The Organized Life

What to Pack for Summer Camp

Here we go again. The weather is heating up and families are already wondering what to pack for summer camp. Fear not. Our expert tips can help!

“Most packing items can be found at home and nearly all of them can be used time and time again,” said Matthew Petrie, a camp director. No matter if it is day or overnight, music or math camp, there are universal items and packing hacks you should keep in mind to help make camp a rewarding experience filled with good memories! Read on for advice from our experts!

Camping Supplies to Bring

To ensure your child will be prepared for camp, start packing and preparing ahead of time, says Petrie, who leads Camp Josepho in Los Angeles, a youth and Cub Scout camp. What you buy should be customized to your experience.

“This largely depends on what kind of camping is going to be taking place, how long the trip is for, and if it is something that your child will be interested in doing again,” he said. “If this is a first trip it’s wise to stretch your money out and use what you have available.”

Camp is generally an active, dirty place where kids cannot worry about what they’re wearing or if they’re “on trend,” says Audrey Monke, publisher of the blog Sunshine Parenting.

“I always tell parents to send older clothes and items that most likely won’t be part of next year’s school wardrobe,” she said, highlighting the pants that are getting too short and t-shirts that already have stains.

“Last year’s school backpack is perfect for using around camp!” she said.

Petrie adds that it may be smarter to use a duffle bag or suitcase and roll up a school backpack or other small daypack that your child can pull out to use while leaving their larger bag in their cabin or tent. If your child is interested in camping, Petrie suggests investing in a backpacking backpack since it has the capacity to hold a lot and it is easy to carry.

flashlight ready for summer camp packing

Follow Your Summer Camp Packing Checklist

Print your list out and have it bookmarked on your device so you can both search at home and then in stores when you’re out and about for all the items you’ll need. In addition, check weather forecasts and info from the camp so your child is ready for the season. And pack plastic bags for the return trip so that items that may still be wet, such as swimsuits and towels, don’t make the rest of the bag soggy.

“The most important and essential things will always be listed on the packing list provided by the camp,” says Monke. “For most outdoor, sleepaway camps, a good sleeping bag rated for the outdoors is essential.”

According to Petrie, the most essential items to pack, depending on the camp, are:

• A sleeping bag – (if camping is an activity) a compression sack is best for saving space.

• Bed rolls for added comfort – ranging from very affordable foam mats to lightweight inflatables that have pillows built in.

• Toiletries and hygiene items.

• An extra flashlight – something could happen to yours and someone might have lost or forgotten theirs.

• Extra socks and underwear.

• An extra water bottle.

• A trash bag or two – for dirty clothes (see above!) or even an emergency poncho or some courtesy campsite tidying.

• Medication, if required. Have any required forms completed. Check with your camp.

• Sun protection, such as a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen.

• A warm jacket or sweater.

• A towel, bathing suit and sandals for use in the showers.

“Hygiene is very important to your child and everyone around them,” says Petrie.

A small travel toothbrush and toothpaste kit are also essential. Also include soap and shampoo, even if it’s provided by the camp. It’s nice to have a spare.

For girls’ hygiene, feminine products should be included too, Petrie adds.

Label everything you can with a permanent marker and your child’s name or initials.

iPhone face down on table

Pack Smart for Summer Camp

Clothes are one of the bulkiest items and folding them can actually take up more space, says Petrie. For an inexpensive compression method, try throwing clothes into a trash bag and squishing the air out so it can be packed tighter. This can wrinkle clothes. You can also roll clothes, like a burrito, to fit more.

“You want to pack things that you need often or quickly near the top,” Petrie said, such as a flashlight or medication. Clothes and other larger items can go under that.

Finally, consider leaving as many electronic devices behind as you and your kids can bear. A simple camera is great to have, and a phone is helpful to check in with family members or in case there’s a real emergency. Do keep in mind that there aren’t a lot of cell towers in nature, and bad reception can often make mobile devices useless.

“As great as technology is, part of the experience of camp is getting away from those distractions,” he said.

Think ahead to ensure your child is prepared to have a blast at summer camp!

And for more tips, check out our articles on camping storage advice and DIY packing tips for adults and families to make planning camping adventures and vacations a snap!