night. 

  • DO WEAR WOOL. It stays warm when wet, doesn't wick, and breaths when it's hot.

  • DON'T FALL ASLEEP BEFORE THE STARS ARE OUT. After the day's voyage, you'll be more than ready for some shut-eye, but force yourself to stay awake until the sky fills up with stars. Set yourself a goal: no sleeping until you spot a shooting star. 💫


Of course, DO have fun and cherish the moment! Gallagher overnights will form some of your most cherished memories of all time. Live it up!



Camp Gallagher is a co-ed overnight summer camp for middle schoolers and high schoolers.

Find out more about our camp.