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How to pack your child for summer camp

I'm certainly not an expert on packing for sleep away camp as our son has only been to summer camp once. Yet, this seems to be a question I see pop up on Facebook every summer. So I thought I'd make some preparation notes here; this way they will be neat and tidy and while not comprehensive for your specific camp, it will give a good starting point.

These notes are all based on a one week sleep away camp in the mountains of Colorado.

We chose a duffle bag rather than a suitcase or a trunk. The duffle was x-large and came from Dick's Sporting Goods. I don't see it on their website any longer, but it was similar to {THIS}. Honestly, it is a personal preference on what you want. What you pick may depend on whether or not you are flying or driving to camp.

Once you've decided on the bag, it is helpful to make a list of everything you need to pack for camp. It is likely that your camp has sent you a list to help get started. DO NOT OVERPACK. Here is a list that we complied and found helpful. Add it to the list your camp has sent.


This would be in addition to the duffle bag you are packing.

Book and/or Bible




Hat and/or Sunglasses

Lightweight Jacket

Rain Jacket or Poncho






Tennis Shoes



Towels (2 – one for showering; one for swimming)

An idea for towels is to buy the camper's favorite color bath towels from Walmart & embroider them with the name. This way it is clear which towels belong to your camper. Get cheap ones just in case they are badly messed up or lost but always have hope you can reuse them the following year. Girls might enjoy this more than boys.

Mesh laundry bag

Sleeping Bag

Fitted sheet

This is great to use on the mattress and then put the sleeping bag on top.


Water bottle


This is a perfect place to take a disposable camera and possibly a waterproof one.

Bug spray

Cortizone cream


Shower shoes

Bathing suits (2)


Your camp may require you to bring a physical, immunization, etc.

When you start packing for your child, the following tips were helpful to us since we had a first timer.

Label everything with their name. Mabel's Labels was helpful for this. ​We got the Iron On and Clothing Stickers. I ironed the name labels on all clothing items. I used the stickers for the bag, notebook, waterbottle, etc. These labels ironed on quickly and almost all of them have stayed on through one wash (which is all I've done since he has returned from camp). I didn't get the sock labels or the shoe labels, but they are offered as well.​

We also got {THIS} for the shower. It worked great!

After everything was labeled and ready, we started packing. Since the campers had to walk to the showers, we found that bagging outfits together, along with underwear and socks, was a great way to get to the shower. Our son could wear his shower shoes, take his shower bag (mentioned above), the plastic bag of clean clothing, and his towel. When he got to the shower, his dirty clothes could go into the plastic bag where the clean clothes were.

These bags were from Target and the "jumbo" size. 12 of them for approximately $2.

Bagged and ready to go.

You may want to send your camper a care package. Since our camp is in the mountains of Colorado, we had to plan ahead as they don't receive mail service each day. Our camper loved receiving things. However, I noticed the pack of UNO cards and a basketball hoop game were unopened when he returned home. He said there was no time to play games in the cabin. So next year, I don't think we'll send any games.

Find out if your camp has any themed nights such as dress up night, glow night, etc. It may give you ideas for care packages as well. Check to see if your camp has an email system for you to send letters to your camper. ​​ ​​Our camp also offered photos they posted online each day. (We logged on with our camp password to view them.) It is wonderful to see photos of your camper smiling! ​​In addition, our camp had a store which we could add money to the account. We could log in and see our camper's purchases.

Some other ideas:

- Bring a little something for everyone in the cabin. It helps break the ice as they are trying to make friends.

- Pack a few boxes of movie size candy along with a note for your child to give the cabin counselor.

- Send a cheap over the door shoe holder and hang it at the end of the bunk. This is good for shoes, sunscreen, bug spray, brush, flash light, etc

- We weren't allowed in the cabins at drop off but if you are, take a can of Lysol and Clorox wipes. Wipe down your camper's area. - Bring a gift for the counselor at pick up. A great idea is a personalized water bottle with a gift card to Target tucked inside. (Our son actually had to go the ER with the nurse from camp, so we brought something for both the nurse and the cabin counselor.)

Summer camp is such a wonderful and fun thing for your child. I hope he/she has a wonderful experience! As I stated earlier, I know this list isn't comprehensive, but it should work as a good start for you when packing.

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