Text reads Ready, Set, Pack: Top Tips for Stress-Free Summer Camp Preparation over images of a camp trunk, backpack, teddy bear, flashlight and water bottle

Is summer camp just around the corner for your child?

While you’ve managed to tick off most items on your to-do list—like the doctor’s physical and completing paperwork—packing might still be looming large. But don’t worry! With a little planning and these friendly tips, you can turn this last task into a fun and stress-free experience. Let’s dive in and get your child ready for an amazing adventure!

Here are 15 tips to make summer camp packing a breeze:

  1. Review the Camp’s Packing List: Your camp knows exactly what your child needs. Stick to their list, but feel free to add a few fun surprises (see number 15). Here’s the Camp El Tesoro Overnight Camp 2024 Packing List.
  2. Involve Your Child: Have your child help you pack so they will be familiar with what’s in their trunk and where to find it. Taking care of their own things is a great part of your child’s independent camp experience.
  3. Choose the Right Trunk: Trunks/footlockers are the ideal choice for camp packing. They are sturdy enough to hold up for years of summer camp, make a great bench seat and are fun to personalize. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy. Standard wooden trunks are good, but the Plano Plastic Storage Locker or Sterilite Footlocker with wheels is cheaper, lighter, and easier for kids to manage. And the plastic footlockers can easily be washed out after camp.
  4. Personalize Your Trunk: Check out our Pinterest board for ideas to personalize your child’s trunk. The LidMate Organizer is a cool upgrade that expands storage space. The Container Store has a great section of camping supplies to explore. Put that Cricut to work with some custom vinyl.
  5. Label EVERYTHING. Personalized labels are a cute option, but a Sharpie works too. Washi tape is a stress-free way to label with style. Don’t forget to label the dirty clothes bag – it’s one of the most commonly lost items every year!
  6. Lay Everything Out: Gather all items and lay them out before packing. This helps you see what you have and makes organizing the trunk easier.
  7. Pack Durable Clothes: Only send clothes that can get dirty and won’t be missed if they don’t make it back from lost and found.
  8. Use Ziploc Bags or Packing Cubes for Younger Campers: Pack each day’s complete outfit (shirt, shorts, underwear, socks) in a gallon-sized zipper bag. Label each bag with a day of the week. This makes getting dressed simpler each morning. Looking for a reusable option? These mesh zipper bags are ideal.
  9. Send a Good Backpack: Campers need a sturdy backpack for daily essentials like jeans, boots, swimsuits, towels, water bottles, and sunscreen. Avoid small drawstring bags as they don’t hold much and the strings become uncomfortable. Be sure to send a bag that you don’t mind being tossed in the dirt.
  10. Choose a Wide-Mouth Water Bottle: These are easier to fill with ice and should have a loop for carrying or a carabiner to clip onto the backpack. Camelbak-style Hydration Packs have become popular but nothing beats a waterbottle. For campers that easily misplace items, pack a second waterbottle as a backup in their trunk.
  11. Check Batteries: Ensure flashlights and handheld fans have fresh batteries.
  12. Pack Toiletries in a Caddy: A caddy keeps bathroom items together. Amazon or dollar stores offer many affordable options. Use travel-sized items or fill travel containers.
  13. Leave Electronics at Home: Most camps ban electronics, and this is a great time for your child to disconnect from devices.
  14. Don’t Pack Food and Candy: These attract bugs and critters. Rest assured, your child will get plenty to eat in the dining hall.
  15. Add Sweet Extras. These fun items are things you can add after your child has completed their part of the packing, so it will be a surprise when they unpack at camp:
    • Tuck in one or several handwritten notes that they will find throughout the week.
    • A lightweight hammock with straps for some outdoor rest time
    • A deck of playing cards or small game
    • A stuffed friend to help calm those first-night jitters
    • Glow sticks – enough for the whole cabin
    • New crazy socks or hair ties
    • An age-appropriate book
    • Coloring book with map pencils (crayons can melt)
    • Friendship bracelet supplies to share
    • Mad Libs for fun

Now, take a deep breath. You’ve prepared your child for an incredible week at summer camp. All that’s left is a big hug at drop-off and the excitement of hearing about their adventures when they return.

Check out Camp Fire Camp El Tesoro Overnight Camp Options