If your kid is headed to sleepaway camp this summer, we’ve got some sleepaway camp packing tips compiled by a bunch of BTDT parents on our team. Especially if it’s the first time you’re sending your kid to sleepaway camp, you’re probably already dealing with a lot of to-do lists, shopping checklists (why so many pairs of shorts?), organizational challenges, and oh…an emotion or two.

We get it. We’re here to help!

While your camp will provide a list of sleepaway camp packing tips and “what to bring” suggestions, and you already know to label medications and pack bug spray (right?) we wanted to give you some tips you may not have considered.

We hope these ideas save you some hassle, stretch your budget, and give you less time to stress. Which means more time for what truly matters: All those pre-camp hugs. – Lexi, and the CMP team

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Top image: Rhino Trunks via Container Store

Sleepaway camp packing tips:
1. Label everything. Like, everything.

Mabel's Labels Sleepaway Camp Personalized Labels are our all-time favorites for sleepaway camp (sponsor) | Camp packing tips from Cool Mom Picks

Sleepaway Camp Summer Label Pack from Mabel’s Labels: 20% off for a limited time!

No one at camp is setting out to rob your kid of their cool new red flashlight. But there are an awful lot of red flashlights out there, and there’s a good chance that some of them will be at your kid’s camp too. A good set of personalized camp labels eliminates a whole lot of problems when it comes to shoes, personal items, hats and accessories, and soooooo many clothes.

This Sleepaway Camp Summer Label Pack from our longtime favorite (and frequent sponsor, yay!) Mabel’s Labels are super durable and stay on, but don’t ruin your stuff. They’re machine-washable for those 26 t-shirts, and they’re dishwasher-safe for water bottles and canteen utensils. Plus your kids will have the best time picking out the designs, typefaces, and how they want their name to read.

Labeling everything cuts down on more lost stuff than you want to think about. Seriously, do those dryers at camp just feed on socks or what?

Sleepaway camp packing tips:
2. Follow the packing list!

Sleepaway camp packing tips: Follow the packing lists! Primary has affordable basics for those zillion pairs of shorts you'll need

Primary affordable summer camp basics – 30% tees + shorts off for a limited time!

Be sure to follow the camp checklist for what to bring. If the camp says 8-10 pairs of navy shorts, even if that seems like a lot, they mean 8-10 for a reason. Pack them all or you will be spending extra for overnight shipping to camp from Amazon. (Ask us how we know.)

If your camp lists a swim camp and goggles, and not optional swim cap and goggles, they are not optional! Same goes for robes, slippers, rain boots, riding boots, shower shoes, a shower caddy with holes for drainage,.. listen to the experts, for they know of which they speak.

We know you may be buying a lot of stuff, especially that first year, so make it affordable. Primary makes terrific, well-priced summer camp basics, from cotton shorts in every color — not just navy! —  to solid tees, which some camps require. Their UPF 50 swimsuits for kids are affordable and durable too.  Or check Hanna Andersson’s swimsuit collection, which can help you stock up affordably with frequent sales. They both make great hand-me-downs for the next campers, too.

Sleepaway camp packing tips:
3. Save money with items that can do double-duty

Multipurpose Teva Kids Sandals are a favorite packing tip for sleepaway camp

Teva Kids sandals – Great selection at Zappos


While you should definitely check with the camp before making substitutions, you may be able to find a few items that serve multiple purposes to save money and packing space.

A pair of Teva Kids sandals can serve as both sandals and water shoes, and that sturdy sole will keep them steady on rocky paths. (Camps without major hiking programs may accept them for trail walks too.)

Columbia’s popular fleece-lined rain jackets can handle wind, rain, and cooler nights by the campfire, and keep you from buying a poncho and a fleece and a windbreaker.

A rainboot with a heel may also be acceptable for beginner horseback riders who aren’t yet trotting — again, just be sure to ask. But it is a big money saver compared with new riding boots, especially if you don’t know whether your kid will fall in love with riding yet.

Sleepaway camp packing tips:
4. Leave the expensive stuff at home.

Remember the rule about following the packing list? That goes for the stuff the camp tells you not to pack, too. Most camps will tell you not to pack expensive cameras, headphones, jewelry, gaming devices, phones or tablets. So…don’t! The same goes for boxes of cookies. That’s what visiting day is for, right?

Pro tip: Under some circumstances, camps may allow you to bring an MP3 player with pre-loaded music that isn’t Wifi or cellular-connected, for use only at bedtime — or for kids at theater and music camps. Like 1st gen iPods!

Sleepaway camp packing tips:
5. Make sure your child knows how to address an envelope!

Summer camp packing tips: Send along personalized stationery like this cool design from Minted, and instructions for addressing it!

Personalized camp cards from Minted. We love this one!

Fair warning: Some kids are letter writers and some are…well, they’re not. We like to think that means they’re just having too much fun to write home. But if you want to encourage letter writing there are a few things you can do:

  1. Let your kids pick out some paper they like, whether it’s a simple legal notepad, postcards, or a personalized set of summer camp stationery. They’re more likely to use it if they pick it out themselves.
  2. Be sure to include stamps. Cute ones are always a bonus.
  3. Print out a list of all the addresses they’ll (hopefully) use — grandparents, siblings at other camps, friends
  4. Most important: Teach them how to address an envelope before they go! The USPS has a short video on how to address an envelope that’s helpful. You should also include a printed screenshot of the envelope (or just draw one) that points out where to to place the address, the return address, and the stamp.

It’s easy to forget that for many of our kids, this will be their first time sending their own snail mail. Wow.

Sleepaway camp packing tips:
6. Toss in some plastic baggies and wet bags

Pro tip for sleepover camp packing: Throw in some wet bags for the trip home!

Bumkins wet bags come in tons of patterns

If you’ve got a few plastic bags at home to spare, it can’t hurt to toss them at the bottom of your kid’s suitcase. They will come in handy for tiny treasures (why do kids bring home so many rocks?), little slips of paper, and mementos that kids pick up. Alternatively, try a reusable silicone Stasher bag.

Wet bags are also a huge help, especially for that last day before pick-up — you do not want your kid tossing those still-wet towels and swimsuits into their bag with everything else! Bumkins (above) makes cute ones and the kids don’t have to know we used to use them for their diapers.

Sleepaway camp packing tips:
7. Throw in a surprise for your child to discover later.

Sleepaway Camp Packing Tips + Sanity Savers from Cool Mom Picks | camp drunk decoration inspiration via Container Store

Love this idea for decorating a camp trunk via The Container Store! They have a great selection BTW.

Even the most seasoned camper can feel pangs of homesickness, which is why we think one of the best sleepaway camp packing tips is to hide a surprise in that suitcase or steamer trunk for your child to find. It can be as simple as a note signed by everyone in the family, a new book, or favorite family photos, above, taped to the inside of the trunk for them to discover when they open it up in at their bunk.

You can also add in a surprise gift like some camp-themed Mad Libs, a friendship bracelet craft kit, some markers and art pads if you’ve got an arty kid, or a fun new group board game like these that they can play with their new bunk BFFs.

Sleepaway camp packing tips: Throw in a little surprise like a Squishmallows chipmunk to cuddle

Squishmallows Chimpmunk: So perfect for campers!

Another gift idea: Something to cuddle at night, like this Squishmallows Chipmunk. A new, just-for-camp doll can be a real comfort. And remind your kid that their counselors are always there for them too.

They’ve got this! And so do you, parents.

If you have any favorite sleepaway camp packing tips, leave them in comments — we’d love to hear them!