What to Pack for Overnight Summer Camp

Alina Bitel
Written by
for Camps USA
What to Pack for Overnight Summer Camp

Helping your children pack for overnight camp can sometimes feel like shipping them off to a foreign country. We all take for granted common items that our family uses everyday, and as a parent, you might have plenty of questions. Do the cabins provide towels and linens? Should I pack games or snacks? Knowing what and how much to pack for your individual child takes careful thought and planning. The guidelines below can give you peace of mind and ensure that your kids have everything they need for the summer.

Follow the camp’s rules and recommendations.

A quick Internet search reveals plenty of sample packing lists for a sleep-away camp. While these generalized lists can prove helpful, check with your particular summer camp to find out if they have a packing list tailor-made for their program. For example, some places might require a sleeping bag and pillow, while other camps provide bedding.

Each summer camp will also set its own rules regarding electronics, food and contraband items. These policies exist to keep everyone safe, happy and focused on camp activities, so research what is and is not allowed, including cell phones, handheld video games, MP3 players, weapons, glass containers and other objects.

Ask about the rules regarding medication. Some camps require you to hand over all prescription drugs, and even over-the-counter pills like Tylenol, to the camp nurse. Furthermore, only the staff know if other people’s children have severe food allergies. Heeding the rules regarding snacks and beverages can prevent serious problems.

Prepare for different kinds of events and circumstances.

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Summer camps often host special events, such as a formal dance, 80s night, color war or messy games day, each of which entails certain types of clothes and accessories. Think ahead about what your child will participate in, and pack accordingly. The official list will also include special items, like a Bible for Christian camp or a musical instrument for band camp.

Consider the length of the stay. Seven outfits plus a spare change of clothes should suffice for a week-long camp, but a month-long camp might require a laundry bag, detergent and quarters.

Forecasts are notoriously fickle, so prepare for all types of weather. Southern states get cold snaps, and a light jacket can’t hurt. Likewise, Northern states experience pleasant days, so include at least one pair of shorts. Don’t forget a rain jacket, boots and umbrella.

Think practically.

Remember that your child is going to camp to make friends and have fun, not impress everyone with a stylish wardrobe or brand new stuff. Pack comfortable clothing and shoes for outdoor living, including T-shirts, sneakers, flip-flops for the pool and a hat to block out the sun. Include at least two bathing suits and two towels so that they have time to dry out.

Don’t forget summer essentials like a flashlight, bug spray, sunscreen and water bottle, and make sure your kids remember to use them.

Don’t over pack.

While it’s important to remember all the necessities, limit your child’s packing to fit inside a small or medium duffle bag and a backpack or tote. Campers may need to carry their own luggage, so avoid anything heavy or bulky.

Bringing the appropriate amount of stuff also shows consideration for other campers when space is limited. Consider what the camp already makes available, such as sports equipment.

Don’t send anything valuable or irreplaceable.

Avoid packing valuables like jewelry or sentimental objects. No matter how careful your child is, items can easily get lost or damaged at an overnight camp. Label everything, and reconsider before buying everything new.

Speak to other parents.

Learn from the “veterans,” who might offer better advice than the official list. Their experience can tell you what you really need or don’t need. In addition, if your child has friends going to camp, they might be able to share certain items, like a deck of cards or large bottle of sunscreen.

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