There’s no place like summer camp! Sometimes deciding what to pack is a tough balance between wanting to ensure the camper is prepared and that they’re not overloaded with a heavy bag and extra stuff to take care of while at camp.
This packing list can help! We’ll give you tips for what you really do need to pack and what you can leave at home, plus the answers to the top FAQs and what to wear while at summer camp.
What to bring to summer camp:
1) Duffel Bag – You can’t go to summer camp with a rolling suitcase! Some campers opt for plastic trunks to keep their things organized, but I’ve found that a solid duffel will do the trick. A duffel bag like this can hold all the essentials for a week away from home.
2) Bathing Suits – Summer is prime time for jumping in lakes, kayaking in streams and hitting up the camp pool. I recommend bringing two swimsuits so that you can alternate while one is drying! This one is cute and versatile. Make sure to check your camp’s policies and see if there are swimwear regulations (one pieces only!).
3) Athletic Clothing – A week at summer camp is bound to be filled with lots of active games in the great outdoors. Bringing a few pairs of athletic shorts and tee shirts should be sufficient for loads of fun in the sun! These shorts come in a bunch of different colors and can be mixed and matched with anything.
4) Sleeping Bag – Whether you’re staying in a cabin, lodge or tent, your bunk will definitely call for a sleeping bag. Usually the mattresses at sleepaway camps are rubber, so a fitted sheet wouldn’t be a bad item to bring, either! This sleeping bag is warm enough for chilly summer nights.
5) Tennis Shoes – Between games of tag, archery practice, and capture the flag, a good pair of running shoes will come in very handy at summer camp. Make sure to bring a steady supply of socks as well. These sneakers will be some of the only shoes you’ll need at summer camp this year.
6) Flip Flops – These are the only other shoes you’ll need at camp. Flip flops are good to wear to the pool or lake, and you’ll definitely wear them right into the shower at night, (nobody wants a bad case of athlete’s foot ruining their week)! Make sure to get a waterproof pair like these ones.
7) Extra Socks & Underwear – You won’t want to worry about laundry when you’re busy having so much fun at camp. You never know when you’re going to accidentally soak your socks in a big puddle or spontaneous water balloon fight. Bring more than enough socks and undies, just in case.
9) Pajamas – Bringing a comfy and cute set of pajamas is a good idea, and will help you unwind after all the fun-filled days. There will be so many fireside story times and late-night card games with your cabin mates. These ones are soft and fabulous.
10) Raincoat & Rain Boots – Check the weather before heading to camp! There’s always the slight chance of rain, but don’t let it dampen your spirits. Instead, come prepared with an emergency rain jacket and pair of rain boots so that you can enjoy all the camp activities, rain or shine!
11) Lightweight Jacket or Fleece – Bring along a light jacket or fleece for those chilly mornings and nights around the campfire. There is probably no need for anything heavier than this type of outerwear. This jacket comes in a variety of cute colors, and is highly rated on Amazon.
12) Shower Caddie & Toiletries – There is no time to waste at summer camp, so keep your shower items organized with a caddy. This one makes it easy to grab what you need and head for the showers. Don’t forget your shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face wash, and deodorant!
13) Laundry bag – Your clothes are bound to get sweaty and stinky after so many outdoor activities. Keep your dirty clothes separate from your clean ones. This bag can hang from the corner of your bunk, so that you can throw clothing in and forget about it until you get home.
14) Flashlight that can stand up to camp activities – This is crucial. Flashlights are on almost every camp packing list for a reason and are usually required at camp. This one is cute, easy to handle, waterproof, and will float if dropped in water. Perfect for anyone who is accident-prone… especially kids.
15) Sunglasses – Protect your eyes while you enjoy the summer sunshine. These ones will keep you shaded in the lake, on the horseback riding trails, and by the pool. They’re also inexpensive so if you lose them, it’s not the end of the world.
16) Bugspray/Sunscreen – Keep those pesky mosquitos away from you this summer so you don’t go home covered in bug bites! Protecting yourself from the sun is equally important. This bug repellent and sunscreen duo is perfect for doing both.
17) Disposable Camera – One of the best things about summer camp is all of the memories you’ll take home after the week is over. Bring a disposable camera to capture all of the priceless memories with your camp friends!
Think layers . Even in the peak summer months, mornings and evenings can be chilly no matter where you are. Bring tank tops and athletic shorts for the daytime activities, and a light jacket for nighttime. A comfy set of pajamas is a great idea, as is emergency rain gear!
What NOT to bring:
1) Electronics (cell phones, ipads) – Leave the gadgets at home for a true summer camp experience. You’ll get the most out of camp if you let go of all those screens and get lost in the moment. Most summer camps don’t let you bring in phones or tablets anyway!
2) Valuables – No reason to bring anything of value with you to camp. Not that stealing is a big issue at summer camp, but you don’t want to put yourself at risk for losing anything too important! Leave the heirloom diamond necklace behind – the only valuable thing you’ll need is a positive attitude.
3) Food items – Don’t bring candy unless you want ants in your cabin! You’ll be well-fed at summer camp, with full meals and loads of s’mores. If you have special dietary requirements, definitely contact your camp ahead of time to make special arrangements and to find out if you need to bring some of your own food items.
4) Weapons – Most camps don’t allow pocket knives! There’s really no reason to bring one anyway, or weapons like bear spray. Your counselors will be prepared with everything necessary to keep you safe during your time at camp.
5) Nice clothing – Unless there’s an end-of-summer dance or party, leave the nice clothing at home. If there does happen to be a special event planned during camp, a casual sundress or skirt and sandals should suffice – nobody gets too dressed up at summer camp!
FAQs about packing for summer camp:
1) Are laundry services usually available during summer camp?
This definitely depends on your particular camp. If you’re staying for one to two weeks, don’t plan on wasting your time doing laundry. If you’re staying for a month or more, you’ll most likely be provided with laundry services. You can always hand-wash items in a sink or shower as well.
2) Can you use cell phones at camp?
This also depends on the camp you’re attending. Most places these days ban cell phones so that campers can get the ultimate camp experience! There will always be phones available for emergencies, and counselors are well-trained in the protocol for if things go wrong.
3) How much down time will campers have?
Counselors usually keep the days jam-packed with activities. Expect really active days, and an hour or two of downtime in the evening when everybody will take turns showering and sitting by the campfire. Some camps build in rest-time between activities.
4) How can we combat homesickness?
Even with full and exciting days, some kids will undoubtedly get a bit homesick. Have your camper bring along pre-addressed postcards or stationary so that they can write letters home. Even if they’re only gone for a week, letters from camp make for priceless keepsakes!
5) Should I pack medications?
If you need to bring along any daily medications like allergy pills or an inhaler, definitely pack them! Most camps have medication policies in which you have to hand over medicines to the camp nurse or infirmary who will distribute them to you every day.