How to Pack for Camp

John Dockendorf17 May, 2016
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By Jane Dockendorf, executive director

It’s almost here! Camp is right around the corner, which means packing those trunks is getting closer and closer. The great thing about packing for camp is that it builds the excitement and anticipation of camp. And that is part of the fun, right?

For some, this last task before camp can seem a bit overwhelming. But we are here to make this as easy, stress-free, and fun as possible. There is no “right way” to pack for camp, though there are a few tips that will help make things go a little more smoothly.

First of all, read the packing list! It is both online and in the Parent Handbook. I usually make a copy for each of my kids so they have one in their rooms and can think about it, too. This should be done early on so everyone has an idea of what you have and what you need. There is a finite amount of space in a duffel or trunk and cabin, so try your best to stick to the list.

Next is having something in which to pack. You can use either a duffel or a trunk; campers bring both in equal numbers. If your child will go to camp for at least a few years (or if you have younger children who may attend in the future), I recommend buying a camp trunk. They’re easier to keep organized and have more functionality; for example, some have trays that fit on top that help keep daily essentials easily accessible. Trunks fit underneath the bottom bunk, so they need to be no more than 16 inches in height. If bringing a duffel bag, make sure it’s big enough to fit all of their belongings so you’re not packing multiple bags.

Then, start making small piles! Yes, bedrooms may seem cluttered and messy for a few days, but it helps with the final pack and gives kids a sense of ownership of the process. Depending on their age and capability, I have my kids make piles of items in their room. Using the packing list as a guide, they pull out the T-shirts, shorts, socks, etc. that they want to bring. I still have final veto power and modify the stacks numerous times before they go into the trunk, but it gives them some of the responsibility of packing and allows them to know exactly what they have when they get to camp (an important and often overlooked point!).

Then, let the piles sit for a few days; you’ll add to them, switch items out, or remove them completely. At the end of a few days, you’ll have a much better idea of the items you still need to get.

Now it’s time for the “other” items. After I see what they have from their drawers, we look for the items that might somewhere else: the fleece jacket that was packed away in March, the long underwear that is in with the “winter stuff,” the beach towel in the… (where is that beach towel?!?!), the sleeping bag up in the attic, the Crazy Creek in the trunk of the car, and the water bottles in the garage. The non-clothing items are just as important as socks and underwear—do not overlook their importance. Towels for the shower, toiletries, backpack, headlamp and batteries, etc. are necessary items and usually what I have to search for (and sometimes purchase) during the final packing days.

Next is the labeling extravaganza! I cannot stress the importance of labeling everything! Even things that you think would never get misplaced, or are “one of a kind,” get lost! Label water bottles, headlamps, books, socks (they all look alike!), bathing suits, all clothing, towels, everything! You can buy iron-on labels or use a permanent marker.

Finally, put everything in the trunk or duffel. Once everything has been set aside for camp, and everything is labeled, it simply has to be packed up. I put the “every-once-in-a-while” stuff at the bottom. Things like the extra bath towel, pants, and warm layers go in first. Then I put socks and underwear in separate bags, so they are easily accessible regardless of where they end up in the packing (these can be large Ziploc bags or small stuff sacks with a drawstring closure). This isn’t necessary, but can make it easier for your camper. Then in goes the pile of shorts, T-shirts, bathing suits, and the things that they’ll be wearing daily. On top goes the little extras: books, headlamp, stationery, toiletries (in a Ziploc bag to prevent spills). Close it up and voila! You are ready for camp!

A few final things to remember:

  • Bring items that you don’t mind getting dirty, or worse, losing! While we make every attempt to keep campers and their belongings together, things get lost. There is no need for any “good” clothes at camp. Given a choice, I usually send the clothes that are one camp session away from being passed along or outgrown.
  • While the weather is totally unpredictable, packing for it isn’t. Please have your camper prepared for the wet as well as the sunny. When the weather is warm and dry, campers tend to wear the same clothes (again and again). When the weather is cool and wet, clothes get changed more often. If you are going to over-pack on anything, make it a synthetic shirt, wool socks, or an extra bathing suit.
  • Don’t forget the flair! Questions about “flair” top the list about packing. Flair is what we call any silly or special clothing or accessory that campers wear at some evening activities or special days. Flair ranges from silly glasses and funky socks to a superhero cape and a tutu. It can be colorful and fun or just unique and different. We have a stash of some extra “flair” for campers that forget or haven’t found the perfect item to express themselves!
  • A backpack means a “day pack.” Be sure the backpack for your camper can be worn on his/her back on both shoulders. It should be sized to carry everything your camper may need for a day hike: lunch, water bottle, rain jacket, change of clothes, etc. Please, no string bags or messenger bags. Typically, the backpack they have for school works just fine.
  • We send off laundry in the middle of the session. Laundry is done for all campers during the weekend in the middle of camp. Keep this in mind as you pack.
  • For campers that are flying: In your backpack that you carry on the plane, please have your bathing suit, any medications that you may need at camp, an extra T-shirt and shorts (especially if you are wearing pants on the plane), and your toothbrush. If your baggage happens to get delayed, you will have what you need to jump right into camp activities.
  • What we provide: We provide a laundry bag for all of our first-time campers. If you are a returning camper, please bring your laundry bag from last summer. We provide sheets and blankets for your bed and all equipment needed for camping: the tent, sleeping pad, backpack (a larger pack for overnight camping), cooking stoves, utensils, etc.
  • What you DON’T need: Fancy or “good” clothes. Any electronics, including phones, tablets, iPods, video games (they are not allowed at any time during camp). If your camper is flying with a phone, we will collect it upon arrival at camp and keep it until Closing Day. If necessary, pack a charger, and we will charge it up the day before they fly home.
  • Please send a sleeping bag with your camper if you possibly can, we have a limited number available if you need to borrow one.

CALL US! If after reading this, and after looking at the packing list, you still have questions, call us! We want everyone to be prepared for the best summer ever!

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