Summer Camp Essentials

Posted by Whole Earth | 05.23.2023

A group of kids at summer camp hike across a rustic bridge


 Summer Camp Essentials 

Summer for kids often means at least one session of summer camp.  Day camps can be devoted to sports or special interests or may have more general offerings over a week where the action moves between playgrounds to pools and field trips. Another option is the traditional sleepaway camp.


No matter what type of camp the kids will be attending, you'll probably have to pull together a collection of basic items for them to wear and to bring with them. Some camps have very detailed lists, others not so much. If your kids' camp has sent a list, pay close attention to what's on it so your child won't be caught short upon arrival and be spared embarrassment or barred from taking part in some activities.


No matter what's on the list, there's one admonition that is repeated by all - label everything with your camper's name! Another suggestion to remember is don't send anything to camp that you would mind being lost or "ruined." No fancy clothing or treasured items that may be easily misplaced or unsuitable for the wear and tear of outdoor fun. 



Backpack - A backpack is a handy way to carry the day's items. Look for one that has an outside pocket for a water bottle.


Clothing - Generally speaking, the summer camp uniform is shorts and a t-shirt. Long pants and long-sleeve tees may be required for some hikes or other activities. Be sure to pack an extra pair of shorts, t-shirt, underwear, and socks in a plastic storage bag in the backpack in case of an unexpected drenching or mud event. The storage bag can also be used to transport wet or muddy clothing home without having to clean the interior of the backpack as well. 


Shoes - Generally speaking, most camps want kids in closed-toe shoes to protect those precious feet except perhaps for trips to the pool or swimming holes where flips or water shoes may be encouraged. Shoes should be broken in ahead of time to keep blisters and discomfort at bay.


Lunch and snacks - An insulated lunch box can help keep food safe and appetizing.


Refillable water bottle - It's summer and kids need to stay hydrated. A refillable water bottle also sets a great example for ditching disposable plastics that are choking the planet. An insulated water bottle can also provide a cold drink on a hot day.  


Swimsuit and towel for pool day - If your child has sensitive skin, you may want to include a rashguard with the swimsuit. You may also want to add a storage bag to transport the wet swimsuit home in the backpack. A quick-drying towel may also be helpful, especially if every day is pool day.


Sunhat and sunglasses - We live in Texas where the sun is big and bright. If camp has lots of outdoor activities a sunhat with a large brim or bill or a pair of sunglasses can help protect kids' eyes.


Sunscreen - Look for a kids' sunscreen rated SPF 50 that absorbs quickly, is waterproof, and has added moisturizers to nourish the skin. And if your child is at the beach or other natural bodies of water consider choosing a reef-friendly brand.


Bug wipes or sprays - Do mosquitoes and other pests find your kids particularly tasty? If so, bug wipes or bug spray may be a necessity to include for day hikes or time on the playground. Wipes may be easier for kids to apply successfully.


Rain poncho - Look for a rain poncho that packs small and can be kept in your child's backpack for a rainy day or afternoon. Consider packing it in a storage bag that can be used to transport it home without dampening everything else in the backpack.


Medications list - Most camps will have you turn over a list of your child's medications,  how they are to be used, and the actual medications at the beginning of the session.


Contact list - This is another required list, and you may want to include one in your child's backpack as well. Try to think through various scenarios so that no matter the time of day, there will be someone to answer the call from the camp should it come. 



Pajamas - What are the nighttime temperatures at camp? Will the campers be sleeping in tents, cabins with air conditioning, or roughing it on backpacking expeditions? And does your child bundle up in bed at home or do they toss the covers off? All these facts can be taken into account for choosing the proper pjs for camp.


Sleeping bag and pillow - Again the nighttime temperatures can be taken into account. In some cases, sheets, a comforter, and a pillow from home may be a better choice than a sleeping bag. Check the temperature rating on the sleeping bag and compare it with the expected temperatures at camp or on the trail for the best choice. If your camper is backpacking, they will appreciate an ultralight compressible pillow.


Toiletries - These would include soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, shampoo, and perhaps deodorant and feminine hygiene products. A bag to ferry the toiletries to and from the bath area could also be useful.


Shower shoes - A pair of flips to wear in the shower may protect from slips, slides, and possible bacterial or fungal infections.


Bath towel - Separate towels for swimming and bathing are best. You may want to consider fast-drying towels for both uses.


Jacket, sweater, or sweatshirt - Evenings and early mornings can be chilly at camp. Your child may appreciate having a jacket or pullover for early morning activities or time around the campfire in the evening.


Flashlight and extra batteries - Nighttime trips to the bathroom or back to the tent or the cabin from the campfire or other evening activities may require a flashlight. So does reading under the covers! Be sure to include extra batteries.


Letter paper, pre-addressed, stamped envelopes, pens - If camp bans electronic devices, your camper may have to use snail mail to keep in touch. Fingers crossed they will follow through!


Quiet time items- Many camps have a quiet time in the afternoon where kids can get a bit of rest napping, reading, or playing games. A book by a favorite author or a card game to share with fellow campers may be welcome diversions.


Laundry bag - Keeping clean clothes separated from those that have been worn will help keep your kids looking fresh throughout the week.


Duffel bag - Depending on how long your child will be at camp a capacious duffel or two may be large enough to carry everything they need for a week at camp. For longer stays, a trunk may be what is required. 



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