What every kid needs for summer camp

Jun 17, 2009 at 1:04 p.m. ET

Summer camp has been a right of passage for young children across the US. Whether your child is attending camp for the first time or can be considered a seasoned veteran, being prepared and packing what is appropriate are the best ways to ensure a positive camp experience.

Camp SignCreate a packing list

Make a camp packing list using the recommended list from the camp. Add the other items that your child may need such as eyeglasses, medication, orthodontic devices, etc. Be sure to check with camp policy regarding medication in case you need any statements or prescriptions from your child's doctor.

Resist the urge to buy a brand-new wardrobe for your camper. While one or two new items help build enthusiasm, camp life can be a bit rough on clothing. Children, especially first-timers, will also find "old favorites" reassuring when away from home. 

Summer camp packing tips

  • Make a list of what is packed and include it with your child's belongings, so they know what they're bringing.
  • Familiarize yourself with any camp regulations regarding food and money.
  • Include plastic bags or a laundry bag for wet or dirty clothing.
  • Encourage your child to pack a favorite picture or stuffed animal as a reminder of home.
    Include some stamped envelopes or pre-addressed postcards and sharpened pencils or ballpoint pens.
  • Don't pack things that are on the 'not allowed' list. This will just cause problems for your child when they arrive at camp. If you have concerns about something on the forbidden list, talk with the camp director before your child leaves.
  • Label all of your items with your child's name. You can go online and order press-on labels for clothing, towels, etc. Use water repellant markers for other items.
  • A "stuff" bag for your child's sleeping bag and pillow is a must. A rolled sleeping bag always comes unraveled when walking through camp.
  • Place toiletries in a type of plastic bag kit or plastic basket that would make it easy to travel to the showers. The kit should be big enough to hold shower shoes/flip flops.

Other sleep-away camp tips

  • Send a letter to your child at camp before camp begins to that she will have a letter waiting for her on that first, very important day.
  • Look into your camp's phone call regulations and discuss them with your child. If the camps has a no phone calls policy, then honor it and make sure your child also understands this policy. If you do plan to make calls, then reach an agreement ahead of time with your child on when and how often.

Summer camp essentials packing list


___ Backpack

___ Sleeping Bag

___ Pillows

___ Flashlight with batteries

___ Canteen or sturdy water bottle

___ Compass

___ Binoculars

___ Camera

___ Sunglasses

___ Journal or pre-stamped postcards

___ Wristwatch or travel clock


___ Toothbrush & toothpaste

___ Soap & shampoo

___ Towels & washcloths

___ Lip balm

___ Sunscreen


___ Swim suit

___ Swim goggles

___ Underwear

___ Socks

___ T-Shirts

___ Shorts

___ Sweatshirt or Hoodie

___ Jeans

___ Hat

___ Tennis shoes/Hiking boots

___ Beach shoes

___ Shower shoes

Emergency/First Aid:

___ Medications

___ Aspirin/Acetaminophen/Ibuprofen

___ Bandages

___ Antiseptic

___ Insect repellent

___ Cold compress