by Jesse Garner Posted May 19, 2021
Alright, parents. We know that packing can be difficult. Should you send your camper with the blue tennis shoes or the red ones? What should you avoid packing? Are eight shirts enough? Too much? These are just a few of the questions that are likely running through your mind. That’s why we’ve made you a comprehensive guide to packing for youth camp. By the end of this guide you’ll be more informed than you are at the end of a Schoolhouse Rock episode.
Before we begin, take a look at our suggested packing list. We think it’s a pretty good list. (At least our moms think so.)
It’s not that the clothing itself needs to be flexible (although that is helpful!), but campers wear the same clothes for a variety of different activities. For the purposes of clothing, camp is divided into two areas: water or not water. Campers pretty much wear the same thing for all activities that don’t involve water except at camps with horses, which require long pants.
So with that in mind, modest, lightweight athletic clothing is the best option. Campers are outside going from activity to activity for the majority of the day. We think it works best to send a clean shirt for every morning they are at camp, plus an extra three (for a total of nine for a typical one week camper). We also recommend a fresh pair of shorts for each day of camp.
Snacks are not needed since campers get three full meals a day, plus any snacks they decide to purchase in the camp store. However, many campers like to have some of their favorite snacks with them. Some parents choose to send snacks in care packages rather than using space in their trunk or suitcase. We talk more about this in our care packages guide. Two things are important to remember about sending snacks: food must be packed in resealable containers (hello, ants!) and can only be eaten at set times during the day.
Our general rule is that if you would not bring something to public school, you should not bring it to camp. So this includes alcohol, firearms, tobacco, any electronics (Game Boys, tablets, cell phones, Kindles), fireworks, “prank” supplies like shaving cream or silly string, gum, or e-cigarettes or juuls.
Some parents get confused by our restriction on books and magazines. “Don’t you want my camper to read!?” Yes. We fully support reading—during the rest of the summer. It’s too easy for books and magazines to be distractions that prevent campers from engaging with the rest of their cabin and in camp activities. We also want campers to be able to focus on God’s Word. So even if the reading material raises no objections, if it gets packed we’re going to hang on to it to reduce distractions. It won’t be gone forever—we’ll return it at the end of the week.
All medicines and related supplies go to the nurse and are kept at the nurse’s office. See more details in our in-depth guide to medication.
Try packing your camper’s clothes into large ziplock baggies and labeling them by day. We try to prevent it from happening, but sometimes you see photos of younger campers in the same outfit a couple days in a row. When everything is in one bag it’s so easy to grab it in the morning, get changed, and go.
We know it sounds crazy, but sometimes campers lose items. We want to prevent this as much as possible! If you label initials on clothing tags, inside backpacks, inside shoes, on the exterior of laundry bags, and anywhere else you can, you’ll ensure your camper gets home with (hopefully) everything they brought.
It’s certainly not required, but we recommend using a plastic trunk (they’re about $20 at Academy and Walmart) rather than a suitcase or duffle bag. It’s easier to organize and clean after camp is over. Plus, if they are fifteen inches or shorter, they slip under our bunk beds easily. Many campers choose to decorate their trunks for camp with paint pens, which is a fun project for a summer’s day before camp starts!
Send a trash bag for wet clothes. There’s nothing worse than opening your camper’s trunk and being bombarded by the smell of mildew and wet clothes. Try and save yourself the hassle by packing some trash bags for wet clothes and explaining how to use them to your camper.
The most important thing about shoes is making sure your camper has at least one if not two pairs of closed-toed options. Because of terrain, all of our camps (except the Shores) only allow closed-toed shoes to be worn during the day, including when walking to and from the pool. Crocs count as closed-toe shoes for everything except for the ropes course and horses, so those can be an option in addition to tennis shoes. Shoes get dirty quickly at camp, so avoid packing brand-new shoes. They will not look new by the end of the week!
This ultimately is a matter of personal preference, but we recommend regular twin-sized sheets and a blanket over a sleeping bag. They’re a little more work to set up, but so much more comfortable for six (or thirteen) nights. If you do opt for a sleeping bag, make sure it is warm enough for normal A/C, but not meant for sleeping outside in really low temperatures and therefore too warm.
For campers who struggle with bedwetting, staying overnight can be anxiety inducing. Our staff are trained to be discreet when they discover bedwetting to make sure it does not become a distraction within the cabin. It’s always helpful to discreetly let your counselor know this might happen. One camper mom has a great system that we thought we’d share as an option to talk through with your camper:
“The good thing is that the bathroom stalls are private so other campers can’t see him with pull-ups. We have a system where I would pack each day’s change of clothes in a ziplock with clean underwear and a paper lunch sack hidden inside. In the morning he would bring his ziplock into the bathroom stall while wearing his pajamas and pull-up. He’d change and put his wet pull-up into the paper bag so it wasn’t obvious what was inside, then come out of the stall and throw the paper bag in the trash.”
The most important thing to know about medication is that all meds must be kept in their original containers and turned in to the nurse on opening day. For everything else you need to know about medicine at camp, please visit our medication guide.
Don’t forget about theme nights! They’re one of the best parts of camp. Before you start stressing out, check out our in-depth guide to theme night costumes. In regard to packing, our recommendation is the same: put costume pieces in ziplock bags labeled by night.
Campers participate in a Bible study every day, and as they get older they may also have an individual reading and reflection time. So bringing a Bible is important! We are occasionally asked what kind of Bible we recommend campers bring. This is a challenging question to answer since there is not one Bible or translation we recommend, and we certainly do not want parents feeling like they need to go buy a new Bible just for camp. Whatever Bible you have is probably great as long as it is age-appropriate for your child and is a translation that is easy to read (we love our KJV at times, but all those “thees” and “thous” are really hard for campers to understand!).
We go into more detail in our opening day guide, but here’s how we recommend having your stuff organized when you leave the house:
When you arrive, our staff will open your car trunk and grab your trunk to send it on its way to your cabin. No lugging trunks across camp at Pine Cove! But keep the rest of your items with you. When you get to the cabin, you can make the bed with your camper to get them settled, and they can change for their swim test (or just take off their outer layer of clothes) without needing to wait for their trunk to arrive. You’ll also have all your meds handy to turn in at the nurse’s station.
We hope this guide was helpful in giving you an in-depth understanding of packing for camp. Have more questions? We’d love to help! Contact us here.