I remember packing my son up for his first summer camp experience, oh was I a mess. “I don’t know where to start”, I cried to my veteran camp-packing friend. She just laughed and said, “go to Target and get it done.” Ten years later, I feel like a Camp packing pro. Here are a few tips for first-timers from those of us who have been around the Camp block a few times.
The first step is to review the Camp Packing Checklists: 4-8-Week Packing List, Garinim Packing List , Ta’am Packing List
Next, go through your camper’s clothes. See what they have, what fits and what they need.
Now, Check out these great tips.
1. Embrace the Ziplock
I’ve got to be honest, I used to ziplock everything. I use ziplock bags as a protection device as well as an organizing tool. When my kids were little, I ziplocked each outfit separately and wrote the day on the bag. As they got older, I put stationery, stamps, pens and all things for writing letters in a ziplock. I’ve learned the hard way that things leak, so all toiletries go in ziplock bags. I also put batteries in a ziplock and anything I don’t want to get wet or damp because kids love throwing damp towels in and on their duffle. This year, my daughter packed all her Shabbat clothes in a medium-sized Ziplock “Big Bag”.
“Since our kids fly, we have to make sure everything fits into the two duffels and carry-ons. I pack all clothing items in the largest Ziplocks and squish the air out of them so they collapse. I split the kid’s items between the two bags so each bag has half of everything (shirts, underwear, towels, etc…), that way if a bag is lost, they still have some of everything… but the Ziplocks are an amazing thing… the kids use the bags all summer for wet clothes, or to keep stuff separated in their cubbies.” -Suzanne Fine, long-time packing Mom-Pro
“When Allie was going to Garanim & Nitzonim I would put entire outfits in Ziplock bags and label them (Fri. night, Sat. morning, etc.) She could not match and I was afraid she wouldn’t have anything to wear for Shabbat because it would all be dirty.” -Carrie Bielski, dedicated camper Mom of two and Camp Ramah Darom Nurse
“The ziplock flexible totes are perfect for sheets, towels, etc.” -Lisa Hutt Dessler, Camper Mom of two
On the other hand, some Moms are a bit more practical about the whole camp experience. “You don’t need to put “outfits” in individual ziplock bags.. after the first wash, it won’t matter and so what if they don’t match.. its Camp,” -Elissa Vessal, Mom of two campers who she’s packed all the way through Ramah Darom
2. Label Everything
“Label it” was the #1 piece of advice from all packing Mom-Pros I asked. I personally love Sharpie markers, but some great labels do not require ironing. I started using Lil’ Labels a couple of years ago. There is nothing fancy about them, but they are so easy to use and they are not expensive. If you choose to go with the Sharpie, try using silver for dark-colored items. Here’s what others said:
“If you ever want to see it again, write full name or last name first initial. Label water bottles and put scotch tape over the writing so it doesn’t get washed or rubbed off.”-Carrie
“Even if you don’t care if you ever see it again, label everything. Everyone’s socks, underwear, towels, socks, water bottles, etc look exactly the same. And if yours isn’t labeled, your kid has no idea if it’s theirs.” -Carla Birnbaum, Camper Mom of two and long time summer staff member
“Order the stick on circle name tags. So easy!” -Jenny Denny, camp packer for her two daughters
“My kids used a sharpie for underwear and socks, not worth using a label, but I also love Label Daddy and they always have sales and coupons.” – Sam Dressler, long-time Camper Mom of two and Ramah Darom Board Member
“And, don’t forget to put names on/in shoes and flip flops.“-Johanna Norry, packing her kids for Camp Ramah Darom for over 12 summers
3. Pack Extra & Get Colorful
This piece of advice does not apply to me personally. In my experience, my son doesn’t wear a quarter of the clothing I pack, my daughter prefers to wear other people’s clothing and the only things my kids lose are water bottles. I pack the exact amount of underwear and socks recommended on the packing list and that has worked just fine for my kids. Other Mom-pros have had different experiences and choose to pack extra. There is no right and no wrong. Every parent and camper is different.
“It might say pack one water bottle, but I say go for two. My kids lose everything and based on the water bottle collection in the lost & found pile, they are not alone. Also, pack extra underwear (at least 10 extra pairs), socks (again 10 extra), extra T-shirts and shorts. At Ramah Darom, they shower every night (sometimes before dinner) and a lot of the younger kids go through two pairs of underwear a day. -Carla
When it comes to towels, I usually pack the torn, wholly kind. I grab whatever looks rattiest or the ones that still have my kid’s names sharpied on from last summer. Camp is not a place for nice things, but many parents choose to not mortify their kids with nasty looking towels and get colorful.
“Don’t send beige (or other neutral colored) towels— they all look the same! Buy a couple of Target towels in a unique color – kids will always know which ones are theirs!” -Emily Garmon, camp packing Mom-pro
4. Let Them Pack
When my son was in elementary school he went to a seven-day Boy Scout Camp. There was a family dinner/visiting night on day five. When I arrived, my son told me that I forgot to pack him a deodorant. Now, that wouldn’t have been so terrible, but the deodorant was in the same bag as the toothbrush and toothpaste. Gross! Now, my 13-year-old daughter packs herself, but my son (now 15), still gets a lot of help from Mom.
“Have your camper help you pack their luggage. Otherwise, they might not know about all the fun things you’ve bought them (including what their shampoo and conditioner looks like or those cool new pajamas).”-Carla
5. Include Some “Optional” Items
Does your camper love to read, play cards or fidget with a Rubrics Cube? Pack it. Small games are great for downtime at Camp. If you want to help your camper organize all the little things you send, pack a shoe organizer that hangs over the bunk bed. There are many styles and types online, from fancy to simple, but all it really needs to do is hang on the bunk bed and store little things. I chose cheap and simple, a pack of two clear shoe bags, so they could see what’s inside. My kids actually hang these bags inside their closet doors and use them all year round. There are also smaller-sized shoe organizers like this beige two pack.
“For younger kids, label the shoe bag compartments so they can stay organized. Another cool item is a plastic hook to hang your towel on the side of your bed.” -Shira Schwartz, Mom of three camp-loving kids
Other Items Parents and Campers Love
Small games, markers, sticky notes, stickers for younger kids or a deck of cards (don’t forget to label them)
Now, breathe deep, grab your list, review the clothing rules below and get started. You’ve got this!