Packing Problems

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Dear Rivkie,

 My daughter is going to sleepaway camp for the first time. We received a list of essential items to pack from the camp, and it seems reasonable to me. But she insists that her friends who have gone to camp already told her there is a whole list of additional “necessities” that she must take with her in order to survive. Is she right? What does she actually need? It seems like I am going to be spending the same amount of money on supplies as I did on camp fees.



Agitated Alana


Dear Alana,

 Let me just say that I have sent a few children to sleepaway camp, and there is bad news and good news. The bad news is that you are right about spending a lot of money to get them properly packed for camp. The good news is that they are out of your house for several weeks! The other bad news is that you have a girl, and sending girls to camp is more costly and emotionally draining in terms of prep work.

Sending a boy, especially a younger one, is a snap: Follow the packing list exactly. However, even though the list says to take 12 pairs of underwear, don’t be shocked or upset when your son comes home with 10 that were never worn. Additionally, those 10 t-shirts and shorts may look suspiciously crisp and new when they arrive home. When you scour the photos on the camp website every night, don’t be surprised to see that your 9-year-old son is in the same shirt in every photo. And no, it’s not because they took those photos on the same day. Anyway, I digress. Let’s get your princess ready for camp.

First, DO pack most of the items on the list that the camp sends. The only exception that my girls reminded me of is rain boots. They take up a lot of room and the girls may need them once, if that. Unless your daughter is very sensitive to wet feet, skip them. After an extensive poll of my friends, my girls, and my daughters’ friends, here is what your daughter should seriously consider taking with her. (Some of these may apply to boys too, so moms of boys, pay attention.)

  1. Camp chair (very important!)
  2. Extra socks/stockings/underwear
  3. Stain stick, stain remover
  4. Clothes pins
  5. Extra portable storage, like bins or plastic shelves
  6. Mini fan
  7. Mini book light
  8. Books
  9. Games/playing cards
  10. Shtick (hats, feather boas, etc.)
  11. Color war items (bandanas, solid color clothes/accessories [usually primary colors: red, blue, yellow])
  12. Good tissues
  13. Liquid hand soap
  14. Hand sanitizer
  15. Nail polish/remover (if allowed)
  16. Family photos and something to hang them with
  17. Food!

Obviously, this is just a suggested list based on experienced campers’ recommendations, so take a look with your daughter and see if any of these make sense to her. If your child is a picky eater, I strongly suggest sending some food/snacks. One of my kids did not like the food at her camp last year, and sent a letter begging me to send cereal and noodle soups (the ones you add hot water to), as she was “starving and wasting away to nothing.” Even if this dramatic scenario does not play out, send some individually-packaged snacks to get her through. Just make sure it’s sealable if it’s not individual servings (and show her pictures of rodents on Google so she’ll remember to keep things wrapped up).

One thing I did for my son who went to camp when he was really young (so young he now refuses to ever go back, so sending them too early is one thing I would actually recommend against) was to buy postcards, stamp them, and mostly fill them out myself, but have him fill is some blanks. For example, I would write “Dear Mommy and Abba, I am having a great time at camp. My favorite part is _________. My favorite food is ________. The best sport is _________. See you at visiting day! Love, _______ [just to ensure the right kid fills it out].” Also, send all kids with note cards/postcards and writing implements, stamps, and return address labels. Do not expect them to write to you more than once; children these days have barely ever seen a postcard, and may be confused as to what to do with one.

All in all, I personally believe that if you can get over all the hoopla surrounding the shopping and packing, camp is THE BEST. It allows your child to gain a little independence and you to take a break from each other (which, let’s be honest, can save your sanity when talking about certain children). Don’t get too bogged down in the nitty-gritty. Get what’s on the list, add a few items that make sense, stick her on the bus, and say goodbye. Then run to the nearest Starbucks and write her a letter.

 Good luck!

 All the best,