In 2022, we attended our first Camp Wildfire…and we were instantly hooked. So, it was full of excitement that we got to join our fellow squirrels once again in 2023. So what had changed? What was better and what, if anything, was worse? This is our Camp Wildfire review 2023.
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If you are planning to attend Camp Wildfire, check out our full guide crammed with info and a handy packing list HERE.
First things first, don’t panic! We are still squirrels…more about the badgers later.
What is Camp Wildfire?
Camp Wildfire takes some explaining because it is totally unique. Picture a fun American summer camp, tents, boy scout-y uniforms and a whole lot of campers that are there for wholesome fun. Next, imagine a music festival…but not the main stage. Picture the side tents with fun cabaret, alternative acts and wicked DJs…now smush them together! Throw in some healthy competition between the patrols and you have Camp Wildfire.
Everyone gets to pick a team, or patrol, to join. There are four: Hawks, Squirrels (our patrol), Badgers and Foxes. There are personality traits associated with each, (you can see them here) but don’t stress about it, you can pick any of them and find some awesome, fun patrol-mates. You could just pick whichever is your favourite colour too. Throughout the weekend you can earn points for your patrol by doing a good job at being a nice person, winning competitions and taking part in the patrol games. For more info, check out our full guide.
A Day at Camp Wildfire
By day, you run around getting involved in the different activities you have booked. These can be as varied as bee-keeping, tree-climbing, orienteering, cheerleading, sword-fighting, and terrariumming …sorry, I mean making terrariums. Then, at five o’clock everyone gathers and joins the Patrol Games or Patrol Quiz. This is a nice time to connect with your patrol and earn some points for them. The patrol games are a crazy mix of party games and the quiz is a more cerebral affair! As the sun starts to set, the evening entertainment stars. There are live music acts to dance to or a DJ spinning tunes (do DJs spin tunes any more or just click them?). You’ll also find interesting talks and stand-up comedy or you can hang out in the games tent until the wee hours. On Sunday, you do it all again!
Camp Wildfire Review 2023
Getting to Camp Wildfire
True to form, we were running late. Even worse, every minute that we didn’t leave our flat added five onto our drive. Friday afternoon on the M25 is only ever a nightmare. We crammed our bags into the boot and got on the road. Last year, we took the train and bus combo on offer. That was fine but I wanted to take extra bedding for this weekend and it would been just too much to carry across London to the correct terminus. Turns out, hiring a car was a lucky decision as the ongoing train strike debacle left the route completely without trains. Plus, a huge rainstorm enveloped the car when we hit the outskirts of Sevenoaks and boy, was I happy to be in a dry bubble rather than huddling under a train station awning like last year.
The Initiations and Parade
Happily, the rain stopped as we waddled from the car to the entrance so our things remained mostly dry. Unfortunately, however, waiting in the car for a few minutes for the worst of the rain to pass ate up yet more time. When we got to the site and found our pre-pitched tent, we had missed almost the entire initiation ceremony. I was gutted as this is an important moment for the patrol. Old and new faces get to meet and bond over their combined passion for the patrol. It’s like a pep rally. Everyone learns the patrol chants/songs and then it is time to parade.
The parade is the official opening of Camp Wildfire. The gates to Centre Camp are opened and everyone dances their way through the forest along to song brilliant walking bands. The group is led to the Patrol Games Arena and it is time to kick things off with the first round of the Patrol Games.
Patrol Games 1
The first game was taken by the Patrol Leaders. They played dizzy dinosaurs, spinning around a broom before running the length of the arena and back again. Hilarity ensued of course. The floor was a little muddy from the rain and so a few people slipped over to general titters from the crowd. This was a lovely way to warm everyone up and we love those who lead by example.
The next three games were all undertaken by brave campers. For the first, a party of three had to balance a balloon between them and get it down the field without it falling off. It’s not he kind of patience I possess. Then there was a hunger games style game that involved snatching balls out of each camper’s hoop. It was seriously cutthroat. FIA Lily, one person from each patrol had to run their own one person relay, running hoops along a rope from one end of the arena to the other. This looked utterly exhausting and was timed so I have no clue how they kept the momentum up. Our squirrel had a t-shirt on that said “Hackney Half Marathon”…so I guess that’s how!
I love watching the Patrol Games. I cannot imagine the pressure of taking part but I am hardly the peak of physical fitness. These brave souls smashed it though!
Burritos and Butter Chicken
After watching all that exhausting exercise, it was time to get some dinner. We opted for a burrito as it had one of the shortest queues and they very kindly made it both with no onions, and with hot sauce just at one end. It was great and reminded me how much I love a burrito. Then we shared a tray of the addictive butter chicken covered chips that I had been craving since last year. They were yummy and scrummy and as good as I remembered. I know chips with curry sauce is “a thing” but why isn’t it always like THIS.
I had never heard of George Egg before but when I read the words “Renegade Chef”, I knew he would be right up my street! His tips for cooking a meal in hotel room was fun and super practical informative, full of ideas I’ve never thought of.
Now I’m not sure but I think half the crowd thought they were seeing THE adapt Pumk. This was actually their cover band who nonetheless put on a fantastic show packed with the band’s biggest hits. The place went wild for Harder, Better , Fast, Stronger,…including us.
We meandered through the darkened woods back to the tent. I think we got to bed around midnight which might seem early but we had a long day on Saturday and didn’t want to ruin it. (Plus, we had been so tired before even arriving that I was proud to make it through the whole day as it was!)
Just outside of our tent we saw a frog. I wondered if I kissed it, whether I might find an upgrade from Mr Fluskey but decided against it…the toilets were a long way away if it turned out to just be a frog and I need to throw up. Oh, and speaking of toilets, we had found some relatively quiet ones, tucked behind the coffee tent and they were still nice clean so no dramas on night one!
A Good Morning
Tai Time – Tai Chi & Tie Dye
No, this wasn’t a slow-motion production line of coloured t-shirts (although that sounds like a brilliant way to spend an hour) but two separate activities.
My first activity, bright and early, was Tai Chi. This was a lovely hour and fifteen minutes for just ten credits (quite the bargain). The class lined up in front of the teacher who explained this would be a little tapas style lesson with a few different techniques. It was a calming but invigorating lesson. I particularly liked the “drunk dragon serving tea” motion and the mini sound bath we were treated to. At the end of the class we were all asked to describe how we felt. Responses ranged from “calm”, to “tired” to “awake”. I went with “aware” as we had done some body awareness work and every movement felt hyper significant.
Mr Fluskey and I had started our previous year’s Saturday with a nice class in the dying. I’m not going to lie, I loved my dress which came out in a blaze of yellow, red and orange. However, I was less keen on his top which had some overlapping colours which resulted in khaki and brown sections, not the bright splashes of colour he was going for. Round two and I was expecting perfection…we’ll, it was better. The colours still ended up on a hippy brown smudge side but it was less all over so didn’t seem so bad. (Yes, I know it sounds harsh but I know what he was going for and I was frustrated for him that it didn’t happen).
Mind you, he really enjoyed it again and that’s what really matters.
Every year at Camp Wildfire, there is a sign language choir performance given by everyone that has attended the sign language lessons over the weekend. At five credits, I couldn’t resist the opportunity. In the class we not only learned the song, “This is Me” from The Greatest Showman but the alphabet and some cute animal signs too. The leaders were both lovely, and so engaging. This is one I’ll be doing again and booking Karl onto whether he likes it or not.
Rest Time and Pasta
After not an amazing night’s sleep, and our early morning we decided to go back to our tent and chill for a bit. It was cooking up nicely inside but we opened the windows and doors for some cross breeze and munched on pasta and pesto that I had made in advance and brought from home. It was delicious if I do say so myself with kale, mint and almond pesto made from scratch.
At 3:00 we made our way back into the Intrepid Woods for Survival Skills. I wasn’t sure what to expect but the young guy teaching us was a font of knowledge about the best techniques for staying dry and warm, what equipment we needed and even how to build a trap to catch dinner. The coolest part was getting to try out a fire stick. These small but incredibly useful pieces of kit send out crazy hot sparks when scraped which are brilliant for lighting a fire. It took me several attempts to send up my piece of cotton wool, as it did Mr Fluskey, but we both got there eventually. If we ever go real camping, we will absolutely be taking the knowledge we learned in this talk with us.
A Quick Bevvie
Our last activity of the day was Afrobeats Dance. We had just a tiny bit of time and decided that a drink would help loosen us up. The bar was open and so I grabbed a cider in my trusty squirrel enamel mug and Me Fluskey opted for a rum and coke. We necked them and prepared to boogy.
There is nothing quite like a new dance style to make you feel both thoroughly uncoordinated and shit hot all at once. Now, I am pretty sure that Me Fluskey’s choice of footwear (long wellies) hindered him a little. I am equally sure that we just don’t have enough moves to bust to make this look good. We had an hour long class and learned at a furious rate (that we demanded). It was fast and fun and not, so we look silly doing it.
Want proof? Check out the two idiots front left and you’ll see what I mean:
The Group Photo
After the dance class, we had just a couple of minutes to dash into the Games Arena for the big, group photo. This is another annual tradition and involves the whole camp getting together for one large and lovely snap. This year, a memo must have gone out before we arrived that nobody should lift their arms or signs at the final moment. I think there were a few sad people that got covered up at the last second last year. In fact, so think I was me of them.
I haven’t been able to spot us due to my visually impaired eyes not dealing well with tiny faces but I have been assured that we are there in the squirrels.
Another Quick Bevvie
It was then time to go for another quick drink at the bar. This ended up being rather longer than expected as we met some really nice campers and nearly missed the whole of Patrol Games 2! As we cut into the arena we caught the very end of the camp-wide limbo contest and all the hilarity that comes with people collapsing in giggles. It’s utterly infectious!
Dumplings and …Kind of Dumplings
Dinner beckoned and predictably, I was listing after dumplings (God, I LOVE dumplings). We decided to go for another weird combo of sharing things and started with the platter of Gyoza before hightailing it across to the Italian stand. Here, we ordered two big, fat, unctuous Arancini. It was all delicious and just what satisfied my cravings.
Feeling full and not quite ready for dancing (we decided the world didn’t need to see our awesome Afrobeats stylings just yet), The Auditorium sounded like a great plan.
Bureau of Silly Ideas
Arriving, we realised that many people had been on our same wavelength and there wasn’t a seat to be had. The Bureau of Silly Ideas had pulled in quite a crowd and so we inches forwards slowly, standing outside and craning to see the antics on stage. The Bureau of Silly Ideas is an arts collective all about getting people to think about and interact with their urban environment, We heard about some of their hilarious street art. I can only hope to bump into their projects one day.
The next listing on the bill just said TBA. Everyone disappeared (presumably for dinner, drinks or dancing) but we decided to stay and see what the next speaker was like. Well, it turned out to be the world’s fastest snowboarder. He was engaging and funny with a great story to tell which involved some seriously life-threatening crashes along the way. It was so cool to hear someone so utterly passionate about his world record that he pushed it to a point near death. I may or may not have drunkenly told him that his talk “was-h great” later that evening.
The final person we listened to was one half the the Radio 4 show, The Infinite Monkey Cage. This, of course, means he is a great storyteller. He spoke at a millions miles an hour with pauses for laughter and a barrage of aside, the smiles and witticisms that kept us all thoroughly entertained. All this and with some proper science thrown in too!
Mista Trick Collective and Only Fans Dance Party
Itchy feet had set in so it was time to dance. We wiggled and jumped along to two great sets. Mista Trick Collective had great party trick, taking tubes we all know and love and kicking them up a notch with drum n bass beats. It was perfect for Camp Wildfire, a blend of the familiar and new leaving everyone with huge smiles.
Then, the mysterious Only Fans Dance Party took to the stage. It turned out to be two very cool female DJs that bust out some classic 70s and 90s tunes. I think we danced until the wee hours but cider had happened…
A Rushed Morning
The bathrooms that were our secret nice ones had deteriorated overnight so after waiting there for a minute or two, I decided to go to the main ones. There was a bit of a queue so I lost about half an hour to my morning pee. We scoffed some breakfast (a Rice Krispie square and satsuma) but didn’t have time to brush our teeth. We decided to do it en route. We added toothpaste and one water station and then stormed through the woods, brushing furiously until we reached another across Central Camp. It wasn’t classy but we made it on time to our first activity of the day with minty fresh breath.
This exercise class has been on my bucketlist for a long while. We wanted to try it on our Virgin Voyages cruise but couldn’t bag a spot in the class.
We were all strapped into harnesses attached to some very hardcore elastic. It took some getting used to, realising that if you threw yourself at the floor, you wouldn’t hit it, and running was futile. The bouncing back reminded me of being a kid on reins. We were taught some basic moves and then it was cardio time. The teacher put on some upbeat tunes and we had to jig and bounce around, acting out the song as best we could. It was a total mess and totally hysterical.
Mr Fluskey’s elastic seemed quite long compared to most and he nearly face planted the floor when we tried burpees. Some aerobics ensued and then everyone tried some trust exercise/tricks. We tried and nearly managed it. (At least, it felt like we nearly managed it). This was our favourite activity of the weekend and if they are back in 2024 I reckon everyone should give it a go!
Oh, and we were set the challenge of doing a whole song of burpees right at the end. It damn near killed me, and I was NOT good , but I persevered and got the squirrels my very first Patrol Point!
My next activity was a lot more chilled. Space Science was run by the chap that does astronomy at night. Both times I’ve attended Camp Wildfire I have forgotten to go and do astronomy and I have regretted it both years. He is a fascinating guy with an encyclopaedic knowledge of everything that is cool about space. I learned a ton in the hour we had which I dashed back to tell Me Fluskey. For example, did you know that sucking a drink through a straw in a vacuum doesn’t work?! On Earth, you create a vacuum and the earth’s air pressure forces the liquid UP THE STRAW. World view shattered! Also, Newton invented the cat flap, who knew!?
Mr Fluskey’s activity was far more energetic. He enjoyed Nerf Wars so much last year that he signed up once again. This year, the bay nails were gone and giant inflatables made up the battle field. There was three rounds, a capture the flag style game, a stuck in the mud and a zombie apocalypse! The last game, the zombies, was his victory round. Somehow he was the only human left at the end and earned another shiny Patrol Point!
Seems that with Mr Fluskey’s zombie avoidance and our new combined survival skills, we will be set when the end days arrive.
Camp Wildfire has some fun “free” activities. These run all weekend and you can just go over and give them a go. These include a climbing tower, the free fall jump that Mr Fluskey did last year, and this year, axethrowing. This is another one those things that has been on my bucketlist for a while so it was excellent to just say get up and give it a go without spending any extra credits. Maybe, I had secret Viking skills that I’d been harbouring all these years? We lined up and prepared to lob the aces as shown. Well, we were rubbish. Nobody in our group managed to stick a single one but hey, it was a fun and free!
Rest Time and Rice
Time for another chill out moment in the tent accompanied by lunch. This time, we munched on microwave rice and a ton of sweetcorn. So nutritious! It was important to line our tummies with plenty of carbs as our next activity was our big spender…
At Camp Wildfire 2022, we had passed the cocktail making tent and listened with envy to the ice rattling in the metal shakers. It was our main priority when it came to booking as we wanted as close to the end of day two as possible. I didn’t manage to snag the 5:00 slot but 4:00 was open so I snatched it!
We had the chance to make two cocktails, a mojito and a blue badger margarita. Everyone was assigned a small bench with all the ingredients for the drinks (and a few troublesome wasps). It was great fun muddling mint, crushing limes and getting to know our fellow bench mates. My mojito was much more sour than Mr Fluskey’s as he had really gone to town on the sugar syrup but both were tasty. Not as good as the blue margaritas though! These were citrusy and had the twist of orange from the curaçao that took the edge off. I timed my glass with salt and sipped happily on the result.
Finally, we all played a game which involved free pouring a single shot. The closest pour won…mind you, we all got to drink our shot of passoa so we were all winners really.
Patrol Games Finale
Going into the last Patrol Games, the Hawks were very much in the lead. There was a 5:00 deadline for depositing any last Patrol Points and a small crowd gathered to add their winnings to the jars. We hoped that our fellow Swuirrels had been true to their name and were hoarding them all for winter (or until now). Then it was time for the final showdown. The first round was the epic Camp Wildfire lip sync. Every performance was pitch perfect (can you be if you mime) with backing dancers, air guitar and costumes all making appearances. I got a bit picky about the group performance, wishing that each person only did their own part but I am probably just bitter because the Hawks were already in the lead.
Next came the games proper with the two leading patrols, The Badgers and Hawks, going head to head in a fiendish final game. This involved several difficult stages (filling a high tube with water, solving jigsaws etc) and the whole finished with a target shootout. The beanbags flew towards precariously perched bucked of water which were ready to descend on to two patrol leaders below. It was nail bitingly dramatic with the payoff everyone wanted, one soaked and sopping but smiling patrol leader.
The Badgers won and flares, confetti and songs erupted.
Well done Badgers!
Burger and Pizza
In another classic combo dinner we ordered a venison burger and a pizza from two different stalls. I tried and failed to convince Mr Fluskey that as we were two people, we needed a double cheeseburger but he was having none of it.
We got blue cheese sauce and olives on half the pizza and munched the lot whilst watching the talent show.
The Camp Wildfire Talent Show
The talent show was a new addition to the Camp Wildfire lineup and it was great fun but put on at a rather strange time. The whole thing started with the sign language choir. To be honest, I had forgotten LOTS of the song but followed along as best I could had a blast doing it.
Then it was the turn of the plucky performers. By this point, the gorgeous pink sky had faded to black and the lighting was tricky as it flashed through different colours. Some of the acts were brilliant and some a bit ropey. It was difficult to hear most as the Lycra 80s Party (the awesome dance troupe/aerobics instructors from last year) were performing in the tent nearby. Im not actually sure who won…or if there was meant to be a winner as it all ended in a huge group singalong. Lots of fun but not a slick show by any means.
The Jenga Grudge Match
We caught the end of Lycra 80s Party and then spend around ten minutes popping smoke filled bubbles to the side of the tent. We decided it was drink time and made our way round to the games tent for what we hoped would be a shorter queue. We had a date with a hot tub and didn’t want to be late. It was correct to seek out the shorter queue but we ended up completely transfixed by a game of giant Jenga that took the tent by storm. It was so tense and watching people almost walk straight into he towers added a whole new level of danger.
When it finally collapsed, we hit foot it to The Sanctuary, ready for a soak.
The Sanctuary is the spa on site at Camp Wildfire. There are glamping tents for massages, wood fired hot tubs and even an old fashioned caravan converted into a sauna. We had a managed to get a last minute slot for 22:30, the last of the night) and waited outside for our turn. Turns out, there were about 20 people in our slot and we all we to change into our swimmers in the big tents, one male and one female. (If I’d have been clever, I’d have put it on under my clothes earlier in the evening).
Everybody made straight for the hot tubs so we dived into the sauna, staving off the evening chill. We had it to ourselves for around ten minutes and indulged in the wooden-clad solitude. Once others started appearing we left to claim their spots in the hot tubs. We joined another couple who were at CW for their first year and had been surprised at how friendly and relaxed it all was. It was really lovely to hear as we now felt some sort of ownership over it (silly, I know).
Sat in the toasty tub with the sound of the House Gospel Choir rolling over was an amazing feeling.
Obviously we had a bit of FOMO, not seeing the performance but I was thrilled that we could still hear it. Their voices were so powerful, even from afar.
Once we were ushered out, everybody dried off before heading back to their tents or to the last dance music blasting through the night.
A Bedtime Boogy
Our plan was to go straight to bed due to a shift each on the Monday but the tunes got the better of us and we ended up dancing until 02:00, celebrating with the badgers and busting some sleepy but happy moves.
A Sunny Morning
Mr Fluskey had to go to work on Monday so we packed up, ready to leave quite early. I thought it best to fuel up properly for the drive and long shift ahead so we made our way to the crepe stand in general camping. He opted for a sweet Biscoff-laden beauty while I stuck to my normal habit of ham and cheese. It was a lovely end to the weekend sitting in the sun munching something delicious. Then we grabbed our bags and wandered away feeling oh so wistful.
Final Thoughts for This Camp Wildfire Review 2023
I was a little scared that our second year at Camp Wildfire wouldn’t live up to my own hype. I had such great memories of Camp Wildfire 2022 and have been gushing about it to everyone. Thankfully, it was just as fun, just as rewarding and just as mad.
We are crossing everything to get an invite for 2024. We can’t wait to see what they dream up for those special, secret woods down in Kent because we reckon Camp Wildfire is just going to get better and better!