Packing for Camp

With summer vacation finally here, children are getting more and more excited about camp. The registration forms have been signed and the fees have been paid. You and your child are preparing for his or her summer away. With the clock to camp ticking down, the American Camp Association (ACA) is here to help you organize and pack all the essentials for a fun-filled camp experience.

A day at camp can be filled with endless possibilities: swimming, hiking, playing sports – the list goes on and on. With all of these different activities (not to mention changes in weather), it is important to pack the right materials for your child. You may have questions regarding what you should or should not send to camp with your son or daughter. What’s too much? What’s too little? It’s a good idea for you and your camper to plan ahead and pack light! Your child will be living out of a duffel bag, trunk or suitcase for the duration of his or her camp experience. With limited space, packing light ensures that your camper keeps track of personal belongings and can handle his or her own luggage at camp.

Most camps will provide an in-depth packing list to campers and their parents. Carefully review this list to ensure your camper has everything needed for his or her summer. Among the essential items to remember are headgear to protect campers from the sun, as well as eye glasses, sunglasses and swimming goggles. Pack a variety of clothing including t-shirts, swim suits, shorts, jackets, long pants and raincoats for cooler or rainy days. Don’t forget bed and bath needs such as towels, toiletries and pillows. Check with the camp to see what kind of bedding is required, as some camps provide sheets, blankets, etc. Your camper may also require a sleeping bag for camp trips.

Appropriate footwear is one of the most crucial items to pack for your child before sending him or her to camp. Your camper may be hiking, spelunking, running or heading to the beach or pool while at camp, so be sure to consider what types of footwear he or she will need. ACA recommends families consider packing boots, tennis shoes, sandals and lots of socks. And remember that this footwear should be broken in before the start of camp, as sore feet can definitely hinder your camper’s experience.

Additional items to pack may include books and magazines, flashlights, batteries, Frisbees or other toys, a water bottle and writing materials. Many camps discourage campers from bringing electronic devices such as cell phones, mp3 players and tablets. Some camps do allow campers to bring cell phones, but insist that campers keep the device either in their cabin or another designated location such as the camp office. Be sure to check camp policies before sending these devices to camp with your child.

Remember to label everything you send to camp. Most camps will ask you to label each item, including clothing, personal items and toiletries, to ensure your camper’s belongings can be distinguished from those of his or her fellow campers.

ACA recommends that your family prepare for camp together. Decisions about camp, including what to pack, should be made by both you and your child. When your child participates in the decision-making process, he or she is more likely to have a positive experience at camp. The more ownership your camper has in these decisions, the easier the adjustment and transition to camp will be.

For individual and special questions, contact your camp director. Camp directors welcome the opportunity to assist you and your camper as you prepare for this exciting and life-changing experience.

For more expert advice on what to pack, visit ACA’s parent resource at

The American Camp Association® (ACA) is a national organization; 10,000 members strong, it is actively working with over 2,700 camps. ACA is committed to collaborating with those who believe in quality camp and outdoor experiences for children, youth, and adults. ACA provides advocacy and evidence-based education and professional development, and is the only national accrediting body for the organized camp experience. For more information, visit  


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