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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

Little Campers Travel Light

May 28, 2019 02:09PM ● By Donna Production
By Christina Katz

No one at your kids’ camp is hoping you will over-pack. Keep your approach simple. Here are a few tips that will make your job easier.

Be a follower. Heed the camp’s packing list, even if you don’t understand every piece of advice. The staff has done this before, and they know what is and is not necessary. Don’t wait until the last minute to pack. Lay out everything early, and then check and double-check what you have assembled. If you have a question, send an email in advance.

Think duffel bag. Invest in a large, sturdy duffel bag and do not over-fill it. Everything will come back in a jumble and will take up more room. In fact, tuck a collapsible nylon bag into one of the duffel bag pockets. It’s sure to come in handy on the way home. If your camp requires a trunk, consider a soft trunk for easier mobility.

Go with worn. Don’t go on a spending spree and send your child to camp with a whole new wardrobe. These clothes will likely come home stained and ripped, if they even make it home at all. Suffice it to say, pack old clothing that won’t be missed if it does not return. Anything of irreplaceable sentimental value needs to stay home, even if it’s just an old t-shirt. Send favorites as long as they are replaceable. Have a variety of appropriate shoes. And if you buy new shoes, definitely break them in before camp.

Label almost everything. Use a black laundry marker, or a silver Sharpie for black items. If you shop online, you can also find a white laundry marker that will last a couple of years. Keep markings simple, using three initials for most things. However, mark important items such as boots, sneakers, and water bottles with full names. Also label luggage, but don’t go so far as labeling socks. (No child wants to be the one with the label-Nazi parent.) Buy inexpensive socks of the same type, and make sure your camper can identify them.

Like lightweight layers. Even if it will be cool or even cold at night, resist the urge to pack a parka. Go with lightweight layers. A t-shirt, sweatshirt, fleece, and a waterproof shell will provide plenty of warmth for active kids. Jeans may not sound fierce but will come in handy when sitting by the fire. Don’t forget a camp chair for damp mornings and evenings. And if you are going to pack anything extra, consider socks and underwear, a second bathing suit, and a back-up water bottle. They won’t take up much room.

Expect damp. Choose a sleeping bag that will easily dry in the sun. Pack any stationery, books, and papers in zip-top bags. Separate small clothing into zip-top bags when packing. Include a few spare zip-top bags for sorting laundry while at camp. To avoid mildew, remind your camper not to zip anything damp into a plastic bag.

Naturally repel critters. Before sending along candy or snacks, make sure camp cabins will be animal-proof. Beware of ants and other bugs. When packing toiletries, invest in natural brands of insect-repelling shampoo, conditioner, and soap. You can always transfer liquids into small, spill-proof containers and leave the remainder at home. Natural scents that discourage bugs include tea tree, rosemary, eucalyptus, lavender, peppermint, and lemongrass. Try bath products with these scents and also pack traditional insect repellent.

Ease pressure. I am sure you want your kids to write to you from camp, so include self-addressed postcards or stationery. Then when drop-off day arrives, squeeze those campers tight, tell them you love them, and let them go to create their own summer camp experience. They may not write or call or even think of you much, and that’s okay. If they send one piece of mail, let it be enough until they return. The less they think about you and home, the better job you did packing them up for independence. 

Christina Katz is an over-packer. Luckily her daughter has learned how to pack expediently yet thoroughly.