Expert Advice on What to Bring

Melissa Erickson
This article appears in Summer Camp Guide 2020

Most camps offer packing lists and guidance on what to bring and what not to bring, but the main summer camp essentials are a kind, open mind and a willingness to make new friends and try new things.

“When kids go in ready to try new things they’re not stuck in their comfort zone, and that’s how they make new friends and connect with others,” said Louis Lasko, assistant camp director at Camp Laurelwood in Madison, Connecticut.

Bring extra

In addition to being welcoming and receptive to new things, campers should pack extra towels or at least the suggested amount.

“If the camp recommends bringing six towels, don’t pack two and think you’ll be fine,” Lasko said. With all the swimming, sailing and showering plus rain, “you can never have enough,” Lasko said.

For an upgrade campers can buy a quick-dry towel made of microfiber that is super absorbent yet dries faster than cotton.

It’s also good advice to pack extra socks and underwear because campers often change clothes between activities, especially if that includes lake hikes and messy craft times.

Hydration is vital

“Reusable water bottles are environmentally friendly, often durable and portable. It is quite possible that your child’s cabin will go on a hike or keep on the move throughout the day,” said Kyle Winkel, spokesperson for the American Camp Association. “If there are not an abundance of water fountains at the camp, it is important that your camper is able to stock up to continue hydrating throughout the day.”

Get comfortable

Younger kids may bring along a cherished stuffed animal to snuggle with while older ones may like to spend down time listening to music, Lasko said.

“Relatively cheap MP3 players not connected to a phone or internet do exist,” Lasko said.

Photos of family, friends and pets can make a cabin feel more like home and are great conversation starters for new friends, Lasko said.

During quiet cabin times, board and card games give kids a chance to interact, Lasko said. Go with classics like Go Fish and Mad Libs, or try something newer such as Exploding Kittens or Code Names.

“Books are always popular with both boys and girls,” Lasko said.

Don’t forget

Since most campers will be walking outside to the bath house a decent pair of flip-flops is a must, Lasko said. A handy basket to tote along soap, shampoo and toothpaste is also a good idea.

A flashlight and extra batteries, a stationary kit, a battery-operated clip fan, musical instrument or cheap, disposable cameras are also great additions to pack in your duffel bag.

Leave at home

Phones, tablets and anything else that connects to the internet should be left at home, Lasko said.

“We want to make sure that kids are fully present. If kids have these devices it’s too easy for them to sit and play on them all day long,” he said.

Don’t pack outside food.

“Every year we have to remind families. We’re not trying to be mean. It’s about safety both for kids with allergies and keeping wildlife out of cabins,” Lasko said.

Don’t send expensive, irreplaceable things like jewelry. No matter how careful campers are, things get lost, Lasko said. Label everything.