Melissa Erickson More Content Now

This article appears in Summer Camp magazine 2018.

Packing for summer camp can be a chore or a fun family activity. Follow these tips for a better process.

Involve campers

“While it might be easier as a parent of a young child to just do it yourself, it’s worth the extra time and effort to involve the campers,” said Carolyn Dorfman, director at Camp Walt Whitman, which offers co-ed summer camps in Piermont, New Hampshire. “On the most basic level, it’s good for kids to see what is going in the bag. Since part of the camp experience is learning to take greater responsibility of your items, it’s helpful when kids know what these items actually are.”

It also can help soothe nervous campers because it gives them a sense of control, Dorfman said.

“Camp isn’t just happening to them, as they get to decide what goes with them. Involving the kids also ensures that we don’t miss any comfort items, little things from home that sometimes we don’t think about as adults but that give kids a greater sense of security knowing it will be with them at camp,” Dorfman said.

Start early

“The preparation for packing should start weeks ahead of time, but I wouldn’t start packing too soon as many of the items that will be packed are items that your child will need at home before camp begins,” Dorfman said.

The key is to get and follow the camp’s packing list.

“We always recommend that parents don’t make themselves crazy going out to buy new items for camp unless they need to, as everything at camp is going to get really dirty and washed in a commercial laundromat,” Dorfman said.

Forget fashion

“Of all of the places to worry about children’s fashion, camp should be the last place on your list,” Dorfman said. Bring comfortable, worn-in clothes and bedding.

“Favorite old blankets, pillows and stuffed animals are way more comforting to kids when they arrive at camp then something that was just purchased new. Buying lots of new things for camp also sets parents up for disappointment as, no matter how hard kids and camps try, inevitably some items get lost or ruined during the summer,” she said.

Label it

While it’s a pain for parents, labeling items makes it more likely misplaced items will be returned their proper owners. There are plenty of options, including iron-on labels, peel-and-stick labels, sew-on labels or just plain permanent marker.

“While it takes more time, you can’t only label clothing. You should really label everything that is going to camp — sleeping bags, backpacks, tennis racquets, baseball gloves, water bottles, towels, stuffed animals, etc.,” Dorfman said. “Parents need to remember that not only are their children sharing a living space with a number of other children where things get mixed up and sometimes borrowed, they are also bringing items all over camp with them, and in the excitement of the moment things get left behind.”

Dorfman’s space-saving tips

1. Between cleats, hiking boots and sneakers there are lots of shoes that have to go to camp; make sure to use the space inside your shoes for socks and other small items.

2. Rolling clothes rather than folding them creates more space in the bag.

3. “Don’t get nervous on packing day and start throwing tons of unnecessary items into your child’s bag because your brain starts to play the ‘what if’ game. Trust yourself and trust the camp that if there is something your child needs, the camp will make sure they get it,” she said.