Mom Life

Summer Camp Packing Hacks

June 27, 2019

Summer Camp Packing Hacks

Summer camp packing hacks were not something I learned as a child. My parents, born and raised in Italy, rarely let me spend a night away from home. The words sleepaway camp might as well be an Italian curse word. Italian babes stay close to home.

Of course, my mother was shocked when she learned of our decision to send my eldest daughter (age 10) to summer camp for two weeks. “Where are you sending her? For how long?” The look on her face made me question everything. She was nervous and I was terrified. So I did what any anxiety-ridden mom would do. I began obsessing over her packing list.

Below are a few summer camp packing hacks and tips I’ve learned from my mom friends, campers, camp counselors and my own travel experiences.


Pack WITH your child not FOR them. To help them start and stay organized I recommend they use their packing list to ensure they have everything they need. If they pack their camp items themselves they are more likely to remember where they are.

Don’t pack their “finest things”. Things will get lost and damaged. One mother advised, “This is when you pack their mismatched socks and stained t-shirts.” No problemo. Good riddance.

Label everything. EVERYTHING. I used Label Daddy. The labels are not only adorable and customizable but also washer, dryer, microwave, dishwasher, and freezer safe.

Blue Swim Shorts and blue flip flops featuring water proof name labels by Label Daddy
Label Daddy

ROLL don’t fold their items and teach your child this genius technique. Rolling clothing is not only the easiest way to pack but it’s also the more efficient wrinkle free folding technique.

Surprise your child by hiding a note and a small gift in their duffel/trunk. My daughter loves face masks and mad libs.


My biggest summer camp hack happens to be the biggest thing you’ll have to purchase. First, contact your camp to see whether they prefer your child to bring a duffel bag or a trunk. If they give you the option, my recommendation is a large duffel bag on wheels. Duffel bags are generally lighter weight, expandable, have more compartments and, if on wheels, easier to maneuver.

I just bought this Pack for Camp large orange duffel for my daughter. It’s large enough to fit everything, has wheels and is relatively affordable.

Large orange duffel with wheel by pack for camp
Pack For Camp Duffel

PACK SAVY – Summer packing hacks to help your camper stay organized


The key to summer camp packing is organization and organization is not something that comes easy to most preteens/teens. Whether your child has to live out of their bag or gets to unpack I highly recommend utilizing packing cubes and Ziploc Totes. These simple cubes are a helpful organizational tool for your child.

Packing cubes are soft zip-up pouches that allow your child to organize their item by category. T-shirts will be rolled and packed into one cube, socks in another, underwear in another and so on. If you choose to use standard Ziploc bags in place of these cubes imagine this scenario. Your child wants to wear her favorite t-shirt that is rolled and packed at the back of her Ziploc. She empties the entire bag to get to it. Do those shirts ever make it back in? If your child is anything like mine there’s a 90% they do not.

Packing cubes unzip easily allowing your child easy access to all of their favorite items. I purchased these Bago multi-colored packing cubes for my daughter. She loved them. The mesh top allows your child to see inside each cube.

multi-colored packing cubes for to help with packing organization
Bago Packing Cubes

Another option would be to layer a complete outfit (shirt, shorts, underwear, and socks), roll it neatly and tie a rubber band around each complete outfit. This method works best for younger kids who haven’t started picking out their own outfits yet at home.

To pack bedding and towels we use Ziploc XL Flexible Totes. The totes keep the bedding and towels clean until they need them and can be folded flat for storage.


Showering away from home can be intimidating for some kids so it’s important to make sure they feel prepared and comfortable. Here are a few important summer camp packing hacks for shower time:

  • Buy a hangable shower caddy that is waterproof. I’m a huge fan of this hanging, quick-drying shower caddy by KUSOOFA. It’s durable and has enough space for everything your child will need.
Orange hangable shower caddy filled with sower items like comb, shampoo, conditioner, tooth brush and cream.
KUSOOFA Shower Caddy
  • Don’t pack jumbo sized shampoo and conditioner. They will shower less than you think.
One bottle of Fairy Tales Rosemary Repel Shampoo and one bottle of Fairly Tales Rosemary Repel Conditioner

Pack fragrance-free creams, shampoo and conditioners like Fairy Tale Haircare Rosemary Repel Shampoo and Conditioner. Their shampoo and conditioner are loaded with organic rosemary, citronella, tea tree, anise, lavender and geranium oils which are proven safe, gentle and effective to help repel lice.

multi-colored tsa approved travel bottles that are leak proof and squeezable

I love these travel bottles so much so that I bought one for my daughter and one for my self! These silicon Wedama travel bottles are leak-proof, squeezable and have a changeable ID window.

  • For those with a daughter who can never find their hair ties, I suggest wrapping tons of hairbands around their brush handle so that they always know where to look when they need one.
  • In addition to shampoo, conditioner, face and body soap I also have my daughter store a small travel sized sunscreen and bug spray right in their shower caddy. A little reminder to protect themselves whenever they can.
  • DO NOT PACK styling products, fragrances or hot tools. Leave the glam at home.


Odor and dirt are an essential part of camp life, but there are a few camp hacks to help keep the stink and dirt to a minimum.

Slip a lavender sachet or GAIN fabric softener sheets into each packing cube. I find that the fabric sheets work even better and are cheaper.

A dried lavender sachet perfect for reducing summer camp packing odor

Use cheap, disposable shower caps to cover dirty shoes. We wrap the bottom of her flip flops, sneakers, slippers, and water shoes with one.


Summer nights at camp can be hot and buggy so the next two items are essential for a good nights sleep.

Bedroom clip fans will keep your camper cool during the hot and humid night and provide a bit of white noise to help lull them to sleep. While this 4 speed, 8-inch fan by OPOLAR is larger than most clip-on fans it’s also incredibly lightweight, has a super strong clamp plus 360 rotation. We love it.

Black OPOLAR clip fan sitting on a desk next to a computer

Our first line of defense against those pesky bug bites are these non-toxic Deet-free Green Natural Mosquito Repellant Wrist and Ankle Bands. These colorful bracelets/anklets are adorable so kiddos don’t mind sporting them and they’ll never have to take them off because they are also waterproof.

Natural Mosquito Repellant Wrist and Ankle Bands in pink, green, aqua blue, midnight blue and pink.
Green Natural Mosquito Repellant Wrist and Ankle Bands


Lastly, slip a copy of your original summer camp packing list in a side pocket of your campers duffel and ask that on the last day they check the list to be sure they have repacked all their belongings. Hopefully, they will come home with 75% of the items they left home with.

Now that your camper has everything they need, you can sleep better and they can focus on new adventures and making new friends.

If you liked this article, you might also like my blog post All Your Sunscreen Questions Answered.