The REAL Sleepaway Camp Must Haves from Skincare to Shoes

So every year we get a giant list of items that campers should bring with them to camp. Inevitably, there are a few things that most campers wish they had.

It’s a tough balance….

You want your kid to have everything they need, buuuutttt you also don’t want them to have stuff that they’re just gonna outgrow or throw out in a few months.

And if your camp doesn’t require uniforms every day, then it’s more difficult. How many uniforms are really necessary?

A quick rule of thumb is to consider how long your kid is going to be away. Are they going away for 7 weeks or 2? Is it a sports camp or a traditional camp? Laundry is usually done once a week, but there are more tournaments as the summer progresses.  We aren’t going to make that call for you…but beyond clothing, here’s our list of the REAL must-haves:

SCOUTjr duffel bag on floor


  • Extra underwear – 2 weeks worth is a good amount
  • Extra bathing suits – chlorine, sea water and cement can do a number on even the most well constructed suit.
    • WHOLE PIECE ALERT! While some kids will rock a bikini at sleepaway, whole piece bathing suits are the way to go. Whole piece suits are easier to wear under a lifejacket and are simply easier to be active in…plus no need to worry about losing your top.  So even if your daughter loves bikinis, do her (and yourself) a favor and buy a few cute whole piece suits at the start of the season.  You’re not gonna be able to find them come visiting day.
      • p.s. for the boys, trunks over speedos unless they’re going to a swim camp. 🙂 quote about sleepaway camper's skin


Let me just say this.  You haven’t seen acne til you’ve seen camp acne. The combination of sun, sweat and sunscreen combines to create a gnarly forehead of red pimples like you have never seen.

  • Beyond the usual soap and shampoo
    • Clarifying shampoo to help get through the grime
    • Face masks to help pull some of that gunk out
    • Face wipes (remind them not to flush them!)
    • Biore strips
    • Scar Away


After hitting refresh all day to catch a glimpse of your child in the end of day photo album, your moment of joy will be replaced by irritation and concern once you catch glimpse of your child sunburned.  I don’t know why more camps can’t just make it mandatory to slather up before leaving breakfast…but that’s a convo for another day…

  • At LEAST THREE bottles of spray sunscreen for 2 weeks of camp
  • At LEAST ONE bottle of sunscreen for faces
  • TWO or more sunscreen sticks
  • Bottle of Aloe (yep, they’ll need it)


Pay attention.  Your kids are going to be playing sports, traipsing around the woods or beach, and showering on floors touched by dozens.

  • CROCS. Not Slides, not flip flops
  • Rain shoes or rain boots (we say shoes cuz you know wearing rain boots with shorts is kinda uncomfortable)
  • Sneakers – preferably two pairs so one can air out after a long day
  • Cleats – sport-specific
  • Sports-specific safety gear
  • Socks
    • Sport specific socks
    • Cushiony socks
    • Fuzzy, smoothy socks for those cold nights

Photo Credit: Nicate Lee


We resisted bedding comfort items for a year. Isn’t the goal of camp to somewhat rough it? But kids these days are different. So many of the camps offer modern lodging with in-cabin bathrooms. What’s left? The cot-like bed and temperature. One of the items below really is a luxury item but the other, after last year’s heat wave of +100 degree days is a necessity.  You tell us which is which…

  • An egg crate or memory foam mattress topper
  • Playing cards
  • Friendship bracelet materials
  • Collage or photos of friends and family
  • Mosquito spray
  • Benadryl anti itch spray (we don’t know why, this one works the best though)
  • Chamois pool towels like these super cute striped ones
  • Neck cool wrap for after play


At this point you’ve packed everything on your camp’s list and ours. You’ve scoured the internet and searched Denny’s and Lester’s for on-trend clothing and accessories.  You may have already ordered our #1 pick. Worried that you didn’t?

Here it is: A Portable, Clip-On Fan with optional plug.

Here’s why.

Air conditioning remains scarce, so fans help cool your kids off after a long day in the sun. And bonus, a fan will also help ward off any pesky mosquitos. We’d call that a win.

Did we miss anything? Let us know in comments below.


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