It’s that time of year again, when parents of campers begin to think about packing for camp. Whether you’re a first time parent or a veteran, packing a trunk for your child can seem like a daunting task. So I’d like to offer a few suggestions to help.
A few years ago our Assistant Director, Elizabeth Shreckhise, did a wonderful blog about just this topic. I’d like to add a few of my own thoughts, though since I packed three children off to camp for 12 years and have some insight to lend.
Pack it up
Our website has a general packing list for both Mini and Term camps. And, as Elizabeth points out, these are suggestions from our experiences in the past. The online camp supply company Everything Summer Camp has some great items, so do look there. Our own store at camp makes a point of having not only plenty of blue and white shorts and white shirts, which make up our uniform, but also several fun and interesting things to wear as well.
In the past, I was often asked about what should — or shouldn’t — be sent to camp and one of my most constant recommendations was and is: don’t send anything to camp that you or your child would be upset about if it were to get ruined at camp.
Other than the one or two “nicer” summer items that older campers use for the Camp Greenbrier Dance or, for example, the Upstarts going out to the theater in Lewisburg, my kids took their oldest shorts, tee shirts, underwear, and socks.
Get on the good foot
Footwear is always a big topic too. Before the invention of Crocs, we suggested packing two pairs of sneakers as well as rain boots. Crocs are a good substitute for the second pair of sneakers as well as the rain boots. But they’re not appropriate for hiking, playing tennis, nor as water shoes. Hiking and tennis must be done in sneakers; and Tevas or Chacos, or something similar (brand names not necessary!), are perfect for the river.
Finally, a cheap pair of flip flops are perfect for the shower. Extra pairs of socks are good to have, too – they get wet and dirty easily!
I would also strongly suggest packing a rain coat, or a small, travel umbrella. Too often campers use a hooded sweatshirt as rain gear, which doesn’t actually keep the rain off them!
Elizabeth’s blog references linens too, and I agree with what she says whole-heartedly. Fleece, sweatshirt, and wool blankets are the best ones to send. They are flat and pack much better than thick quilts or comforters, it is easier to make the camp cots with the flatter kind. I also sent two flannel top sheets. These are good for additional warmth if it is cold at night, but equally good for those nights when it’s cool but not cold. And I’m a big fan of actually sourcing cot-sized sheets. They make making the bed much easier. Twin bed sheets, however, will work. They just have more fabric so they’re looser when making the bed.
For blankets and sheets, use something you already have when possible instead of buying new because camp puts some real wear and tear on your items.
As for towels, older ones dry better — both kids’ bodies and on the line — than newer ones. The new, thick, fluffy towels take up a great deal of space in the trunk or duffle, whereas older ones fold flatter.
The last linen item is a sleeping bag, a good item to have for a variety of reasons, but not needed by Mini Campers, just Term Campers.
Trunk and duffle sizes are better in average, not large or extra large sizes. Space in the tents is limited, so medium to small trunks are best. We suggest bringing a trunk no larger than 32″L x 18″W x 16.5″H.
Keep it clean
I’d like to add a note about shower and other toiletries.
Mini Campers can get by with the typical travel size of everything since they are only at camp for a week. Term Campers need only regular sizes of their toiletries. Our camp store sells the travel sizes of most items the girls use in case they run out. Those gallon sized containers of shampoo take up valuable space in the trunks, and aren’t used up in a span of just 3 weeks (half-full bottles often end up in the trash at the end of the term!).
Your daughter will need a shower bucket for her toiletries. I’d suggest metal mesh or woven plastic ones as they drain better.
The last item that is needed is something to sit on. Any kind of low chair, be it Crazy Creek or similar brand, or a beach/sand folding chair are perfect. These are needed for Vespers, Campfires, Lunch Under the Apple Tree, and sometimes for other evening activities, too.
Leave it behind
A final word of warning from an old camp parent: Expensive jewelry or special, favorite pieces should not be sent to camp. They can get lost far too easily. One or two pairs of earrings for pierced ears and an inexpensive watch is all your daughter really needs.
This also goes for cameras and definitely for internet-ready electronic devices of any kind. Unless your daughter is taking the Photography (Term Camp only, Startups and Seniors only), she should not bring anything but a disposable camera, which we sell in the store (read more about this in our no electronics policy).
I hope this helps with your packing. These are only suggestions, of course, but are based on many years of experience.
I look forward to meeting as many of you as I can on all three opening days. Take care, it won’t be long now!
Bonnie Dawson, Director of Special Events, Camp Alleghany for Girls