The Ultimate 2020 Summer Camp Packing Checklist

We just spent the past few months not knowing whether camp is happening this summer — and so did most camp directors themselves. The news is mixed on this front, but while many camps have been canceled or gone virtual due to the coronavirus pandemic, there are some that have determined that some kids need this escape from their everyday lives. So if you’re sending your kid to a sleepaway camp that is staying open, albeit with smaller numbers and increased health and safety practicing, it’s about time you started packing for it.

We spoke to Kevin Nissen, the co-director of Friendly Pines Camp in Prescott, Arizona, as he prepared to welcome children, ages 6-14, to sleepaway camp. While there are no local regulations prohibiting them from opening, he said they have already delayed their first session from June 7 to June 21. The reason for that is number one on their new camp packing list: Kids need to show that they’ve tested negative for COVID-19.

“We wanted to ensure in every way that we possibly could everybody on the grounds would be healthy,” Nissen told SheKnows of this requirement. Unfortunately, there’s still a shortage of available tests, and healthy children who haven’t been knowingly exposed to the virus are way down on the priority list.

There are two other new additions to the typical camping list this year for Friendly Pines and other camps following guidelines set by the American Camp Association: a 14-day screening log of the camper’s temperature and any other possible symptoms and reusable face masks.

“We’re not requiring masks all the time, but there are situations where masks will be required in any close situation, any indoor activities, and when you see the nurses at the health center,” Nissen explained.

Other than that, his camp is providing all the hand soap (at multiple hand-washing stations), hand sanitizer, and cleaning supplies that will be needed to try to keep campers and staff safe and healthy (though there are still no guarantees). The rest of the summer camp packing list 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 kiddos’ 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,” Nissen 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.”

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.

Labels

Summer Camp Packing Essentials: Mabel's Labels

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.

Daypack

Osprey Hydrajet 12

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.

Toiletry bag

Summer Camp Packing Essentials: Wayfarer Toiletry Bag

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.

Hiking shoes

Summer Camp Packing Essentials: Merrell Trail Chaser Hiking Shoes

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 option from Merrell.

Lightweight jacket

Summer Camp Packing Essentials: Columbia Switchback Rain Jacket

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.

Swim goggles

Summer Camp Packing Essentials: Speedo Junior Hydrospex Goggles

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.

Stationery

Camp Stationery

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 stationery set they can use to write updates. Don’t forget to stamp the envelopes!

Sunscreen

Summer Camp Packing Essentials: Sunscreen

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.

Thinkbaby sunscreen SPF 50+, $12.99 at Amazon

Shower flip-flops

Old Navy Flip Flops

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:

  • Bandana/scarf
  • Hat
  • Glasses/contacts and cleaning solution
  • Prescription medication
  • Sunglasses
  • Dress clothes and coordinating belts and shoes
  • Jeans
  • Rain gear or umbrella
  • Shorts
  • Sweatshirt
  • Swimsuit
  • Swim shirt with UV protection
  • T-shirts
  • Tank tops
  • Underwear
  • Sweatpants or warm-up pants
  • Pajamas
  • Cotton bathrobe
  • Bras
  • Athletic support (jock strap)
  • Boots
  • Cleats
  • Shoes, plus a spare pair
  • Socks
  • 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
  • Deodorant
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Bug repellant
  • Lip balm
  • Nail clippers
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Shaving cream and razors
  • Soap in carrier
  • Tissues
  • Toothbrush, toothbrush container, and toothpaste
  • Camera
  • 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
Summer Camp Packing Checklist
Image: Ashley Britton/SheKnows.

A version of this article was originally published in May 2011.

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