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The Ultimate Summer Camp Packing List

Posted by Victoria Johnson on May 29, 2017

Most camps give you a packing list which covers the essentials. However, some are rather sparse and you feel that surely some creature comforts must be missing.

For a more comprehensive list, I have combined the lists of 20 traditional summer camps in North Carolina.

Everything should be considered disposable: do not pack anything you’d be upset to have destroyed or lost. A week in the woods will challenge even the most fastidious kid to keep things neat and clean.

Include an inventory list in the trunk (in a Ziploc so it doesn’t get wet and torn) so your child can attempt to return home with the items she was sent with.

And this apparently cannot be reiterated enough: LABEL EVERYTHING.

Download a printable version of the list.



Quantities will depend on length of stay, activities, and climate. Some parents like to pack each outfit in a Ziploc bag.


  • Shower shoes
  • Creek shoes (not flip flops)
  • 2 pairs tennis shoes
  • Long pants
  • Shorts
  • Shirts
  • Nice outfit (for a dance or outing)
  • Pajamas
  • Undies and socks
  • 2 swimsuits, goggles
  • Sweatshirt
  • Windbreaker
  • Poncho


  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent, anti-itch cream
  • Band-aids
  • Your usual personal items
  • Tote for shower items
  • Note that aerosols are usually forbidden.



  • Towels and washcloths – consider a quick dry towel and nylon sponge
  • Pillow
  • Sheets and pillowcases
  • Blanket or bedspread
  • Clothes hangers
  • Flashlight or head lamp
  • Laundry bag
  • Small back pack with padded straps
  • Water bottle
  • Hat



  • Books for quiet time
  • Stationery with pre-addressed and stamped envelopes – pack in a Ziploc to keep dry
  • Pens, pencils
  • Sketching materials
  • Playing cards


Other commonly suggested items

  • Costumes for a party or skits
  • Leotard
  • Guitar
  • Disposable camera
  • Bathrobe
  • Extra batteries
  • Mirror
  • Bible
  • Bandanna


Things to keep in mind before you go out and purchase items you can’t take

  • Some camps have dress codes, such as no spaghetti strap tank tops or bikinis.
  • If you’re packing a sleeping bag for camping, the consensus is synthetic sleeping bags. Cotton must get too damp.
  • Check if there is a limit on trunk size; it may need to fit under a bunk.
  • Care packages are not allowed at many camps for several reasons: candy in the cabins attracts bugs, kids who don’t get fancy packages feel left out, and it becomes a sort of competition among parents.
  • If you’re participating in a hiking trip or horseback riding you’ll need special items.


Optional comforts

  • Crazy Creek chair (some camps sell these in their stores)
  • Foam mattress topper
  • Personal battery-operated fan (one with a clip is nice)
  • Hooks and clips – Command poster strips
  • Extra plastic bags


Also, check out this post, Cool & Unique Gadgets for Overnight Camp.


And from the super helpful Sunshine Parenting blog, here are some more tips:

5 Essential Summer Camp Packing Tips Every Parent Should Know


How to fit it all in

Once you have laid everything out you’ll wonder how to stuff it in to your allotted luggage. The rolling method works wonders. There are also plenty of videos of people touting other methods, like the  flat fold-over– just do a packing search on YouTube.


Camps will also give you a list of what not to bring. This one from Camp Carolina is rather amusing. And I’ve seen “pets” on several leave-at-home lists. Have people actually tried to bring a pet to camp?


What not to bring


Electronic Portable games


Inappropriate music


Digital Video Camera Devices

WIFI Capable Electronics





Illegal drugs






Trading cards

Pokemon Cards


Water balloon launchers

Laser pointers

Your mom

Spray Paint

Stink Bombs


Have a suggestion for an item that's helped  your camper? Let me know and I'll add it!

Topics: Overnight camp, Camp planning