Everything You Need to Pack For Your Child’s Sleepaway Camp

Remember Linus of the Peanuts? Surely, his mom would’ve packed his blanket when he went off to sleepaway camp, especially the first time. Why? Because there are those little things that really help with separation and transition, even if they move into the background or are hidden when friends come over.

So, yeah, when it comes to what to pack for camp, it’s okay to pack something comforting from home in the pocket of your kid’s sleepaway camp duffel. But what else to pack, you ask? Because you want to make sure Junior’s covered. We get that.

To help, we’ve put together the key items to pack. Keep reading to make sure nothing’s left behind.

The Main Bag for Sleepaway Camp

Duffel bags are great because they can be folded up or slid under a cot, depending on the sleeping quarters. Just make sure your kid can carry the bag. A backpacking backpack can be practical, as can a bag that has both rollers and shoulder straps to wear on the back. A regular suitcase with rollers is okay but make sure it can be carried too if there’s dirt rather than concrete or a sidewalk to walk on.

A Day Backpack

This comes in handy to carry around camp or on day outings. Think small and light but big enough to put a jacket, change of clothes, and shoes in.

The Clothes

Think through each day and the activities. And don’t go overboard. Think about how many days without laundry are needed. Think about a few changes for wet or dirty clothes. You never know when a food fight may occur or a sludge through some muddy waters. That said, include extra shoes as well!

Here are the basics not to forget, even though you probably know this:

  • Enough underwear plus a few extras in case they get wet
  • Enough socks plus a few extras in case a pair gets wet
  • At least one regular bra and one sporty bra
  • Pajamas
  • Bathrobe
  • Slippers
  • Rain jacket
  • A few pairs of jeans
  • A bunch of T-shirts
  • One nicer shirt
  • One warm sweater
  • A couple of long-sleeved shirts

These really are just the basics. Get an idea from the sleepaway camp as to what they recommend. For example, if there is a dance or it’s a camp where they’re not totally roughing it, they might recommend a nicer outfit. If that’s the case, remember a nicer pair of shoes.

If it’s a specialty sleepaway camp, like a sports camp, be sure to include all the necessary gear (and clothes).

The Shoes

Stick only with comfort for outdoors camps. Must-haves include sneakers and shower flip-flops or slides. If hikes are involved, you may need to pack hiking boots but check with the camp as the sneaks can do too. Pack an extra pair of sneakers in case the shoes get wet.

Laundry Bag and Wet Clothes Bags

Pack a bag to put dirty clothes in. A pillowcase is a good option for campers. Also, pack some two-gallon zip-close bags. Think sandwich or freezer bags but the biggest ones. This is for wet clothes. Then if they end up in the main bag, everything else will stay dry.

Zip-Close Bag for Phone

Pack an extra giant zip-close bag for the smartphone so it’s protected against water. You can get the smaller ones too, like the actual sandwich-size bags.

The Flashlight

Feel free to pack more than one in case one gets lost. Also, there are different types to choose from. There is your standard hand-held flashlight. And there is also the headlamp flashlight. This is a light that is attached to a headband. This one is great if you’re running around or want your hands free. Plus, it’s impossible to lose as long as it’s on your head.

There are also sun-powered inflatable lanterns that are great to hang in a tent. They come with a little solar panel that powers up when it’s in the sun.

Speaking of power, be sure to fill the flashlight with new batteries and pack spares.

Extra Flashlight Batteries

Okay, we just said to pack flashlight batteries but we want to give this its own section so you remember to put it on your packing list. Be sure to pack a couple of sets of extra batteries. And fill the flashlight or flashlights with new batteries. Your camper may be able to purchase batteries at a camp store, but it’s much easier if she or he doesn’t have to think about it.

Pack a small bag to put old batteries in. That way if there is no place to recycle batteries at camp, which there probably isn’t, Junior can recycle them at home.

Waterproof Jacket

Pack a lightweight jacket that is waterproof in case it rains. Think windbreaker with a bit of lining. You can also pack a poncho if needed.

A Hat

We love hats with big brims to protect against the sun. The ideal is one that has a brim that goes all the way around. But check in with your kid to see what he or she likes so that it will actually get worn. A baseball cap that your kid actually wears (and hopefully with sunscreen on the neck) is better than a full-brimmed hat that he or she doesn’t wear.


Okay, you know this. You’ve heard it a million times that sunscreen is important. So pack it. Also, check in again with your kid to see what she or he wants when it comes to sunscreen so that she or he will actually put it on. Sunscreen comes in spray and cream and sticks that look like deodorant that you can just rub on. So easy!

Swimsuit, Goggles, and Towel

Pack at least one swimsuit and a pair of goggles. Of course, this depends on the sleepaway camp. But most sleepaway camps have some sort of water activities. Remind your kid to hang up the wet swimsuit to dry. Also, bring a big beach towel.

Bathroom Basics

Get a bathroom bag the size of a shoe box, approximately. It should be waterproof ideally. Read: plastic and washable with a sponge.

Here are things to remember:

  • Toothbrush in a smaller plastic holder or even zip bag
  • Toothpaste
  • Soap in a plastic soap carrier
  • Brush and/or comb
  • Towel and washcloth (think through the size as you may use the beach towel if you need space in the main bag)
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Shaving supplies for guys, if needed
  • Period supplies for girls, if needed

Again, these are the basics. Go through the bathroom routine with your kid and make a full list. Pack all those items.

Water Bottle or Canteen

Bring at least one stainless steel bottle. A canteen is great if long hikes or overnights are involved, especially to places that don’t have water faucets.

Something From Home

This is where that Linus blanket comes in. Ask your kid. Stuff it in a pocket. Go with a photo if a stuffed animal or other cozy is just too embarrassing. Also, bringing a pillow from home is a good option.

Along these lines, you can maybe set up a time to text or have a phone call each day or several days, depending on your kid.


This depends on the camp. Ask ahead. You may need to pack a sleeping bag or comforter, sheets, and a pillow.

Phone or No Phone at Sleepaway Camp

The sleepaway camp may have rules about smartphones. Follow the rules. Just be sure that your kid has a way to connect with you if needed. Also, if she or he is bringing a phone, remember to pack the charger.

If phones are not allowed at camp or must be put away at all times, rejoice. There are plenty of benefits to unplugging for kids.

Fun Stuff

Your kid can probably be in charge of this one. Think books, cards, and board games.

What to Pack for Sleepaway Camp? You Got This

Now that you have a list of the basics of what to pack for camp, sit with your kid and go over it. Ask her or him for other items that aren’t on the list. Ask the camp what they recommend. Then make a master list that combines it all. Now you’re ready to gather and check things off. Ah, it feels so good when that bag is complete.

Don’t cry. Junior will be back soon!

And if you haven’t yet found the awesome camp you’re looking for, give us a holler. We have advisers that know all the amazing options on sleepaway camps. We also specialize in teenagers. You know, those sweet kids that suddenly got all mysterious. We got your back.

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