Camp Packing = Mom Olympics: The Ultimate Unofficial Camp Packing List

camp packing list

I truly had no idea and I actually secretly thought it was pretty annoying when everyone acted all stressed out and could talk about nothing other than packing their kids for sleepaway camp.

As with most things of this nature (i.e. stuff I had never personally done before) I learned I should probably reserve judgment until I was in the hot seat pretty quickly the moment I started packing my oldest for his first month at sleepaway camp.

Things have changed… a lot since my Camp Mac days. My mom packed my sister and me each a big ass trunk (like a hard trunk – looked like we were packing up to join the circus) and my parents drove us to Munford, AL where we could commence a 2-ish hour unpacking frenzy that would rival freshman dorm move-in day in both chaos and stress level. Sometimes the goodbyes were tearful, sometimes… through clenched teeth. That day was not my favorite at camp.

But you better believe I enjoyed the hell out of myself for 4 weeks living out of a METICULOUSLY curated and packed trunk full of anything and everything I might need while I was away. From pre-addressed envelopes that matched stationery with a stick figure in my likeness on which to write home to perfectly paired outfits to coordinating shower caddies to insect repellant to blankets that smelled like home, DK thought of everything.

Of course, I understood and appreciated every last nuance and thoughtful detail, used all of the items for their intended purpose and took extra care to make sure they all came back home in perfect condition.

YEAH RIGHT. I wore the top layer of clothes the entire month, subjecting them to the industrial-strength camp laundry machines 4x, resulting in my adorable outfits coming back in SHREDS. I bummed bug spray and sunscreen from a friend all summer only to find it carefully packed in my trunk with all the other necessities I had so carelessly overlooked. Related: I mentioned I operate with a bit of an attention deficit, yes? Summer camp Lauren was unmedicated and neuro-spicy AF. ANYWAY – since I am pretty sure my mom is the only one who reads these posts, I’ll just go ahead and say I’m so, SO sorry and adult/mom Lauren appreciates you more than you know!

Fast forward 35ish years later and I’m packing my own darling neuro-spicy child for 4 weeks of summer camp in Maine and this shit is a lot harder than it looks.

Here’s what I have going for me:

It’s required that we ship his luggage 2ish weeks before camp and some sweet counselor decides what bed he will occupy, make it up with the things I send, and UNPACKS ALL THE REST OF HIS JUNK BEFORE HE GETS THERE. I guess somebody finally figured out that it might not be the smoothest of send-offs when your mom is channeling all of her separation anxiety into hospital corners and perfectly floofed backrest pillows and you arrive at camp and just immediately start to play.

No care packages of any kind are allowed. Nobody’s getting them. Don’t even have to think about it.

While our particular camp doesn’t have a uniform, per se, they DO have 8 branded shirts/jerseys that are required for camp as well as a handful of branded shorts. It feels a little uniform-y to me but I am a huge uniform girl. Love them so much I have basically adopted one myself – you know, leggings or jeans, black t-shirt or black tank top. Sneakers or sandals. Standard mom fare.

Our camp happens to provide linens for the beds, towels, and shampoo/conditioner/soap. Of course, I will also be packing those things so that he can have stuff from home, but it IS nice to know there’s a safety net in case a fitted sheet doesn’t make it in or something.

Camp sends an incredibly detailed camp packing list and instructs that we send it WITH the trunks to help the counselors unpack and also to aid in strengthening our sons’ executive functioning skills. (Godspeed, my friends! Hope he brings some of dem skills home for mom!)

I realize that anything I am “stressed” about really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. He’s going to an incredibly lovely camp run by extremely smart and detail oriented individuals and we are both so lucky that he is having this experience.

But also – THEY WILL HAVE MY BABY FOR A WHOLE MONTH and if I don’t channel my anxiety in to selecting the perfect brand of water bottle, etc – I am honestly worried about where I might channel it.

AND – I know that there’s what’s on the actual camp packing list, and there’s what’s on the invisible IYKYK list. and I do NOT know. In case you don’t either, I asked all my smart mom friends and conducted some very scientific studies via Instagram Questions and have some suggestions from these ladies to share with you.

Camp Packing List: Packing Cubes and Such

First up: packing organization. Or, as I like to call it “bags in bags”

camp packing list - packing cubes

1. Ziploc totes (for bedding, I was instructed)

2. Small waterproof bags (for sunscreen, bug spray, etc.)

3. Zippered storage bags (for clothes)

4. Compression packing cubes (where were these last time I was sitting on my luggage trying to get it to close?)

Creature Comforts: Chairs, Organizers, and Personal Care

Next: Creature Comforts. You don’t need any of this stuff. But it sure is cool.

summer camp packing list

1. Crazy Creek chair – so that heaven forbid their tiny tushies don’t touch the earth! I can’t tell you how many of these I have monogrammed for other people over the years. I got mine from Bee Bee Designs and just had them do it and dang if that didn’t feel good.

2. Collapsible chair – this might be a thing for just my kid’s camp, but multiple people told me to send this along with the Crazy Creek. We’ll see what he says when he gets home, I guess? It’s going in the bag.

3. Bunk organizer – we’ll see how this goes.

4. Foot mat for beside the bed – that felt like a good idea.

5. Campfire Player music player. I legit had no idea what this was but everyone I talked to said to get this, so I did. It hasn’t come yet because it was crazy backordered, but I saw on the website today that if you order today, it will ship on June 5.

6. Headlamp – listen we have these at home and they’re fun as hell. But I can imagine they’d be helpful if you were, say, trying to go to the bathroom outdoors and needed use of your hands? IDK I will absolutely never be able to test that theory.

7. Reading light – my bestie from home recommended this one and she’s not about the fluff. Obvi I ordered this immediately.

8. “Dude Wipes” – guys, I am just reporting the news.

Trendy Fun Stuff: Games, Books and Cards

Lastly, I think I was going to send the kid with a bunch of books, a stack of cards, Uno, and maybe a Rubix cube or something, but apparently, here are all the buzzy cabin/solo quiet time activities:

sleepaway camp packing list

1. Spoons – its a card game. I think I used to play this as a kid with like, actual spoons – but I could be wrong.

2. Avocado Smash

3. Waterproof clear playing cards – I snuck that one in, but it felt like a good idea

4. Sudoku – my kid loves Sudoku. I do not but I love that journey for him.

5. Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza – I have to give credit to my mother-in-law for this one. We play this ALL the time in our house and it’s a riot. And I think it might be making me smarter, IDK. Prob not.

6. Rush Hour – another MIL find – she got this for my son the last time we were visiting and he is obsessed with it. It’s a logic game and I think it’s pretty fun, too!

7. The Game – I don’t know anything about this but 3-4 people told me about it. Let me know if you try it

Along with the above, there were many, many recommendations for clip-on and handheld fans, stationery with pre-addressed envelopes home, and a lot of stuff that was already on the recommended summer camp packing list. But if you think we missed ANYTHING – please drop a comment. I need all the help I can get.

xo, LC

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