No one at your kids’ camp is hoping you will over-pack. Camp staff are busy scheduling the type of summer adventures that make lifelong memories. So resist the urge to over-pack your kids for camp. Keep your approach simple. Here are a few tips that will make your job easier and save you money and headaches.

Be A Follower. Heed the camp packing list, even if you don’t understand every piece of advice. The staff has done this before, and they know what is necessary and what is not. If you have a question, send an email in advance. Don’t wait until the last minute to pack. Divide and conquer the list early by laying everything out where it can be checked and double-checked. Expect it to all come back home in a jumble, of course.

Think Duffel Bag. If your camp does not tell you how to pack, invest in a large, sturdy duffel bag and do not overfill it. You want to leave a bit of room for everything to come home after camp when it’s not packed as well as you packed it. In fact, tuck a collapsible nylon bag into one of the duffel bag pockets. It’s sure to come in handy on the way home. If your camp requires a trunk, consider a soft trunk for easier mobility.

Go With Worn. Don’t go on a spending spree and send your child to camp with a whole new wardrobe. These clothes will likely come home stained and ripped, if they even all make it home at all. Suffice it to say, pack old clothing that won’t be missed if it does not return. Anything of irreplaceable sentimental value needs to stay home, even if it’s just an old t-shirt. Send favorites as long as they are replaceable. Have a variety of appropriate shoes. And if you buy new shoes, definitely break them in before camp.

Label Almost Everything. Use a black laundry marker or a silver Sharpie for black items. If you shop online, you can find a white laundry marker that will last a couple of years. But don’t go so far as labeling socks. Buy inexpensive socks of the same type and make sure your camper can identify them. Keep markings simple for most things by using three initials. No need to be over the top; however, you should mark important items like boots, sneakers and water bottles with full names. Also, label luggage.

Like Lightweight Layers. Even if it will be cool or even cold at night, resist the urge to pack a parka. Go with lightweight layers. A t-shirt, sweatshirt and waterproof shell are plenty warm enough for active kids. For cooler locations, fleece is lightweight and warm. Jeans may not sound fierce, but they will come in handy on cool nights by the fire. Don’t forget a camp chair for damp mornings and evenings outdoors. And if you are going to pack anything extra, consider socks and underwear, a second bathing suit and a backup water bottle. They won’t take up much room.

Expect Damp. Sleeping bags should be easy to dry in the sun, just in case. Pack any stationary, books and papers in zip-top bags. You can separate small clothing into zip-top bags when packing. Include a few spare zip-top bags in a pocket to sort laundry into while at camp. Remind your camper not to zip anything damp into a plastic bag to avoid mildew.

Repel Critters Naturally. Make sure camp cabins are animal-proof before sending candy or snacks. Beware of ants and other bugs. When packing toiletries, invest in insect-repelling natural brands for shampoo, conditioner and soap. You can always transfer liquids into small, spill-proof containers and leave the remainder at home. Natural scents that discourage bugs include tea tree, rosemary, eucalyptus, lavender, peppermint and lemongrass. Try bath products with these scents and also pack traditional insect repellent.

Ease Pressure. I am sure you want your kids to write to you from camp, so include self-addressed postcards or stationery. Then when drop-off day arrives, squeeze those campers tight, tell them you love them and let them off the hook to enjoy a summer camp experience of their own creation. They may not write or call or even think of you much, and that’s okay. If they send one piece of mail, let it be enough until they return. The less they think about you and home, the better job you did packing them up for independence.

What To Bring To Camp

  • Extra socks and underwear

  • Extra spill-proof water bottle

  • Extra bathing suit

  • Nylon laundry bag

  • Bathroom/shower caddy

  • Headlamp or flashlight and batteries

  • Disposable camera

  • Towels and bed linens

  • Camp chair

  • Raincoat or poncho

  • Sunglasses

  • Waterproof sunscreen

  • Lip balm

  • Feminine protection

  • Insect repellant

  • Backup glasses or contacts

  • Pre-addressed stationery

  • A good book

  • Playing cards and small games

  • A few personal items (family photos, stuffed animal, twinkle lights)

Save On Camp Supplies

  • Forget what other kids bring

  • Rock those hand-me-downs

  • Borrow from friends or neighbors

  • Shop resale

  • Search for online coupons

  • Leave irreplaceable things at home

  • Break shoes in well

  • Bring enough, but not too much

  • Focus on enjoying the experience