Buck up, little campers! Yep, I mean those of you focused on sending your kids to summer camp. I’ve spent the past 10 years sending my kiddos off to camp, and there’s been quite a learning curve at what is a necessity to pack and what needs to stay at home. Let me fill you in on all the tricks of the trade for summer camp packing.
What time is it? SUMMERTIME! (Sorry if that triggered the High School Musical soundtrack in your head. Just me? Oh well.) Which means families are getting ready for vacations, no school, and the rite of passage known as summer camp. To get packing for summer camp, we have a few tips and tricks for you. This post contains affiliate links.
Tips for Summer Camp Packing
Help them but don’t do it for them.
No matter your child’s age, get them involved in packing. The sooner they learn this independence, the better! Nobody wants to be the “Smother” packing her teenager for camp!
That said, definitely go behind them and make sure they have everything. This is especially true for my son, bless his heart. Otherwise, he might end up at camp with no bathing suit and only 2 pairs of underwear.
If you have hopes of something making it home with your camper, then LABEL it. Print names on bed linens, clothes, towels, and pretty much anything of value.
Make a Goodwill or Salvation Army trip
Buy them some JUNKY clothes to take that you could care less if they had to hit the trash can. Find clothes you don’t mind throwing away because sometimes that camp smell will not come out no matter what laundry detergent or bleach used.
What Your Camper Needs for Summer Camp
The big trunk
I like my kids having the quintessential camp trunk to tote their stuff in. This is especially important for multiple week stays where there is no way a duffel bag is gonna cut it. Some camps do not like trunks because they do not have the space to store them, but most of the time, they are easily shoved under a bunk and clearly distinguishable from other campers’ belongings.
- Look for camp trunks with wheels to make them easy to move around. Your back will thank you later.
- Personalizing the trunk with stickers and photos makes it stand out.
My son’s favorite item from last year was the big ole laundry bag to pitch his dirties in. At least it helped him keep the dirty clothes away from the clean ones. In some situations, a glorified garbage bag will do (especially if the clothes might end up getting chucked because of smell or dirt).
ENO (personal hammock)
These are all the rage at our summer camp and I suspect yours, too. A personal hammock is the preferred nap spot/hangout spot of choice. It can even be the sleeping accommodations on adventure weeks where campers do not stay in the traditional cabins.
Great sleeping bag
Having a quality sleeping bag that can take the cooler temps at camp is essential. Most campers can get by with one in the 40-60 degrees range like this Coleman sleeping bag.
A flashlight is a definite no brainer. Between getting around camp at night to caving, this staple makes nighttime fun easy.
Get the right shoes
Tennis shoes, water shoes, and hiking boots are the 3 categories of shoes that campers may need. (Hiking boots can be omitted, but at some camps, they would be an absolute lifesaver.)
I also include flip flops on this list but only for shower shoes since they should NOT be worn around camp.
With water shoes, they will need good ones that secure on their feet (i.e. no flip flops or Crocs). The best water shoes are Chacos or any shoe with a strap.
No self-resepecting camper goes without an awesome water bottle. My daughter swears by her Nalgene water bottle. My son prefers the O2 Cool Arctic Squeeze with built in mister. Personalize with stickers to make it stand out and make sure it has a carabiner to make it easily attachable to a backback.
My packing secret weapon: Ziploc Bags
My surefire ay to give my son a fighting chance at wearing clean clothes: place outfits in Ziploc bags. Makes getting dressed a BREEZE. Everything is already matched up and ready to throw on.
As kids get older, this technique may not been as important because they want to pair the shirts and shorts themselves, defeating the purpose of pre-bagging all the outfits. Or they may be like my teenage son who totally liked this process from last year, so HE paired up a T-shirt, shorts, socks and underwear in individual bags for EVERY DAY. It definitely kept the guesswork out of what to wear and he knew if it was clean since it was still in the bag.
Take It from a Mom Whose Kids Have Been Going to Summer Camp for 10 Years
Leave letters/packages for your camper
Send letters/packages while they are gone. My kids’ camp lets us leave these at dropoff because postal deliveries can take a while. No sense your camper getting a package on the last day or worse, it not making it there in time! That said, the next rule is very important…
Write “safe” letters to your camper or use the online service to send them Bunk Notes
Be careful what you tell your kids while they are at camp and try not to say anything that will trigger them or heighten their homesickness. If I know my son is going to struggle missing our dog, I’m not going to go on and on about his favorite pet and make him feel even more sad about being away. Ask lots of open ended questions that hopefully invite them writing you back!
My kids’ camp uses Bunk1 to share camp photos and correspondence via Bunk Notes. Bunk Notes are delivered to camp within 24 hours and are handed to your camper with the traditional mail.
Check the camp website for photos and updates
Seeing photos of your kids having fun at camp will help make the time pass quicker and allay any fears parents might be having. That said, it can also make parents slightly twitchy if they do not see their kids.
Case in point: I turned into a total psycho a few years back when I wasn’t seeing photos of my kids. This was the same year my son finally agreed to go back to camp and give it another try, so I was desperate for any glimpses of him to see how he was doing. I’m not talking they didn’t post anything for 1 day, it went on for like 3 days and I finally emailed the director and pitched a small hissy fit. (He’s no longer the director, and the camp now is AWESOME about posting tons of photos.)
I was so happy to see this little gem on the website…
Trust that the camp knows how to handle everything, and they will get in touch if you are needed.
Most parents have thoroughly researched a summer camp, so if you’ve made it to the point of entrusting your kids or kids to them, then rest assured that they have been through this before. The camp WILL contact parents if necessary. In fact, the best rule of thumb is: No News is Good News.
Last year, we got the dreaded phone call that our daughter was sick while we were in Florida, so we had to drive home after being there less than 24 hours. Turned out that was a good call: she had strep AND mono. That wasn’t going to get well in the infirmary, so in hindsight we were thankful that we came back so quickly to get her to the doctor.
What NOT to Pack for Summer Camp
While it’s tempting to send little Johnny or Jane their favorite treats or fun things to eat, resist the temptation. More likely than not, these items will draw the attention of unwanted animals or insects. No bueno! Don’t go there.
Leave valuables at home.
Same goes for electronics and jewelry. Just leave it at home. Most camps do not allow campers to bring cell phones anyway. Take advantage of the camp time and allow them to enter the technology free bubble. Means more time for old school games, making friends, and conversations.
Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links. They help keep me caffeinated and motivated to find new goodies to share. Thanks!
Sherry Boswell is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.