Wednesday, June 18

Style: What to Pack for Summer Camp

One childhood memory I don't think I'll ever forget comes from my very first summer at 4-H camp.  One morning during the daily flag ceremony, our group's counselors were walking up and down the line of kids, trying to get them to stand still and be quiet, which is a lot to ask of 9-12 year olds at 7:30 A.M.  Rule follower that I was, I was standing in line between my bunkmates, hand over my heart and ready for the pledge.  I heard my counselor, Kate, tell her best friend, "She's, like, the perfect little camper."

The truth that first summer was, I didn't feel like the perfect little camper.  I was homesick - I'd never been away from my mom for more than a night - and I didn't see what the big fuss was about all of the outdoor activities and competitions.  I would have been happy to find a shady spot under a tree and read a book or draw pictures for a week, but instead, we had to be somewhere and do something all the time.  As the week went on, the horse barn started to call my name, the cold water in the pool felt better each afternoon, campfire seemed like a magical and otherworldly experience, and the older girls in my cabin (they were sixth graders, and therefore had an air of sophistication) started to feel like big sisters (they taught me to use mascara!).  I'd caught the camp bug.

Fast forward to today, and I'm still camping - this time as an adult volunteer.  I'll probably be in a kayak when this post goes live.  I hope the little girls in my lodge aren't perfect campers, because how boring would that be?  I may not be a Girl Scout, but I pride myself on always being prepared for camp - the perfect camper is all grown up.  This post is for anyone packing for camp as a counselor, staff member, or adult volunteer this summer!

Packing For Camp - Basics

The basics:
  • Comfortable, casual tops for summer weather.  Most organized summer camps have a dress code similar to what local middle and high schools have, so tank tops should have thick straps.  If your camp provides t-shirts, woohoo!  One less thing to worry about.
  • Bottoms appropriate for what activities you'll be involved in.  Keep that dress code in mind - shorts should probably have at least a 5 inch inseam.  If you'll be doing any climbing or zip-lining, bring soft, Bermuda-length shorts - regular jean shorts can be really uncomfortable with a harness!  If you'll be riding a horse, jeans or capris are a must to prevent saddle sores. 
  • Twice as many undergarments as you think you'll need - you'll thank me later when a midday change of clothes gives you a more cheerful outlook on life.  Cotton is best because it's breathable.  Don't forget socks if you'll be wearing sneakers or boots!
  • A light hoodie or flannel shirt for chilly mornings and evenings.
  • A light raincoat with a hood.   No one wants to deal with an umbrella at camp.
  • A backpack or drawstring bag so you don't have to run back to your cabin.

Footwear appropriate to your program area or activities:
  • If you'll be around horses: closed toes are a must for riding, boots are good if you'll be leading the horse in any capacity (horses just don't understand that our feet are tiny and fragile).
  • At my camp, all shoes must have a heel strap - this has drastically reduced the number of injuries!  Tevas might not be the most attractive shoes in the world, but they get the job done, and Keen's closed-toe sandals are ideal for aquatic activities like canoeing and kayaking.

Beat-the-heat essentials: 
  • A water bottle that will clip onto your backpack
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip balm with SPF
  • Several bandanas, headbands, and hair ties
Toiletries:  soap, shampoo and conditioner (I avoid floral and sweet-smelling products to decrease the risk of insect stings and bites), toothbrush and toothpaste, razor (I love the Venus + Olay razor so I don't have to pack shave gel), strong deodorant, hairbrush, towels and washcloths (that you wouldn't mind losing)

Medications:  Some camps require counselors and volunteers to check all meds - even the OTC stuff - with the camp EMT or nurse.  Be sure to follow the rules!
  • Allergy medication
  • Allergy cream (bugs WILL bite you)
  • Benzocaine swabs to treat bee stings
  • Triple antibiotic ointment
  • Something for sore muscles (BioFreeze is amazing!)
  • Assorted bandages
  • Insect repellent (check your camp's policies - DEET products may be banned)
  • Aloe vera for treating sunburn
  • Eye drops (sitting around a campfire can cause irritation!)

Pool/lake gear:
  • A one-piece bathing suit or tankini.  My camp has banned bathing suits that tie, which should make sense to anyone who has jumped into a body of water while wearing one and experienced a wardrobe malfunction.  I avoid wearing brightly colored or floral print bathing suits because stinging insects can be attracted to them, and I don't wear red because I don't want to be confused with the lifeguard.
  • Multiple beach towels (so that one can be hanging out to dry while one is in use).

Good to have:
  • A water resistant sports watch with an alarm (don't rely on your phone).
  • Waterproof disposable camera.
  • A plastic/mesh bag to take wet bathing suits and towels home in (I skip this because I throw everything into the washing machine as soon as I get home anyway).
Linking Up:


  1. Hope you have fun volunteering this summer! Looks like you will definitely be prepared.

  2. I absolutely LOVED sleep-away camp growing up and would love to be able to go back. So yes, I'm a little jealous that your able to spend your summers back at camp.

    1. I feel really lucky to be able to go back to camp for a week each year - one of the best things about being a teacher is having that free time. Many of the other adult volunteers use their one week of vacation from work to come to camp - I don't know if I could be THAT dedicated.

  3. Great suggestions!The raincoat is essential! Thanks for stopping by the Boost Your FB Post Party!

    1. Thanks for visiting and for hosting the party! The raincoat came in handy when we had a thunderstorm on the first day of camp.