Ahh – the dreaded packing for camp. As we near Memorial Day, home offices, spare bedrooms and basements across America become home-base for camp packing. Piles are started, labels are ironed into clothes and kids promise they will write everyday.
Every camp sends a list of what each camp needs for the summer – follow it very closely. Camps work hard to devise the list balancing what each camper will have space for and what they really need to have a successful summer at camp.
Here are a few tips and tricks for deciphering the list and a few extras your kids (and their counselors) will thank you for:
- Label! Label! Label! Not only clothes, but each item – sneakers, sports equipment, even the toothpaste! It is how your child will still have these things to wear/use and how stuff will find its way back home after camp. There are many options out there to help with this dreaded task – labeldaddy.com and namebubbles.com offer some fun (and waterproof) options. One staffer used labelyourstuff.com for the classic iron-on/sew-in options. A Sharpie works well too – black for most items and silver comes in handy for dark clothing. (You may want to pack one for your camper in case you missed a few things)
- Don’t bring anything new or expensive. When you pack that fancy sweatshirt or digital camera, it may be the last time you ever see it. Even with a bright red, permanent, waterproof label, things will get lost and favorites shrink in the camp laundry. Also, make sure that all shoes and sports equipment are broken-in before camp starts.
- Plastic drawers. Shelf space is at a premium in camp bunks. Pre-pack in plastic drawers and voila, your camper is unpacked before you get there. Under the bed storage boxes are helpful too.
- Rain Gear. Camps tend to get really muddy if there is more than a little rain – toss in a pair of rain boots and a slicker to keep your camper dry. This is camp, there will be no umbrellas.
- Pack layers. It may be boiling hot during the day, but camps tend to be in the mountains, where it cools off drastically at night. Keep in mind the out-of-camp trips your child will be going on when packing too.
- Maccabiah (Color War). Pack at least one thing (it could just be a bandana) in each of the colors the camp uses for Maccabiah (or Israeli Day, Tribals – whatever special events your camp plans). Campers will share with bunkmates, but this will give them a head start when the event breaks and there is a mad rush to put on your team colors.
- Bounce. Yup, the dryer sheets. Put one in your pillow case to keep the mosquitoes away.
- You can never have enough sun block or bug repellent. If your camp asks for a specific kind (spray vs. lotion) make the extra effort and find it. There is a reason they request it. Your camper will be grateful to have a stash of lip balm as well.
- Pack with your camper. Make sure they know what they are bringing – and where you are packing it. This way they recognize their stuff when it is in the Lost and Found. And there is no excuse for not writing if they know where their stamps are!
- Safety pins. These have two great uses at camp: Pin socks together when they go to the camp laundry and they will come pack as a pair. They also come in handy for making string friendship bracelets.
- Plastic bags. For younger children, pack special clothing – like whites for Shabbat – in a big zip lock bag – this makes it a little easier when they are scrambling to get ready. Send some extra bags for wet bathing suits on trips or when they are packing to come home.
- Band-aids. Your camper will be very happy not to trek to the infirmary for every scrape. Antibiotic ointment is helpful too.
- Double check the camp’s policies – some camps only allow one-piece swimsuits for girls.
- Do not pack things that are on the ‘not allowed’ list. This will just cause problems for your child when they arrive at camp. (Don’t think that you can sneak them in either – the staff is well-trained in confiscating candy and electronics)
- Love notes. Stash some notes – in your child’s sneakers, in with their stationery. An unexpected note from home is always a fun surprise.
- Downtime activities. Pack a few things for rest hour or a rainy day. iPod speakers (if your camp allows), a few books from a favorite author, cards, jacks, string for friendship bracelets and cat’s cradle, extra tennis balls, small games, Mad Libs…
- Snail Mail supplies. Pre-address and stamp envelopes, or create labels to make it easier for a child to write. Pack everything – pens, stationery, extra stamps, addresses – together in a reusable bubble/plastic envelope or waterproof box. Send a clipboard or lap-desk so they have a writing surface.
- Decorate. Well, sort of. Send posters, pictures of home friends, removable stickers to adorn the bunk. Don’t forget a roll of scotch tape or package of fun tack.
- Autograph/Address book. The options here are endless. A plain t-shirt or pillowcase with a Sharpie or fabric markers work great. Or, there are a slew of pre-made autograph pillows, pillowcases and picture frames for camp friends.
- Return Addresses. Your child will make a bunkful of new friends. Send labels or slips of paper with their home address/email addresses to hand out.