I admit it. When I heard about moms in New York City spending thousands of dollars to hire professional organizers to pack their children’s camp trunks, I was shocked. I was also jealous.
Successful packing for sleep-away camp – whether the little darling’s adventure lasts one week or two months – requires more than just working through the camp’s checklist. The trick is to balance the camp’s directives against your child’s very real needs to cover up, yet look cool in all weather conditions. All this, without the availability of a private laundress (er, that would be you).
First Things First
Before you begin, use a laundry pen to mark every single item that’s going to camp – from socks to soap dish – with your child’s name. Sew-on or iron-on labels are also an option, but only for parents organized enough to order them in time to be available on packing day (Did I mention I was jealous those New York moms?).
Basics that Mix and (More or Less) Match
Children contend with all kinds of situations while they’re at camp, so flexibility is key to successful packing. Limit stand-alone outfits, and instead, choose simple tops and bottoms in colors that work together in a wide variety of combinations. Prepare your camper for the inevitable changes in the weather by packing items that can be layered on during the chilly morning hours, then peeled off as temperatures rise.
A lightweight fleece under a rain poncho will help your kid weather any storm, and will also save the packing room that would be taken up by a dedicated raincoat. And for super hot, sunny days, remember, less is not always more. Pack long-sleeved shirts, long pants or skirts made out of light, breathable materials. You may also want to look into clothing and swimwear that has sun protection built right into the fabric. Such items – formerly sold only in specialty camping stores – are now easy to find, and not that expensive.
Speaking of swimming, if your child is going to be down at the lake every day, a single bathing suit is simply not enough. There’s nothing more unpleasant than suiting up for swimming in something not quite dry. Encourage your children to wear modest swim suits that keep their upper arms and thighs covered and protect them from the sun. Modest swimwear is a fashion statement, and a time-saver; some kids use their modest swimsuit as a wardrobe basic, both in the water and on land.
Color Me Happy
It’s not so long ago that the term “camp shirt” referred to a straight-cut, conservative cotton blouse with a spread collar and buttons. Indeed, this kind of shirt is still in demand for school uniforms. But when camp time rolls around, children want to “make the scene” and meet new people while wearing fun fashions that expresses who they are – or who they would like to be.
I’m not suggesting children should be 100% free to choose their own camp wardrobe. But letting your camper pick out a few splashy T-shirts is more than just a clothing investment. It’s an investment in your child’s confidence, and ultimately, the success of his or her camping experience. Just think of that when all the packing’s done, and the bus is pulling away…