What do you get when you add sunscreen, bug spray, a Hawaiian shirt, an obscure nickname and a smile wider than Mississippi all together?

You guessed it: a camp counselor.

Camp counselors are unique. They are entrusted with great responsibility that oftentimes goes unnoticed. They go beyond all any expectations simply because their heart’s intention is to serve. Camp counselors are happy, outgoing and positive individuals. Whether it’s what they wear or how they live, there are many ways to identify them, even after the camp season has ended. Here is a crash course in how to spot a camp counselor:  

A group of camp counselors wearing Chacos. How to spot a camp counselor.
Photo Courtesy of Brie Martinez

1. The Footwear. When you look down at someone’s feet, their shoes (or lack thereof) say a lot about the person and his or her personality. I’m positive that all counselors own only three pairs of shoes.  It’s rare to spot them without their Tevas, Chacos or Keens. It’s also quite normal to see these shoes covered in dirt and wood chips. 

Camp counselor walking up a mountain trail. How to spot a camp counselor.
Photo Courtesy of Brie Martinez

2. The backpack. You may want to reconsider taking a camp counselor with you on your next shopping trip to buy a backpack, unless you would like the process to take roughly three hours. A camp counselor is going to choose the backpack that’s as functional as it is fashionable. It must have enough space and pockets for absolutely everything you could possibly need throughout the day, but also possess a sleek design that makes for the most lightweight pack. It’s extremely rare to see their backpack without any lanyards and key chains, since most can’t seem to let go of their past campers’ crafts.

A red water bottle decorated with stickers. How to spot a camp counselor.
Photo Courtesy of Megan Garland

3. The water bottle. A water bottle is a camp counselor’s pride and joy. As with backpacks, there are so many choices. Swell? Camelbak? Hydroflask? Classic Nalgene? It’s more than likely they couldn’t decide, so they have one of each. If you befriend a camp counselor, you won’t have to worry about confusing their water bottle with your own. Their water bottle is already personalized with a plethora of stickers.

Feet hanging by the edge of a pool with Chaco tans and a lifeguard float. How to spot a camp counselor.
Photo Credit: Meggan Noggle

4. The tan lines. Every camp counselor is constantly working on their coveted Chaco and watch tan lines.  If you ask to see their progress, be prepared for a lengthy interaction, since camp counselors pride themselves on their Chaco and watch tan lines.

Two camp counselors wearing French braids and holding American flags. How to spot a camp counselor.
Photo Courtesy of Lara Kunkel

5. The hairstyle of choice. Just like the backpack, counselors are always on the hunt for what is most functional and somewhat fashionable. The counselor hairstyle is no exception. Thick headbands and french braids are the two most common hairstyles. Headbands are a time-efficient fashion accessory and a necessity for keeping hair out of the camp counselors’ watchful eyes. Oh, and the signature French braids? They probably learned how to do those from their campers.

A Camp Thurman counselor helping a child. How to spot a camp counselor.
Photo Courtesy of Camp Thurman

6. The camp counselor spirit. Of course, there is so much more to a camp counselor than just their sense of what makes a good backpack or their Chaco tan lines. The most important, and probably the most identifying factor, for a counselor, is their constant smile, positive outlook and sunshine beaming from their faces. Camp counselors are children at heart, and that’s what makes them so good at what they do.