Anyone who lives in San Francisco will know what construction is, and you’ve probably heard of camping too. But what about “constramping?” That was a new one for us. The word was coined by the founders of Camp Tipsy, and it’s a mashup of the two main activities there: camping and construction. Think of it like a summer camp for both kids and adults, with a D.I.Y., pre raver-era Burning Man vibe.
Camp Tipsy is held by a lake in the East Park Reservoir in Colusa County, which is about three and a half hours north on Interstate 5. Because the camp is held by the water, most people build boats. There is even a boat building contest, although it’s a little backwards.
“Whoever builds the worst boat wins,” says Chicken John Rinaldi, a Camp Tipsy organizer. “We’re tired of all the over achiever maker types. Instead of spending four years on a robot that can open a can of soup, you build a boat that will work for a week.”
Rinaldi says the camp maintains an in-house junkyard for attendees. He calls it “the pile.” It has everything from normal building materials to old carousel horses, discarded bicycle helmets, and piles of styrofoam. Some regular campers bring stuff to contribute to the pile, and others build their boats and take them home. One of Rinaldi’s favorites is a boat created entirely out of bicycle helmets that can fit up to 90 people. There is also a floating Ferris Wheel, and a group last year built a replica of the Bay Bridge.
Camp Tipsy has more traditional activities as well. There is music every night, karaoke, and a range of silly contests. Kids under 18 get in free. Courtney King, another organizer, says they always have a yearbook-style naming contest, where people are given goofy titles such as “most likely to kill the captain,” or, “most likely to start an argument.”
As much as fun as this sounds, if you’re heading to Camp Tipsy it’s important to remember that you will be camping. Pack appropriately. The camp does not provide water. Their FAQ page suggests attendees bring: tents, shade structures, ice, plates, cups, bowls, earplugs, garbage bags, camp stoves, soap, a toothbrush, and a forklift, among several other things. Anyone who forgets their basics will have to trek seven miles to the nearest general store.
But that kind of packing is probably just par for the course to people who build boats in their spare time.
“It’s sort of a ‘if you come up with something — do it’ type of thing,” King says. “If you have an idea, build something and see if it floats.”
Photos by Marc Roper, Skot Kuiper, and Kelly Galamore courtesy of Camp Tipsy.
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