Your Overnight Camp Survival Kit

Here are some extras to consider for first-time overnight campers.

Just the idea of going to camp might have your little one full of excitement and butterflies — and you a wee bit anxious about them being away. Don’t worry, it’s not just you. Those are common feelings, even for summer camp veteran families.

The countdown to camp is on, and you might feel the need to over pack or be tempted to leave packing until the very last minute. Don’t wait to pack, and consider this list before you stuff your suitcase. 

Download or request the packing list suggested by the camp

We’ve known too many parents who couldn’t find the list or didn’t bother with it, only to find their kids really needed something on the list. That includes a light coat and sweater/heavy sweatshirt for chilly, rainy summer nights.

Label everything

We’re partial to Mabel’s Labels because the campers in our lives have never lost an item at camp thanks to the labels, which are even tough enough to endure several summers of camp from one package. The company offers a camp combo pack for both day camp ($19.95) and overnight camp ($39.95). What you don’t use this year can be used for other occasions (school, perhaps) or throughout their camp years. Find them at

Plan to send at least one surprise box

Mail full of goodies and your camper’s favorite things can help them overcome any homesickness, but can also help them make friends in their cabin or cohort. Send enough allergy-free treats to share (for older campers who have jumped on the vegan wagon, you might consider also adding vegan-friendly treats such as Oreos). You may even have to mail this package to camp before your camper leaves home, so it takes some preplanning on your part. Make sure to include a photo of their pet if they have one.

Include some fun stationary

Swing by your local stationary or drug store and create a stationary set for your camper. Include paper and envelopes for writing letters home, maybe a cool notebook or a journal with writing prompts, and fun add-ons like stickers, glitter or colored pens. Not only will this keep them busy during quiet hours, but they can get the full camp experience by journaling or writing letters by flashlight in their bunk. 

Provide a solid, good-sized refillable water bottle or jug.

That’s a given, but also consider sending along a case of bottled water (especially if you are the one unpacking the car and moving into the cabin.) Sometimes kids don’t like the taste of the water at camp, so they won’t drink it and risk instead becoming dehydrated. The last thing either of you want is your kiddo missing out on all the fun because they’re feeling ill. 

Feminine products for your daughter.

If your daughter is at the age where her period might start, make sure to pack products that she knows how to use (just in case). This applies even if their period isn’t expected to happen during camp. Send them. Experience talking here.

A deck of playing cards

Kids who love tech will wonder what to do during quiet times built into the camp day. The kids with the playing cards who know a few card games will be the ones with ideas for filling that time. If your camper likes Sudoku or crossword puzzles, pick up a book for them at the Dollar Store (don’t forget a sharpened pencil or pen).

Film cameras are back in style

Just because they’re having a tech-free summer doesn’t mean your kid can’t take photos of all the new experiences and new friends they’ll want to remember forever. Pack a disposable camera so they can capture their favorite moments (make sure to choose a waterproof one if they’ll be spending any time near a lake or participating in water sports). When the summer camp blues set in once your kids are back home, they’ll love getting to develop their film and show you all of their camp memories. 

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