Now that summer camps are back in the swing of things this year, we’re positive that kids going to sleepaway camps are excited to get a few weeks away. And we’re also pretty sure that parents agree. We all need a break from our everyday lives. You’ve probably already selected the camp your child will attend and followed the appropriate protocols, whether your child is just going to be tested for COVID-19, or fully vaccinated by the time camp starts. Once you and your child have those safety precautions discussions, (like washing their hands frequently, using hand sanitizer and keeping a safe social distance), it’s all about the gear.
This summer, the kiddos going to camp will likely continue to wear masks and need lots of hand sanitizer on deck. If you’re sending your kid to a sleepaway camp, it’s about time you started packing for it. The summer camp packing list remains pretty much the same as it has in years past, so read on for some tried and true tips and suggestions.
Things to remember
The earlier you begin packing, the less stressed out you’re going to be — but first, you need a game plan. Before you rummage through your their closets, check with the camp about their policies. Chances are, they will have a list of items that they supply for each camper. Additionally, they may provide a list of recommended or prohibited items that you should consult before stocking up.
You should also consider how long your kid will be at camp to determine the amount of clothing and toiletries she’ll need. The camp should be able to tell you if and how often laundry services are provided, as well as its policy on mail and summer camp care packages (not all camps permit gifted goods, which could be bad news if you forgot that one toy your child absolutely needs to fall asleep).
Feel free also to include your campers as you pack. Having their help will likely make them more involved and independent, as well as allow you to prepare your kids for summer camp and answer any questions they may have.
If they’re concerned about being homesick (or you are), pack something from home that will comfort them.
“I’ve always encouraged the kids — even when they’re 11 — you got a favorite blanket at home? Bring it,” Kevin Nissen, director of Friendly Pines Camp in Prescott, Arizona, told us. “You got a stuffed animal that you think you’re gonna be embarrassed about? Bring it. Nobody will bother you about it. Everybody probably wishes they had theirs.”
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Camp packing list
Here are a few items you’ll want to pack, whether your kiddo is going to a camp nearby or one of the many unique summer camps across the country.
Reusable water bottle
A reusable water bottle is a definite essential to bring to summer camp for more reasons that one. Not only is it the perfect opportunity to do right by the environment and prevent any plastic waste, it’s also practical: Summer camps may not always have water bottles handy, but they do typically have water fountains. Having a reusable water bottle ensures your child will always have water that’s accessible in a hygienic bottle that is just for them. Be sure to pack a water bottle that keeps beverages cold all day long – try Stanley’s 64-ounce IceFlow Flip Straw Jug (it comes in 40 ounces, too). They also offer smaller bottles such as the IceFlow Flip Straw Water Bottle, which comes in 17 and 22 ounces.
Let’s face it: Your kid probably isn’t as organized as you are, and if you want to ensure they’ll come home with all of their socks, underwear, and gadgets, you’re going to want to label everything. These sleepaway camp labels from Mabel’s Labels are fantastic because they’re waterproof and safe in both the laundry and the dishwasher. Plus, Mabel’s will send you 114 customizable labels with each purchase, meaning you can pack some extras.
Sure, most knapsacks are cute, but they’ve got nothing on the modern daypack. Look for a lightweight option that has plenty of storage for things like snacks, Chapstick, water, and a light jacket. This one from Osprey is especially great because it comes with a hydration pack so your kid won’t forget to drink his H20 on the go.
You’re going to want to send your camper off with all of the essentials, including a toothbrush, toothpaste, sunscreen, shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. Make sure all of these items are easily accessible with a quality toiletry bag. A hanging option, like this one from Wayfarer Supply Co., is excellent because kids can hang it in the shower or off the side of their bunks as they get ready.
Summer camp is rife with outdoor activities, like hiking and recreational sports, and kiddo will need a shoe that’s durable enough to tackle it all. Look for kicks that aren’t too heavy and have solid traction on the soles, like this breathable sneaker option from Merrell.
Don’t let unpredictable summer weather prevent your kid from having a good time. Make sure to pack plenty of layers, starting with a lightweight jacket. We like this one from Columbia because it’s also waterproof — perfect for summer showers, (supervised) hangouts by the lake, or whatever messes go down in the dining hall.
Whether they’re taking a dip in the pool or in a lake, you’ll want to make sure your campers’ eyes are protected with a pair of swimming goggles. This pair from Speedo has UV-protected lenses and an anti-fog coating so kids can focus on what matters most: having fun.
Not getting to talk to your kid every day about their summer camp adventures can be tough, especially if they’re gone for a month or longer. Encourage your camper to stay in touch by providing a camp stationery set they can use to write updates. Don’t forget to stamp the envelopes!
Sunscreen is a must for campers, and while you may not be on hand to apply it, you can sure as heck make sure your kid has at least one bottle in her bag. There are dozens of options on the market, so do your research to ensure you’re picking the right sunscreen for your child’s skin type.
The only thing grosser than a stinky camper is a germ-ridden shower floor. Protect your kid’s feet with a pair of inexpensive flip-flops they can wear to, from, and in the shower — because nobody wants this little piggy to end up in the nurse’s office.
Here are some other summer camp essentials you’ll want to pack:
- Kids face mask
- Glasses/contacts and cleaning solution
- Prescription medication
- Dress clothes and coordinating belts and shoes
- Rain gear or umbrella
- Swim shirt with UV protection
- Tank tops
- Sweatpants or warm-up pants
- Cotton bathrobe
- Athletic support (jock strap)
- Shoes, plus a spare pair
- Bedding — check with your camp checklist for what, if any, to bring for bedding
- Hand towels
- Beach towels — can be used for bath or swimming
- Shower caddy
- Comb or brush
- Feminine hygiene products
- Bug repellant
- Lip balm
- Nail clippers
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Shaving cream and razors
- Soap in carrier
- Toothbrush, toothbrush container, and toothpaste
- Flashlight and spare batteries
- Laundry bag
- Reusable water bottle or canteen
- Spending money (but check with your camp for policies)
- Comforts of home, like a family photo or a stuffed animal
- Entertainment, like books and deck of cards
A version of this article was originally published in May 2020.