It’s that time of year: Camp clothes shopping! Or more accurately, the time I look at the kids’ camp clothing checklist and realize we have outgrown everything and gah, where am I going to get those non-itchy navy shorts again? If you’re like me, I wanted to share the places I tend to do best with my kids’ own camp basics: comfy cotton tees, shorts, shoes, underwear, and durable swimwear.
And of course they have to fulfill my own needs for clothes that hold up for horseback riding in the rain, tug-of-war over mud puddles, diving off of docks, and who-knows-what that’s used to launder said clothes with each week.
If the kids even remember to put them in their laundry bags at all.
Top image: Primary basic tee in white + Primary gym short in navy | © Liz Gumbinner
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1. For all camp basics: Primary
Since they launched in 2015, women-run Primary has not let us down with their super wearable, sturdy, cotton mix-and match basics, which you can see on my own kid, at very top. I have bought many. Then they added swimwear and that’s helped us too.
I especially love that they tell you the height and weight of the kid modeling each piece, which helps me get sizing right every time. And those cotton unisex gym shorts in french cotton (with just a little spandex for stretch) are perfection for any summer camp or summer activity at all.
This year, Primary has added a Camp Concierge for busy parents — send your checklist to firstname.lastname@example.org, and for no extra charge (yay free!) they’ll customize a shopping cart for you from their camp collection of kids’ basics. You can change or update, but it’s still a bit of a time-saver and I’ll take all of those I can get.
(PS Props to Primary for hiring such inclusive models, including differently-abled kids. It’s a joy to support a company like this!)
Sale Alert: The Primary warehouse sale right now has up to 60% off, with tees as low as $5, cardigans (my kids’ favorites) for $12, leggings for $9.50, and shorts for $9.50.
2. For swimwear: Hanna Andersson
Call me old-fashioned but I remain firmly committed to keeping my girls’ in more modest swimsuits than the average girls’ department features, because they really don’t need peek-a-boo cleavage details or rhinestones on their butts. While Primary does a great job with this, I still check Hanna Andersson for swim — they are so well-made, we’ve passed down some suits now to the third lucky owner!
I like their contemporary but classic swimsuit patterns (hello, a sloth maillot?), cool swim trunks for boys — that my girls happen to like too — in great patterns like sharks and bats, a decent assortment of kids’ rash guards that are great for chilly lake swimming, and right now, more than 130 mix-and-match swim separates that I’ll call “appropriate” in their styling.
(I know, I’m an old boring mom. I own it.)
Sale alert: This weekend catch their Memorial Day sale for 25% off everything with code LONGWEEKEND, making some items up to 50% off. There’s also a final sale page with spriing items 75% off. Grab that pointelle cardigan for $11.79 — regularly $50!
3. For shorts and tanks: Target
I love that now you can find sturdy well-made, and often US-made clothes for pretty great prices, but I’m not immune to the lure of Target’s “tanks and tees from $4” sales. Cat & Jack knit shorts are a great deal at $5 now, and a nice fabric, if not “hand it down 10 times” sturdy — though one of my daughters prefers longer shorts, and we find the long boys chinos are perfect for that, and worth the extra dollar. We’ve also had good luck with the boys cargo shorts for a little less sporty look.
(I really wish they’d get rid of those gendered sections, since there’s no reason girls can’t wear basically all the boy clothes — and vice versa.)
The tees and tanks, as mentioned, are also staples for us, like the Cat & Jack cami now on sale for $3, whoa.
But I’ll be totally honest, you’re definitely looking at one-season swimwear in that department. They’re affordable, sure; but my kids tend to have stretched-out elastic straps and faded prints by the next summer, if not the next winter trip down south.
Sale alert: Memorial Day always means sales at Target. Find tanks and tees from $4, shorts from $5…you get the gist.
4. For sports bras: Yellowberry
There’s good reason that parents and girls alike totally rave about Yellowberry, and that their Aspen bra has had up to a 7,000 person waitlist: They are awesome. Whether your daughter needs actual support, or just more coverage under tees and tanks, there really are no better made bras for girls that I’ve found. Nothing even comes close.
Considering how girls these days (“girls these days!”) live in their bras and let them poke out of clothing, and considering how much confidence a comfy, proper-fitting, amply supportive bra can provide, I’d rather splurge on these for camp and save everywhere else.
Sale alert: Signing up for the mailing list list gets you 20% off your first order, plus email alerts about other flash sales and availability of wait-listed items. Worth it. There’s also a rotating sale section of last chance items including 15-44% off a few bra styles. Grab one of their discounted run like a girl tees, while you’re there.
5. For camp shoes: Zappos
Well of course Zappos! The overnight shipping is a godsend when I’m yelling, “you just outgrew your sneakers? Why didn’t you tell me!” four days before camp starts. And they accept exchanges up to 12 months — and sometimes just a wee bit after. Ask me how I know.
While every camp has different footwear requirements, I’m a big fan of Native Shoes, which are waterproof, but give you the support (mostly) of a sneaker. I much prefer them to flip-flops in a canoe, on a slippery dock, in mud puddles, or in shower stall — and the new Hello Kitty Native Shoes are super cute! Of course you’ll need real sneakers too, and yes, Zappos has plenty.
6. New Addition for camp basics: June & January
June & January has evolved from a small, parent-run baby brand, to include a nice selection of kidswear, and recentlky added a great new kids’ swim collection that we shared here. If you hop over, you can find a collection of solid camp basics at June & January up to size 9-10, that are perfect for tossing in those overnight camp trunks.
Admittedly, my own youngest is just at the top end of their sizing which is why I can’t honestly call them one of my own go-to camp basic shops. But for your tweens and younger kids, I absolutely recommend the great quality at nice prices.
They offer just a bit more style than your average basic solids — like a few fun if simple patterns, a sporty stripe pattern on the pocket of their pocket tee, a cute girls’ tee with a peplum at the hem, and starting today, a colorblock collection with contrasting colors at hem on their sports tank, swim romper, or tank dress. Look around. Fun stuff.
Sale Alert: It’s not super easy to find from the homepage, but there is a June & January sale page right now with tees, tanks, cardigans, jumpers and more all $10 — regularly $15-25.