Even though you may have packed your child up for a family vacation, at a Christian Camp, lots of times, packing for summer camp is different. Once you’ve got the obvious covered—clothing for hot days, cool evenings, and wet weather, personal toiletries and any medications, a backpack—sorting out the must-haves can get a bit confusing.
The first thing to do is check with your child’s camp to determine precisely what is and isn’t provided. For instance, a few camps require that you bring your own bedding or bath towels. Also, ask if any “performance” clothing is required. Many camps have the kids put on productions or skits for which costumes or special garments might be needed. Another possibility is a dance or awards dinner, which may call for clothing you probably wouldn’t think to pack, like chinos. Lastly, find out if your child will need a tent or other outdoor gear. Some summer camps and retreat centers have kids sleeping under the stars as much as possible, while at others, campers are nestled in their cabins every night.
You’ll also want to consider how long your child will be there. Camp sessions of two weeks or longer may necessitate packing items (such as nail clippers) you’d be able to skip for shorter stays.
You may also want to consider the following:
- Water shoes
- New toothbrush
- Flip flops
- Insect repellent
- Beach towel
- Rain poncho
- Swim shirt
- Swim goggles
- Laundry bag
- Water bottle
- Toiletry caddy
- Camp-proof phone
- Hand sanitizer
Flow these tips to make packing fun and successful.
#1 Print out and use the packing list your camp provides!
This seems like obvious advice, but it’s fundamental to your packing success. Your camp has specific activities and requirements and has spent time carefully, creating a list of appropriate and necessary items for your camper’s comfort. If the list is online, print it and use it as a checklist as you get items laid out for camp. If your camp mailed a paper list, make an extra copy in case the original gets misplaced.
#2 Have your camper do most of the work.
When your camper is away, you won’t be there to help locate towels, socks, or flip flops. It’s essential for kids to feel empowered and responsible for their belongings before they leave for camp because learning to keep track of their stuff is a way kids grow from their camp experience. So, whether it’s laying out items on the packing list, labeling things, or packing a trunk, let your camper lead the way. Even young kids enjoy counting out their six pairs of socks! For younger kids (under age 10), use a teamwork approach to packing. For older kids, provide some oversight, like making sure they don’t pack a dry-clean-only shirt!
#3 Label EVERYTHING.
On behalf of all camp and retreat center staff in America, I plead with you to make sure everything your camper brings is labeled. The lost and found table is often overflowing with unlabeled items many campers walk past without recognizing. Labeled items have a much better chance of making it home. You can use a Sharpie permanent marker and have your camper help label things with at least a first name and last initial, OR you can order stick-on labels that make it easy to delegate this task to your child completely. I’ve used these labels in the past and found them easy and very useful.
#4 Roll outfits or place in large zippered storage bags.
At some camps, campers live out of their luggage (suitcase, footlocker, duffel bag, or backpack). It’s challenging to keep a suitcase or duffel bag organized; while rummaging for one item, the rest of the clothing gets tossed and unfolded inside. I am a big proponent of keeping outfits rolled up. Simply layout a t-shirt and shorts, place underwear and socks in the middle and wrap the whole outfit like a burrito. Not only does rolling outfits help more items fit in the luggage, but it also makes it much more likely that your camper will change their underwear! Double win.
#5 Include some extras.
Your camp’s packing list may or may not include some optional, extra items that many kids enjoy:
• A comfort item to sleep with (stuffed animal, special blanket, etc.)
• Letter writing materials: Postcards or envelopes (already pre-addressed and stamped!) make it easy for your camper to write letters home, which you will want to get while your trailer is away.
• Book to read: Many camps don’t allow electronics or e-readers, and even if they do, there may be no power source to charge the device. “Real” books made of paper are best for camp.
There you have it. Just a few Christian Camp packing tips to help make your retreat center preparations go smoothly.