For many kids, summer camp is a rite of passage and the place where they get their first real taste of independence. As parents, we want to make sure our children have everything they need to thrive at camp, but with that comes one daunting packing list. What does your child really need to bring to camp, anyway?
The first rule of thumb when packing for summer camp is to make sure to follow the packing list that has been supplied by your child’s camp. There may be specific instructions about whether or not to pack bedding or there may be a list of obscure items you would have never considered on your own (you don’t want your child to be without their neon shirt during color wars).
It’s also important to find out about laundry. If clothing is washed once a week, you can plan to pack a week or two of clothing, even if your child will be gone for six or eight weeks. Find out, too, if your child will be able to put clothing away in a dresser or if he or she will be living out of a bag. If it’s the latter, trunks, suitcases or backpacks that open like a suitcase are the best receptacles for packing, since children will be able to assess what’s inside of their bag, grab what they need and go.
If there’s a camp store, let your child know that if he or she drops their toothbrush on the floor or runs out of soap, they can pick up small necessities there. If the store takes cash—that’s the case for many day camps—make sure you give your child a few bucks. At most overnight camps, charges are kept on a tab and paid at the end of camp with a parent’s credit card.
Finally, make sure to shop for camp items and pack with your child. It’s not only a nice bonding experience, but it will also help your child know what he or she is taking with them.
- Obscure clothing, wigs or funny outfits for special days at camp
- Tank tops
- Sweatpants or track pants
- Clothing for exercise (wicking shirts and pants, athletic socks)
- Dressy outfit
Pack for the environment your child will be in. Does it rain a lot of camp? Pack extra shoes and sock or full-body rain gear. Will it be cold? Gloves and a heavy coat should go on the list.
- Shower shoes
- Tennis shoes (at least two pairs)
- Sandals/flip flops/crocks
- Shoes to match their dressy outfit
- Shower caddie
- Toothbrush in carrier/toothpaste
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Soap in carrier or body wash
- Shaving cream and razors
- Feminine hygiene products
- Brush or comb
- Hair ties
- Nail clippers
- Lip balm
- Glasses or contacts and cleaning solution
- Bug repellent
- 2 Washcloths
- 2 Bathing towels (the towels that close with Velcro are a nice touch, especially because your child will have their hands full with their shower caddie)
- Compression shorts/jock strap or sports bra
- 2 Swimsuits
- Water shoes or strappy footwear like Chacos or Tevas
- Goggles for swimming
- Climbing shoes, riding shoes or cleats (or another shoe appropriate to the activities your child will be participating in)
- 1-2 Beach towels
- Sheets and pillowcases (check to see if your child’s camp requires that they bring their own—many do)
- Egg crate or camping pad for older kids (those beds aren’t particularly comfortable)
- Pillow (especially if your child has neck or back issues)
- Blankets or a sleeping bag (do make sure the sleeping bag is appropriately rated: You wouldn’t want to send your child to camp in the desert with a 0-degree rated sleeping bag)
- Stationary, pens, stamps and important addresses
- Headlamp or flashlight and extra batteries
- Camera (most camps don’t allow kids to have cell phones, so they’ll be taking pictures the old fashioned way)
- Something beloved from home—a favorite stuffed animal, for example
- Crazy Creek or other small, foldable chair
- Small backpack for day trips
- Laundry bag
- Deck of cards
- Water bottle
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