Summer Camp Essentials


As school winds down and the days get warmer, my heart starts to beat a little quicker. The kids and I both know what’s coming: weeks and weeks of summer camp. From church camp to band camp to nature camp, they’ve tried it all. And loved every minute (except for the time I forgot to send soap AND shampoo). As a responsible, if forgetful, mother, I always try to make sure they’ve got the gear they need to make it through a week of adventure.

These are some of the essentials I’ve already started packing. Sleeping Bag: In case you didn’t know, the sleeping bag is the designer purse of summer camp. Unroll a neon mummy bag on opening day, and you’re instantly popular. Break out Dad’s faded green plaid sack from the 1970s, and you’ll just have to get by on your personality. Since most summer camps are, well, in the summer, choose a bag that’s lightweight and washable.

Insect Repellent: Keep mosquitoes, ticks, and flies away (even after three days of bathing only in the swimming pool) with a DEET-free bug spray. Look for a variety that’s resistant to water and sweat. Also, try a sample before camp, since the chemical odors of repellents vary widely in intensity, and can bother sensitive noses.

Fragrance-Free Bodywash: When your little mud magnet eventually does shower, give him a fragrance free body wash that won’t attract bugs, but will get him clean. Sensitive skin formulas are also a good choice for little bodies that have been exposed to the sun, wind, and protecting chemicals.

Sunscreen: Pick up a bottle of high SPF sunscreen (which means it offers longer protection, not more), especially since concurrent use with insect repellent shortens its effectiveness. Water-resistant formulas will last through sweating and swimming. Since late elementary and older campers may have to apply sunscreen themselves, practice beforehand so you and he both feel confident that he’ll be adequately protected.

Flashlight: If the sleeping bag is the purse, this accessory is the earring. Kids like a little bling on this useful tool. If it looks cool or does something unexpected, it’s a winner. Choose a flashlight for actual outdoor use (not a toy) that has an extra feature for added excitement. Special effects, a lantern, emergency siren, or neck or head strap will make your camper feel special.

Flip-flops: Help him avoid the shower soup by packing a pair of flip-flops or slides. Look for low cost, plastic or rubber shoes that will dry quickly and won’t be terribly missed if they don’t make it home. After camp, make sure to spray them down with a bleach cleaner or other sanitizer to kill anything that tries to hitchhike home.

When choosing items for camp, budget smart. Splurge on items that keep kids safe, healthy, and comfortable, like good quality skin protection. Save on items that will be worn-out or outgrown by the end of the summer, like clothing. And don’t forget to hug him before you leave. He wants you to, even if he won’t admit it.

Rebecca Dale is a business teacher, avid couponer, and mom to two little boys. Her goal is to continually reduce household expenses using those savings to invest in family fun and save for the future. lets her share deals with others as well as find deals for herself and family.

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