Summer Camp Packing Tips and a Printable Packing List

Knowing what to pack for summer camp can be an exhausting task, since the list of necessary items often reads like a novel. Sleepaway camp can be a great adventure for your child, but forgetting the basic necessities can put a damper on the experience. How can you prepare yourself and your child to have an amazing time with the least amount of stress possible? We suggest using these summer camp packing tips and a printable packing list so nothing gets left behind.

What to Pack for Summer Camp with Printable Packing List-Kids Are A Trip

Tips for Packing for Sleepaway Camp

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1. Summer camp tips and tricks

Read all of the information the camp sends you well in advance so you know exactly what to expect. In fact, go back and re-read the sleepaway camp tips. Sometimes a kids camp will have special items they require that aren’t found on a typical packing list. (On camp theme nights kids might want to dress up, so they will need items for that).

The paperwork from the summer camp will tell you the ins and outs of the camp and daily routines. Adventure camp may have additional waivers for liability reasons. Fill out all forms ahead of time and be sure to ask if you have any questions.

2. Summer camp packing list tips

I’ve included a summer camp printable packing list template to make it easy. This has most of the items you could possibly need. A few things I did not include were: jeans and dressy clothes (you might need them depending on the camp), books (some camps might have a lending library), a combination lock (if required for a foot locker), and Ziplocs which can be used for wet clothes and dirty laundry if you don’t have a laundry bag.

When packing for summer camp, roll clothes to save space and put socks and underwear inside shoes. If your child needs all the help they can get, consider packing an outfit a day in a gallon size Ziploc bag. When they are done, they can just put the dirty clothes back in the bag (if they remember).

Use packing cubes to sort smaller items and toiletries. Pack thin towels that will dry quickly, and consider sending baby powder for swimsuit chafing. Pack extra underwear, socks, and sunscreen just in case. I guarantee they’ll use them.


3. Only send items you don’t mind losing

I say this only half joking, but with my kids, they lose things at home, so it’s a given they will lose things at camp. I send them with older clothes, hats, and shoes, basically items I don’t mind getting lost or being thrown away when they return home.

4. Leave the technology at home

My kids are exposed to enough technology at home, and I truly want them to enjoy the experience of summer camp. I also don’t pay hundreds of dollars for them to go play video games for two weeks. Taking a cell phone with them will only be a distraction and prevent them from making new friends.

Also, having a phone available can actually make them more home sick when they know mom and dad are only a phone call away. Not to mention it’s one more valuable item to worry about losing, so leave it at home, they’ll be fine without it.

Speaking of valuables, check with your camp about spending money. Our camp has a debit account set up by parents ahead of time so we don’t need to send cash with our child.

Technology is Everywhere
Leave the phones at home, they will survive without them.
Photo credit: Karlis Dambrans on Flickr

5. Don’t forget the essentials for sleepaway camp

The camp will have a nurse or infirmary where prescription medications will be kept for the duration of your child’s stay. They also will have all the basic first aid necessities so there is no need for you to bring your own. It is up to your child to manage their contacts, glasses, and/or retainer, so if your child hasn’t been to sleep-away camp before, you may want to discuss the importance of these items ahead of time.

If your child has food allergies you will want to make sure your child understands what to do in case of an emergency and be sure the camp counselor has your child’s medication on hand and knows how to use it.

What to Pack for Sleepaway Camp-Kids Are A Trip

6. Label everything

There’s a reason everyone says to label your child’s clothing before sending them off to camp. It’s because the odds are pretty high that they’re going to lose at least one item while they’re away. I wouldn’t say you have to label everything, but if you don’t, send a Sharpie along with your child so they can label anything you might have missed.

You might also want to explain to them where they should label. A friend of mine’s son labeled his shirt by writing his name on the outside of the shirt. True story.

Summer camp kids having fun-Kids Are A Trip

7. Relax and enjoy yourself

Once you have delivered your child safely to camp, the only thing left to do is to enjoy yourself. Don’t fret over every little thing. Your child will be fine without you. Think of this as a learning experience for both of you and when your child returns, you’ll both appreciate each other a little bit more. (And if you need something to do while the kids are at camp, check out our favorite books to read this summer!)

Relax, you deserve it!
Photo credit: Evan Forester on Flickr
Sleepaway Camp Packing Tips and Packing List


  1. After reading your pack smart tips I realize what a lousy packer I am as a grown-up. As parents, we worry that our child won’t enjoy their trip as much if something important is missing from their bags. Your packing list is a great safeguard against that happening.

  2. We are getting ready for our third year. Each one gets a little easier, both the packing and the feeling like my heart has been ripped out as I wait for her to return. Thanks for the tips!

  3. It’s so funny. As I sat there packing everything into my son’s bag, I was questioning how he could really ever use all the stuff he was taking. Then I remind myself that he needs all the help he can get and better to be prepared as the Boy Scouts say. : )

  4. Tamara, is it really that bad? How long does she go for? We’ve only done a week and the time seems to fly by!

  5. What a fabulous post! Love the printable. So glad I found this blog via SITS Girls!

    PS: Chicago is our favorite city, but the winters? Not sure I could handle them all the time.

  6. Sher, thanks for stopping by. I’m with you about Chicago winters. Been here for 10 years and they are still tough to handle. Thank goodness for summer!

  7. I keep thinking I need to do a post like this. My sons have been to more camps, Scout Campouts, church trips plus every other kind of adventure since they were little kids. My youngest went for a full week church camp at 7 years old and never batted an eye over it! I could barely grab him for a goodbye hug. One summer, that same kid spent 5 full weeks in a tent at various Scout outings. In fact, my youngest and my husband are both leaving in the morning for a week of service on an Indian reservation down in the Four Corners area. I think these are all good tips – one thing I might add is a small baggie of common remedies – Pepto bismol, allergy meds, Tylenol, etc. I know most camps have these things, but not all and there was one Scout camp where something got into the water supply and everyone in camp was sick as a dog! My son has never been that sick in his life and no one even called me. They just let him tough it out – clueless men!

  8. Oh Adrian, you truly have some experience with this topic. Definitely a bag of first aid products would be a great addition. I remember when my son when on a Scouting campout and they basically had no Tylenol to help with his headache so my husband had just brought him home. I agree, men! : )

  9. The tip about only packing things you don’t mind if your child loses at camp is a very important one, but it can often be one that is easily overlooked. At summer camp, your child will be running around and having fun, so they will likely forget there things or forget to take care of things. Outdoors can be fun, but it can also ruin your nice things, so be sure to send your child off to camp with everything they might need but not with things you don’t mind never seeing again.

  10. Isn’t that the truth? My son can be so irresponsible, I never plan on seeing any of those things I send with him again!

  11. I am a frequent flyer and I do go travelling a lot. Yet recently, I usually take my daughter with me. We both love nature and being a part of nature. In deed, in this early Jan 2017, we plan to take a trip to enjoy the atmostphere when the spring comes. We both love fashionable backpack in pink. Any good recommendation on this?
    Thank you for sharing these info and please keep it up.

  12. Lisa, do you mean a backpack for hiking or a backpack your daughter can ride in?

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