What To Pack For Summer Camp: Essentials List

Summer camp can be a truly incredible experience in which children can go on fun outdoor adventures and make wonderful memories. However, that's only partially true if they go prepared. Ending up there without certain essentials can put a serious damper on the fun and make things a bit more complicated!

Here is a complete checklist of absolute essentials campers need to pack for summer camp. If you still don't know what you should pack all the stuff in, talk to the summer camp about whether you need to bring a camp trunk or duffel bag.  

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what to pack for camp

What To Pack For Summer Camp Checklist

1. Hiking Shoes

Summer camps are known for having beautiful hiking trails on their campuses, so campers spend a lot of time outdoors in potentially rough terrain. Hiking shoes are the best choice of footwear in supporting the body while wandering the great outdoors, so you should pack a comfortable pair for your kid. Comfortable shoes made specifically for hiking can help any child stay active longer and prevent sore feet or blisters. 

2. Ear Buds

The sounds of nature are great and all, but who says you can't enjoy the beauty of the outdoors while listening to your favorite songs. On top of that, you never know when you'll need a way to block out other types of noise, whether its birds chirping too early or other campers being too loud at night. Either way kids are better off having earbuds, as opposed to not having any.

3. Bug Spray

One of the most common things kids and parents forget to pack for sleepaway camp is insect repellent. While it's easy to forget bug spray, after the first few mosquitoes bite, your child will start to regret their decision. Some camps might have some bug repellent available, but it can quickly run out. Similarly, if your child needs a special type of repellent due to certain skin conditions, they might not have that specific one available. Bug bites are annoying to deal with, so make it easier on your camper and pack one in their luggage. 

4. Waterproof Camping Backpack

A waterproof backpack can go a long way in keeping all of your gear and stuff close to your camper and readily accessible. Consider a small or medium-sized kids hiking backpack that does a good job at distributing weight and is water resistant. This can help when hiking long-distances, spending time outdoors wet weather, or even for organizing stuff. Since kids move around a lot, they come quite handy. It's much better than carrying everything in your hands or carrying a large duffel bag around.

5. Water Shoes

Although not completely essential footwear like hiking shoes, water shoes make a huge difference in comfortability when inside or near the water. Most overnight camps have some sort of water-based activities where water shoes can keep your children feet safe. Not only are they more comfortable for kids to wear than flip flops, but they also protect them when stepping on rocks or slippery surfaces. Since where on the topic of shoes, don't forget if they need any special options for sports like tennis shoes, soccer cleats, or baseball shoes.  

6. Reusable Water Bottles

Since campers work up a sweat, they also need to stay hydrated. Rather than relying on a plethora of plastic, disposable water bottles during their stay, it's best to fall back on something more efficient and environmentally friendly, like a reusable water bottle. These specialty water bottles are an excellent option for helping the environment and giving younger campers a perfectly feasible way to stay hydrated.

7. Small Fan

Don't forget about fans when starting your summer camp packing. While most camps have up-to-date facilities with air conditioning, others are more old school with old-style cabins and no AC. A small handheld fan can give a camper some pleasant breeze, especially if they're staying somewhere with warm temperatures. Pack some spare batteries for it too.

8. Towels

Not all summer camps include aquatic adventures, but the vast majority of them do. Many camps are located near lakes or rivers, so it goes without saying that there's a decent chance they’ll get wet. While some camps probably have their own towels, sometimes it’s more convenient and comfortable to have your own. Apart from having a towel to dry after swimming, consider packing a bath towel for your child too.  

9. Sunscreen

Kids should be equipped with sunscreen at all times since they spend so much time outside at camp. Getting sunburn can put a severe damper on the camp experience, so pack them some sunscreen and avoid that outcome entirely. A lot of camp stores will carry sunscreen around, but it's always better to be safe than sorry. 

10. Clothing (Outdoor Wear, Pajamas, etc.)

Kids need various clothing types when attending camp due to the nature of all the different activities. If there's a lake, they need swimming apparel and swimming goggles. Since most places have water-based activities, it’s worthwhile bringing a swimsuit/bathing suit along. If hiking, kids might want durable outdoor clothing.

And even for something as simple as sleeping, they'll want pajamas. Just like packing for a trip or vacation, you need all sorts of clothes. You may also need additional clothing when attending summer-long camps. Consider the weather as well, since if it gets chilly at night a light jacket might be needed. Don't forget to include a laundry bag so they have a place to store all their dirty laundry. 

Don't forget to send them off with a hat either. Since campers spend a lot of time in the sun, a hat is a great way to give their face some shade protecting the skin and eyes from the sun.

11. Toiletries

While some overnight camps have toiletries, it may be more comfortable using your own toothbrush, among other things like deodorant, toothpaste, body wash, dental floss, shampoo, and hairbrushes. Campers should pack the essential items they need for an ideal bathroom experience.

12. Pillows

You can't complete a camp packing list without pillows. Sometimes it can be hard to sleep on certain pillows, especially if you’re not accustomed to them. It’s worth the space they take up in a camp trunk or duffel bag to bring a favorite pillow for sleeping. With many energy-intensive activities, it’s best to make sure they’re getting the best possible sleeping experience at night. They can also place pillows inside their camp sleeping bags to be even more cozy.

13. Camping Chair

It's not always easy to find adequate seating at camp. You should pack a child champing chair, which makes a huge difference in comfort when sitting down. These aren't your typical chairs, since they're light, portable, and made for the outdoors.

14. Family Photos

Depending on how long they're away at overnight camp, kids are separated from their loved ones for a pretty significant amount of time. To decrease the risk of feeling homesick, it’s always a good idea to bring a family photo, so they can remember what to look forward to when camp is finished. In other cases, stuffed animals might also help alleviate homesickness. 

15. Extra Contact Lenses

Kids will be kids, and it's very easy to lose or damage contact lenses. The last thing you want to do is drive up to camp to give your child an extra pair of contact lenses because they inexplicably lost their previous ones. This is especially important if you're sending your child to a sports camp where they do lots of physical activity.