Summer Camp Packing List Essentials: What and How Much to Pack

Summer camp is all about leaving the stress behind and enjoying the warm weather. This is why over 14 million kids and adults go to some sort of camp every year. Practice your best “Hakuna Matata” impression by using a summer camp packing list.

Don’t leave anything important behind and always be prepared for whatever comes your way. You’ll thank us for this guide by the end of camp. Chances are, though, you’ll have a handful of others relying on your preparedness.

This is everything you’ll want to pack when preparing for summer camp. Of course, always check with the camp you have selected to insure you pack the necessary and approved items.


Your clothes will likely take up the bulk of your summer camp packing list. Packing lightly is difficult to do without knowing how to minimize air. Folding clothes is a no-no, roll them instead, like celebrity organizer Marie Kondo.

Include a padded jacket or hoodie if you live in the northern half of the country. Nights can sneak up on you and get chilly. Bring two pairs of lightweight running shoes, in case one pair gets wet.

Go light on jeans and opt for leggings, shorts, and pants with lots of pockets. The pockets are great if you’re spending lots of time outdoors; it’s nice to have plenty of places to store items. You can save a life with a Cliff Bar, sunscreen, and a spare charger.

Pack plenty of sleepwear that’s thin and easy to pack together. Oh, and don’t forget underwear. Lots and lots of underwear. Even if you’ll have access to a washer/drier, always bring an extra week’s worth of underwear.

Special Equipment

Depending on the type of summer camp you’re going to, you may need extra gear. Maybe that includes swimming gear, sports equipment, musical equipment, or even school supplies. Yes, “nerds” go to summer camp, too.

We recommend packing all this stuff in a separate bag, so you don’t worry about accidental damage. Toss the wrong duffle bag and ruin your entire trip with a crack or crunch. If someone else is handling your bags, make sure you get that one insured.


Bring extra sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and an umbrella. That umbrella will come in handy for both unexpected rain and relief from the sun. Bring a bandana, too, to offer more protection for your neck or face when your sunscreen washes off.

Pack a few ponchos if you can’t fit a full raincoat. The same goes for waterproof coverings for your feet if boots are too big.

Hygiene and Essentials

In order to keep things safe, clean, and sanitary, you’ll want to do a summer camp packing list for health and hygiene. Start with your bathroom essentials: soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, floss, nail file, clippers, shaving cream, shampoo, and mouthwash. Bring your own hand towels and beach towel.

Discourage sharing of your hygiene products. Next, prepare some emergency supplies of insect repellent, sanitary wipes, one-shot camera, flashlight, first-aid kit, crank-powered radio, and pepper spray.

If camping calls for building shelter, hunting for food, or starting fires, you might want to expand your list. You’ll want a good magnesium striking stick, some rope, a tarp, a compass, and a canteen. The tarp is good for temporary shelter as well as emergency lashings.

Organize Your Summer Camp Packing List

We mentioned that you should pack your clothes tightly to get the most air out. This idea expands into the use of vacuum sealed bags, collapsible chambers, and foldable luggage. Invest in some good luggage that will last you years of vacations.

Omni-directional carry-on bags are a must, as are luggage tracking devices. Unless summer camp is just you and five friends, don’t take any risks. Stolen luggage is unfortunately all too common among kids and adults camps alike.

Use lots of heavy-duty freezer bags to separate liquids, make-up, snacks, and dirty clothes. Come up with a system that allows you to memorize your packing list by what bag it’s in, so you spend less time digging and repacking.

You Could Do Without

Summer camps often have long prohibited lists to maintain campsites. Nowadays, more camps are lifting bans on portable electronics. The idea is to leave your smartphone, tablet, and gaming console behind, but we all know that’s not always practical.

Books shouldn’t be on the banned list, and they will likely be your biggest source of comfort. Bring lots of books, books you wouldn’t normally read, and maybe one book you’ve read before. Take these books with the expectation of them getting dirty and damaged, possibly lost.

Even if Kindles are permitted, we still recommend choosing a few paper books over the risk of losing it. Nobody is going to steal your books unless they’re a special type of demon or are desperately trying to make new friends.

Other prohibited items may include curlers, irons, vape pens, loose jewelry, weapons, alcohol, candy, and gum. If you’re unsure whether you’re allowed to bring something, either call the camp or assume it’s banned. Nothing is worse than being forced to take something back home or having to throw it away.

Being Prepared

With a strong summer camp packing list, you should finish packing faster. You’ll know exactly what you need and what you don’t. This will help you sleep easier before the first day of camp.

The nerves of excitement cause us to do silly things, but as long as you have your list, you’re golden. Remember to label everything and recount all your bags. Have a second pair of eyes or a second opinion always helps, too.

The Camp Experts can help you find the perfect summer camp. Request free information on what we offer for both teen and adult getaways.

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