By Cammie Jones

If you have a camper, then you know when it comes to packing for an overnight camp experience, it can be both time consuming and confusing. Depending on the duration of the camp (one week, two weeks or a month), it can be tricky getting the right stuff and not overpacking your child’s trunk. Most camp websites include a packing list to use as a guide but sometimes hearing from some seasoned campers and parents could be more accurate. Here are some tips from the experts:

1. Less is More.

There will be a huge list that the camp will provide for you. Do you need to send everything on that list? Absolutely not. The more stuff you send, the more stuff you may not get back. Always err on the side of sending more of the important essentials — underwear and socks, for instance. Also, send a few towels and washcloths for shower time. But, rule of thumb — don’t send fancy stuff — again, it will most likely come home dirty or not at all!

2. Ditch the Multiple Shoe Choices.

One camper said that in all her years going to camp that she just wore outdoor sports sandals such as Chacos or Tevas the entire time. It doesn’t have to be a name brand shoe. Just find a comfortable sandal that fits your child’s foot and offers support. These can be used for most outside activities such as hiking, canoeing, etc. Unless one of the activities calls for closed toe shoes, then this type shoe will serve most of your needs.

Most campers I asked agreed with the need for outdoor sandals but also said that a sturdy pair of tennis shoes is a must as well. Many sports activities and horseback riding require that you wear closed toe shoes so make sure to double check the activities that you child is participating in during camp.

3. Don’t pack the Miscellaneous Items.

When reviewing the “what to pack” list from your child’s camp, I find that the items at the beginning of the list are usually the most important. As you venture down the list, I see most of these items as less crucial to your child’s experience. I use mosquito netting as an example of this. Even though this doesn’t take up much space, mosquito netting is probably not necessary unless the camp specifically has a mosquito issue.

If it says to bring games or other extra items from home that will take up some needed space in your child’s trunk or luggage, leave it out. A deck of cards will work just as well and won’t take up a lot of space.

4. Letters for Dummies Instruction.

If you want to hear from your child while at camp, you better have a quick letter writing lesson, complete with where to put the stamp. Your child may be able to do this quite easily or if they were like mine, not so much.  A sample envelope will help with how to address and where to put the “sticker.”  I also always include a list of important addresses (family and close friends) who would love to get a note from your camper. Try to make it easy for them to send a letter — not so much for them but for you — the recipient!


If you ever want to see that cute “Camper Queen” sequined T-shirt again, then you better label it. There are tons of companies out there that sell labels that you can stick on or iron on your children’s clothes. Some off the top of my head are Mabel’s Labels, Name Bubbles and Label Daddy. All have various sizes and packages that you and your child can design and order with multiple price points to fit your budget.

6. Pack with your Child.

For older children, this may sound strange but it is important to make sure that your child is packing all the essentials and not all the fluff. Make sure you go over some basic hygiene lessons at this time — wear deodorant, brush your teeth everyday, wash your face, etc. Not that your child will follow these basic rules each day but it will make you feel better that you actually did try to influence their hygienic needs.

7. Send Play Clothes.

Again, please don’t pack anything that you really want to see again. You may get most of the stuff back since you labeled it, but you never know. Send clothes they can wear over and over again — sports shorts, dark T-shirts, etc. Also, don’t send anything that you don’t want ruined. They will be outside most of the time or working with paints or tie dye at least once during the time they are away so be prepared for stained T-shirts and shorts to come home.

8. Parents Just Need to “Chill.”

Once you have your child packed and ready for drop off at camp, it’s time for you to let them spread their wings. I know the first year my daughter went to camp, I stalked her on the camp website searching for pictures of her having fun. If she wasn’t on any pics or if she was not smiling when they snapped the photo, my imagination ran wild. She was miserable or sick for sure. Then, as I eagerly checked the mailbox each day without a letter from her, I was sure she would hate me forever for sending her off. Needless to say, this was all just plain silly. She was happy and having a ball. In other words, no news is good news.

Here’s some advice from one Type A person to another: parents just need to chill. Your child is going to have a great experience while at camp no matter if you forgot to send his favorite  water bottle or beloved stuffed animal. They will come home happy yet smelly and tired with a trunk full of dirty clothes. They will tell you all about camp in their own time and I am sure the stories will make you smile with the knowledge that your child made some great memories that will last a lifetime!

Funny Research

Answers from Actual Campers:

What do you NOT need at camp?

– a toothbrush (make that dentist appointment for a cleaning the week your child gets home)

– stationery (guess you won’t be getting any letters)

– You only need one towel and one washcloth (yuck!)

This article appears in the April 2018 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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