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What do you Need to Pack for Camp like a Pro?

Jessica Cottrell

Summer’s here, which means that soon all 3 of my kids will be headed to various weeks at their chosen summer camps for some old fashioned fun. My first child is an extrovert and wanted to head off for his first week away from home at age 7, and I have packed many a camp duffel bag or trunk in the years since, and while I worked at a sleepover camp for years, I still agonized over packing his bag. While different camps have different rules, there are some universal truths of camp life:

1) Don’t forget the sunscreen! You know your child best, however I am 90% sure my children have a very spotty record with actually applying said sunscreen, but I like to think positive and emphatically mention it several times on the drive to camp along with some carefully curated facts about melanoma (which may or may not be your parenting style). I try to send a lotion and a stick form of sunscreen, because different kids like different textures and I feel like the more options they have the greater the chances that they might actually use one. Pack a hat and a sun shirt so if they forget to reapply (or to even apply a first time), the damage will hopefully be minimal. We love the Sunstick SPF 30 by Erin’s Faces, and Erin wanted to help you pack, so use code KOSMATOLOGY10 to save 10% until August 31, 2019.

2) Bug repellent is a must! One universal truth of camp life, at least for all the camps in wide open spaces, is that insects are found in abundance! Nobody likes a mosquito bite, and falling asleep in a strange bed is way harder with angry, itchy spots! We love the Kosmatology Bug Repellent Skin Balm to keep exposed skin bite free. To help stock your camp bag, use code CLEANCAMPING and save $2 off the Bug Repellent Skin Balm. Also, you can check out our previous blog about our bug repellent here BUG BALM VERSUS SPRAY.

3) A shower caddy. I hate buying plastic nonsense as much as the next person, but whether the sinks and showers are in the cabin or a short walk through the woods away, your child will need a place to store their things, and I have found through experience that the easier it is for kids to access shower supplies, the better the odds of them being used. The caddy allows water drainage, which is great, because odds are that the cabins are not climate controlled and humidity can quickly make things gross if toiletries are left someplace wet. Find a caddy large enough to fit shower and tooth-brushing supplies, they’re easy to find at most home goods stores, and you can use it to organize something else in the off camp season.

Child reading a book under a blanket, holding a flashlight.

4) A laundry bag. Because once those clothes are worn on a sweaty, hot summer day, you definitely don’t want them mixed in with the clean stuff. No need to get fancy, a mesh bag will do and is actually my preferred method of bringing home dirty camp laundry - see note above about humidity and wet things. At pickup time, throw all the bedding in for a quick bunk breakdown.

5) A flashlight. Even though most places do have electricity, if your child wants to read before bed, a flashlight is probably the only way to make that happen. Also, if the bathroom is a short walk away from the cabin, a flashlight can make the difference between fun walk at night and terrifying experience! For bonus points, I like to sneak a new book or magazine for pre-bedtime reading in the duffel for my kids to find once they arrive, they’re totally on to this trick, but they pretend they don’t know what I’m doing and they are ALWAYS surprised!

Blank card with floral design and pen sitting on a wooden desk.

6) A stamped, pre-addressed envelope to home. My favorite thing about camp is that my kids don’t have technology to distract them from old fashioned fun, but the downside is that I don’t hear from them. I know they are fine, but when they actually take a minute to send that letter home, it’s priceless!

7) A way to make a friend. Consider sending something to help your child break the ice with their temporary new roommates. Whether it’s a pack of gum (check your camp for guidelines about food), a deck of cards or a soccer ball, it’s great to have something that your child can use to start a conversation with someone new. I’ve also been known to send a care package of things to be shared as a cabin, because kids love mail when they are at camp, but not everyone gets it. Other ideas are simple art kits or coloring books, Mad Libs, or a package of glow bracelets. Another great option is the “Wreck This Journal” series of books, one year my daughter’s whole cabin pitched in to help her wreck her journal and the kids really had some great ideas!

Of course, in addition to all of the above, you need all the clothes, bed linens, bath towels, shower towels, shower shoes, etc that make it onto every list, but I hope this list will give you the confidence to know you packed your kid like a pro. Make sure you label everything you want to come home at the end of camp, or better yet, send the clothes you won’t even notice if they go missing. (You know that tee shirt with the stain or the pants with the hole? Those are camp clothes.) Also, don’t forget to check the weather - my worst week as a camper was when I didn’t realize the week would be cold and rainy and I got everything soaked by day 2; it was the 90’s and I packed myself. Lucky for modern day kids, now we have apps that tell us the weather pretty reliably. If there is rain in the forecast, pack a raincoat; if it’s a heatwave, go for a battery powered fan.

One last tip: You can lovingly collect things and send a care package through the mail to camp so that your child has a surprise. Or, you can pick something and have it sent via Amazon Prime with 2 day delivery and a printed gift message. Forgot flip flops for the shower? I’ve been there and can report that Amazon Prime has you covered. Have a million things to do and no time to curate a care package worthy of Pinterest? Send that “Wreck This Journal” from above and you are covered!

Now that you have packing solved, all you have to do is figure out what to do while the kids are gone! Have any other tips to share? Please comment and let us know of anything I missed or any awesome ideas for care packages.