Scenic view of trees at camp

Packing For Family Camp

by Valerie MorbyPosted Feb 20, 2015

Family at Summer Camp

Editor’s Note: The following post was written by Olivia Engstrom, a longtime Pine Cove Bluffs family camper. She has some great tips on packing for camp that we think will be very helpful for anyone heading to family camp this summer!


So you’re going to family camp! Lucky you. This is our family’s favorite time of the year. Whenever someone asks our kids what they are doing for the summer, they always respond with an exuberant, “PINE COVE!” This will be our fifth summer at the Bluffs, and every year we are blessed by the staff, the memories, and the chance to kingdom build in our families’ hearts.

But it can be overwhelming to pack for so many people! Good news: we have a few tips for you.

1) Usually, I save the best for the last, but not this time. This time it is important for you to know that unlike your days of youth camp growing up when you go camping as an adult YOU CAN LEAVE CAMP GROUNDS WHENEVER YOU WANT! What?! Really?! Yes, they give you the gate code and everything. This means if you forget to pack something, you are 100% free to run to Walmart or anywhere else you might need to go. Woohoo! Packing just got a little less overwhelming.

2) Follow the list the camp provides. It really is helpful, and amazingly, they have been doing this for so long that they have thought of almost everything! Here are a few things to note:

  • The thing I most regularly forget are LONG PANTS for the kids. They need them for horseback riding, but it’s just not that intuitive to pack long pants when it is 100 degrees outside. We have bought pants at Target several times.
  • Bring beach towels, but the camp will provide you with bath towels and will freshen them up every few days.
  • The camp also provides life jackets and puddle jumpers. We like to pack goggles for our kids as well as some pool toys – we label these but generally plan on not being disappointed if they don’t make it home with us.
  • We have found packing two outfits a day is about right for each member of our family, including two swimsuits if possible. The camp is pretty hot and sweaty, and sometimes you just want fresh clothes for the evening. There are a washer and dryer available to you, but let’s be honest, no one wants to spend much time doing laundry while at family camp.
  • We have also found that we should leave the cute and handsome church-type clothes at home. They just don’t need them. Gym shorts and t-shirts are the way to go!

3) Here’s another favorite thing we have learned over the years: skip the suitcases and the duffle bags and pack in pop up laundry hampers! I usually pack my husband and me in one laundry hamper, and the kids in another. After we get to camp, we put everyone’s clothes on the dresser and cubbies provided, set up the hampers, and throw our dirty clothes right back in them. When its time to head home, those hampers go in the car and straight to our laundry room!

4) We also pack a small backpack or bag for each child. They fill it with a few toys to play within the car on our way, and then they use it at camp to carry their swimsuits, towels, goggles, bibles, etc. For the little ones, I bring a bag that can fit their blanket and stuffed animal for nap times, diapers, a change of clothes, etc. When we first started at Pine Cove, we would bring a lot of toys and books for the room, but over the years, we have brought less and less. There is just not that much time in the room and the kids are SO tired that they don’t need much entertainment. I also like to pack a small bag for myself that I can take to the pool or wherever.

family camp costumes

5) Still stressed? Here’s one less thing to worry about: theme nights! Dressing six people up in Dr. Seuss outfits seems crazy at first, but this can be as simple or elaborate as you like. If you enjoy this sort of thing, go all out! Your kids – and everyone else’s kids – will love your amazing costumes. Not into dress up? Grab a simple hat or shirt for everyone and no one will judge you. Also, helpful to know: some parents dress up and some do not. Again, do not stress; do whatever will be most fun for your family. Note: our kids do usually think it is very awesome when we dress up, and we have had tons of fun over the years looking like complete goofballs.

6) Afraid its going to take forever to load and unload your car with all of these pop hampers and backpacks? Good news! When you get to camp, the counselors will unload your entire car for you! They will also help you pack it back up.

7) Here’s a little about the room set up. These are beautiful and amazing cabins! Pine Cove provides the bedding. They will also change your sheets if you have bedwetters – hooray! There is also a private bathroom and a number of cubbies. We like to set up one sink for the kids to use and one sink for the adults to use – keeps things from getting out of control on the vanity.

8) Bring snacks! We like to bring things like granola and power bars, packages of goldfish, oreos (obviously), and m&m’s – don’t judge. Oh, and microwave popcorn! There are microwaves in the dining hall that you can use. We also like to stock our mini fridge with diet coke, soda waters, and juice boxes for the kids! Is this necessary? Definitely not, but it is nice. Pine Cove will feed you a lot of quality food, and they do always have fruit available if you get hungry.

9) We have been bringing babies to camp since we started at Pine Cove. Pine Cove is awesome with the tiny ones. Here are some things to know:

  • Consider bringing a small umbrella stroller. No real need for a huge jogging stroller or anything, but a small stroller can be helpful at times.
  • The camp will provide you a pack-and-play. We like to set ours up in the bathroom.
  • If you take baby bottles to the kitchen, they will so kindly run them through the dishwasher/sanitizer for you. I also like to pack a small thing of dish soap and a bottle brush so that I can wash them in our room.
  • Bring a baby monitor or download the babyphone app (or another monitor app) on your phone. This way you can at least be out on your porch at night while your little one is sleeping.
  • Pine Cove has highchairs and sippy cups. Of course, if your child is particular, bring along whatever you like.

10) Here are some extra things we like to bring along. These aren’t necessary, but I promise they will make your week extra fun!

    • A small fan. Sometimes we use this in our room, especially if you have noisy sleepers. But most of the time, our family uses this out on the patio, again so that we can sit outside!
    • GLOW STICKS! If you have younger children, these are amazing fun at night. We also usually throw in bubbles, ring pops, sidewalk chalk, and maybe a frisbee or a football.
    • A blue tooth speaker! Or something that you can play music on. (And, of course, camp appropriate music.) Again, we use this both in our cabin and on our porch.
    • We also like to bring camp chairs. Each cabin is provided with a few rocking chairs, but its nice to have a few extra chairs so your whole family can sit outside or so you can invite all of your new family friends to come hang out and chat!

Good luck parents! This will be a really terrific week for your family, and the packing will be all worth it once you get there and see the joy your family experiences!


Valerie Morby

Social Media Manager

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