Prepare for Overnight Camp with our Summer Camp Packing List

By Emily Papa, Macaroni KID South Hills Publisher March 19, 2024

Holy cow! My kiddos both went to their FIRST overnight camps last year and I didn't realize how ill-prepared I was until I started pulling some of their things together that I thought they might need. I figured I couldn't be the only first-timer, so I wanted to share my packing list and tips for preparing my kids for overnight camp.

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The first thing I had to consider was, how are we getting the stuff there? We had a Pottery Barn camp trunk that got ruined when our pipes burst on Christmas that I haven't gotten around to replacing yet; and buying them new they are NOT cheap. While I'd be willing to invest because I'm already thinking this is going to be a yearly thing, I have an old pink suitcase that might be better for our first adventure away, AND it has wheels. I've also heard of packing everything in a Rubbermaid-type tote which I think is smart until I'm trying to lug it over the dirt path to the cabin. So we're sticking with the suitcase this year. Here are the rest of the things on my list:

  • Labels, Labels, Labels - I have an arsenal of labels on hand which really came in handy since I needed to label everything, and I mean EVERYTHING. Shorts, sweatshirts, water bottles, toiletries, towels, sleeping bags...label it all! Check out this deal from our parent company CertifiKID for $40 worth of labels for only $20!
  • Keep the new summer 'fit at home - Don't send your best stuff. Fancy new things quickly become old and used at camp. You can feel confident that everything you send to camp will come home with a fresh coat of dirt! So pack clothes you won't mind seeing come home with another hole or two. 
  • Cool Summer Nights - While we've got some hot summer days here in Pittsburgh, the nights can get cool and you'll want to make sure your kiddos have a night outfit they can slip into before roasting s'mores around the fire. 
  • Permethrin to spray the suitcases, bedding, and clothes
  • Shower Caddy - you can get these at the Dollar Tree, but I splurged for a mesh shower caddy to make it easier to transport, and also they don't retain gross water in the bottom of it. 
  • Dirty Laundry Bag - you can keep this real simple and pack a garbage bag. I ordered large laundry bags for my kids because I'm afraid if they don't have a cinch shut, my kids will have dirty laundry falling out all over the place and that's not going to make for happy bunk mates. 
  • Bedside Caddy - this is where Google got me. If I had allowed myself enough time,  I totally would have ordered this camp bunk organizer from everything summer camp. It looks like it holds a ton of things and could help my kids be organized for the week. So I went to Amazon and while I couldn't find a bedside caddy as grand as the one from Everything Summer Camp, I did find a bedside caddy that held more than enough (including their water bottles on the top bunk)
  • After Bite Itch Eraser Pen - this is a mama must-have anyway, but I got each of my kiddos one of these to tuck away for some end-of-day relief. 

I try to give my kids some autonomy in what they bring to camps or on vacations by printing out a copy of our packing checklist and modifying it based on the trip we are taking. Feel free to right-click on the image below to save and print yourself!

What are your overnight camping must haves? We'd love to hear about them!