By Cammie Jones

Packing for camp sometimes feels like you need a doctorate to know what is needed and what is not. Camps usually provide packing lists that help but they don’t necessarily answer every question that comes up. Does she need a raincoat? Does he really need to bring a bat and baseball? Will there be any specific needs due to Covid protocols? Although packing lists may look a little different, the basics are the same.  Without that magical packing list to guide your son or daughter in what they will need, below is a practical guide for you and your camper to tackle packing this year.

Check the Website
Check the camp’s website for packing lists. This does not mean you need absolutely everything on their list, but it will have items specific to that particular camping experience. Also, check to see if there are any Covid-related restrictions or new protocols that may affect your list as compared to years prior (pre-COVID).  I am sure the camps are also providing plenty of hand sanitizer, soap and other precautions to keep your little ones healthy.

Label It!
If you want to see that favorite t-shirt or water bottle again, you may want to label it. You can purchase laundry and dishwasher safe labels from many websites. Name Bubbles ( and Mabel’s Labels (—currently running 40% off popular products) are two that come to mind. When my girls went to summer camp, I even labeled their toothpaste and shampoo bottles.

Pack Early
Set up a designated area in your home or child’s room to start your packing piles. Make sure all the items are labeled (see #2 above) and as you do laundry or purchase camp clothes, add them to this area. This is a great way to see what you still need and understand what you can weed out. Print a copy of your child’s packing list to go by.

Stick to the Basics
It’s likely your child is going to want to bring his new Patagonia or her Lululemon sport shirt but if you want it to stay nice, leave it at home. However, if they insist, slap a label on it! Try to encourage your child to stick to the basics—shorts and t-shirts, plenty of undergarments, socks and comfortable shoes. Although our local community includes many fashionistas, camp may not be the place to lug along vogue shoes and designer brand outerwear!

Also, the most important items of the camp’s packing list tend to be at the top. As you go down the list, the items become less essential. Remember, there is not a ton of room in your bag or cabin so try to keep the items simple and useful.

Shower-time Essentials
Most camp showers define the meaning of roughing it so a good pair of flip flops or shower shoes are a must.  Throw in a mesh toiletry bag or plastic bucket to tote shampoo and soap to and from the showers. And… label it!

As for towels, you may want to pack more than you think your child will need. Try to send quick-drying towels and disposable face cleansing wipes instead of washcloths.

Comfy Bedding
Sheets, a blanket and a favorite pillow are important for a good night’s rest. Invest in an egg crate topper if the mattresses are a little hard. They are not too expensive and can be used year to year. And… label it!

Stationery and Stamps
After a quick lesson about how to address a letter and where to put the stamp, do send some stationery with your son or daughter so they can write home. Include an address list of close family and friends.

If you have inadvertently left something out of the camp trunk that your child needs, it will be okay. Keep on scanning those daily camp photo posts to make you feel better that even though you packed six t-shirts for your son, he is wearing the same one every day! Or, as you anxiously await a letter at the mailbox from your daughter, the pictures show her smiling and laughing with her new friends.

Time to get to packing, campers!

What NOT to pack for summer camp

Valuable items or jewelry/a large
Amount of cash
Water balloons
Food or candy (unless you want ants in your cabin!)
CD player
Game Boy/Playstation/video games
Television/DVD player
Cell phones
Cigarettes/vape devices/JUULs

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