Packing for Summer Camp – The Ultimate Guide

Are you sending your child to summer camp this year and feeling overwhelmed about what to pack and how to go about packing? We'd like to present the ultimate packing guide filled with useful tips and tricks.

Some things change, some stay the same…

Some things in life don’t need to change much to stand the test of time. A glass of wine, a walk in the woods, a good book and summer camp. Camps have obviously needed to evolve and adjust to today’s challenges but the basic format is still pretty much unchanged.

Campers still sit around a bonfire, they live in bunks or tents, and laundry is often only done once a week at most.  And the packing list? It’s not that different to when we were kids. So let’s get started and you’ll see that it doesn’t have to be so stressful, you may have even done this before…

The packing list

Camps usually send out a packing list based on their experiences and specific needs. These lists include categories such as: clothing, linens & towels, laundry accessories, toiletries and various other items.  Typically, you’ll take a lot of these items off your shelves at home and borrow or buy what you’re missing.

You can also use one our Pack for Camp suggested lists.

Take note, you probably will not want to spend thousands of dollars and/or buy name brand items for camp. Sometimes items sent to camp come back in unusable condition, or not at all. Think: mud sliding, jumping on the bed with shoes on, communal laundry…

Label your belongings!

Lots of kids, lots of stuff. It’s imperative to label your child’s belongings so she can keep track of them and also so she can be identified as the owner should they find their way into the lost and found. Many options are available these days, from stampers to stickers, iron on labels, old fashion markers and more.

What should I pack into? Soft trunks, plastic storage bins and more

The first thing you’ll need is luggage. We generally recommend the 42” soft trunk unless you’re flying to camp, in which case we suggest the 36” soft trunk (due to airline restrictions). The soft trunks are flexible enough to squeeze in one more pair of socks or your favorite teddy bear. However, for some shorter session camps, a sturdy plastic bin is more appropriate and can double as storage in your bunk. You’ll also want a versatile bag or backpack that is light and easy to carry to the pool and/or for an overnight trip.

Linen & towels

Typically, your child will need to bring a blanket or sleeping bag (or both), pillows, sheets and towels. You may want to add in a mattress protector to protect your child from the bed and/or the bed from your child, as well as an egg crate for comfort.

Toiletries

Unless your child doesn’t intend to shower, he will need shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothpaste and a toothbrush. It also helps to have an organizer, toiletry bag or shower caddy to put everything into and carry from bunk to shower and back.

Quick Tip: Don’t forget sunscreen (50 SPF of more) and insect repellent!

Laundry accessories

Every child will need a place for their dirty laundry, whether they will be laundering at camp or taking it home. You will want to send them with laundry accessories like a pop-up hamper, laundry bag, mesh hosiery bag, etc.

Clothing

Most of your child’s bag should be filled with the clothing they need. Your camp will probably send you a detailed list of clothing with their specific suggestions or requirements. Swimming is often a camp highlight so don’t forget the bathing suit, bathing cap and goggles! It also always seems to rain at camp, so remember to pack that poncho!

Quick Tip: Bring lots of socks and underwear. Laundry services vary and you don’t want your child to run out.

Storage solutions

Space is scarce at camp. You may want to send easily packable storage solutions that are really useful for keeping organized. There are different solutions ranging from ‘underbed storage’ for extra toiletries and clothing to ‘over the door storage’ for storing shoes and other smaller items to ‘closet space organizers’ for increasing shelf space or adding drawers. Many of these products are collapsible or foldable and therefore easy to bring with you.

Quick Tip: You can double purpose storage items as packing cubes to easily pack and organize items in your luggage.

Small appliances and electronics

There are some small appliances that can be very useful at camp. A small clip-on fan is a standard camp accessory, and they come either battery-operated or with a plug. A flashlight with extra batteries is also recommended. In addition, your child should bring appliances that she uses on a regular basis, such as a hair dryer, shaver, etc.

Depending on your camp’s policy, you may not be allowed to bring certain electronic devices. (Like parents, camps don’t always love screens). One rule: If it’s expensive, leave it behind.

Medicine and glasses

Make sure to send any relevant prescription medicine and bring extra pairs of glasses and contact lenses. Contact your camp for their policies regarding medications.

Help your child feel at home

Pack little items that will make his bunk feel like home and help with the homesick factor - family pictures, favorite teddy, etc. There are also lots of fun items that can add to your child’s positive experience in camp - starting with a deck of cards, to assorted games, bunk junk and more.

Have a great summer!

We hope you’ve enjoyed this guide. At Pack for Camp, we have years of experience serving customers whose children go to summer camp, so if you have any questions please contact us and we’ll be glad to help. We’d also be happy to hear your feedback and comments about stuff we might have left out.

Happy Packing!

About the author 

Melissa Goldwag spent many a summer as a camper, counselor and lifeguard at sleepaway and day camps in the Catskills. She is the co-founder of Pack for Camp, an online store that offers everything you expect to find on a camp packing list: soft trunks, bedding, laundry accessories, toiletries, storage solutions, clothing and more. Pack for Camp partners with summer camps across the US to create uniquely customized smart packing lists and build exclusive logowear stores for partner camps.

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