What to Pack if You Work at a Summer Camp!

Life, Reading, Running, Writing / Thursday, July 13th, 2017

Hi Friends:)

Today I’m flying off to California to work as a summer camp director for the next 2.5 weeks! As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve worked at summer camps on and off for 5+ summers, and I attended day camps and overnight camp as a kid. With all that camping, I’ve become a near expert on what you need to bring with you to camp!

Since I fly to the camp where I work now, I have to make one piece of checked luggage work for me. Back when I drove and worked a full 8 weeks of summer camp, I would legit fill my whole car with stuff…most of which was unnecessary. Through trial and error, I’ve figured out what I really need for a fabulous summer at camp.

While this post is geared towards counselors, it’s definitely useful for campers too:)

Here’s what I’m bringing this summer:

Inside my ginormous 28-inch roller bag, it looks like this: 

First thing’s first: Even if your camp claims to provide bedding, bring your own bedding if possible.


  • Fuzzy Blanket
  • Fitted Sheet
  • Travel-sized Pillow
  • Sleeping Bag

I pack the blanket and sheets into a vacuum bag, which really helps save space.

Then, I get my toiletries ready. I opt to bring travel-sized bottles of my cosmetics so I can toss them when they’re done and I’ll have more space on the way home!


  • Foldable Mesh Shower Caddy (This thing changed my world. It fits into a suitcase and its so much better than a  ziplock!)
  • 3-4 washcloths
  • 1-2 towels
  • Razor (You’ll probably be too lazy to use this half the time, but it’s best to keep it around, anyhow)
  • Cotton Rounds
  • Facewash
  • Makeup removing wipes
  • Bar of soap
  • 2 travel-bottles of shampoo
  • 2 travel bottles of conditioner
  • 2 travel packets of laundry detergent
  • Travel hair brush
  • Tooth brush and 2 travel size bottles of tooth paste
  • Hanging Makeup Organizer (SO USEFUL!)
  • Basic Makeup (eyeliner, waterproof mascara, moisturizer)
  • Deodorant (maybe pack extra of this
  • Acne treatment stuff (stress breakouts happen)
  • Lip balm
  • A few band aids (no need for a full first aid kit!)

I love makeup, but nobody has time for that at camp. I only bring a little bit along to use after camp, when I have time off to hang out with my west coast people in San Francisco and Seattle!

Next up…Clothes.

Now, if you’re like 19-year-old Kerri way back when I packed for my first summer working at an overnight camp, you’ll feel the urge to pack as many normal/cute outfits as you do actual uniform/work outfits. RESIST THIS URGE. After two days trudging through the camp dust and answering 13830381+ camper questions, you will realize that bringing along all those sundresses was totally pointless. Just pack a bunch of uniform-appropriate gym shorts and t-shirts, and maybe a cute outfit or two for before/after camp.

Clothes & Shoes: 

  • 4-5 pairs of running shorts
  • 2 pairs of leggings
  • 1 pair of “respectable” shorts for arrival/visiting day
  • 5+ Sports Bras
  • Regular bras
  • Tons of undergarments ( you will also sweat through these.)
  • Fleece Sweatshirt
  • Waterproof Jacket
  • Flannel Shirt
  • 3 pairs of sleep shorts (don’t even bother with tops; just wear whatever t-shirt you feel compelled to pass out in.
  • 2 work out tops (believe it or not, I do try to work out a few times a week while at camp.)
  • One piece bathing suit (because no one wants a bikini mishap while shouting “Jason! Out of the deep end! You haven’t passed your swim test yet!”)
  • Lots of socks
  • Rain Boots (for east coast camps)
  • Keens/Chacos/Crocs (because ACA Accredited camps don’t allow flip-flops)
  • Sneakers and/or running shoes
  • 1-2 cute outfits if you’re adventuring after camp or if you have days/evenings off during the camp session. DON’T GO OVERBOARD WITH THIS.

Then there’s the other stuff.

I like to make camp as relaxing and healthy of an experience as possible, which is not easy considering I currently direct a 2.5 week overnight program for young people with disabilities. Even when I was working at a traditional camp, It was hard to feel organized and calm each day. Bringing along a few simple items to keep up with your self care and make sure you’re comfortable is a great way to prevent the dreaded counselor burn-out.


  • Hometown Hat! 
  • Tons of sunscreen (being sunburnt while telling children not to get sunburned is the absolute worst.
  • Bug Spray
  • Water Bottle (Stay Hydrated)
  • To-go Coffee Cup (because one cup of coffee at breakfast probably isn’t going to cut it.
  • Pill Organizer (If you take any medication, this is clutch. You might think to yourself, “I never forget my meds!” But you will forgetthem once you’re expected to get dozens of other little humans up and ready each morning, as well as yourself.)
  • Foldable Drawers/bins (I got these at the dollar store and they changed my world. )
  • Flashlight/Lantern
  • Laundry Bag
  • Book (nothing too involved!)
  • Clipboard (SO KEY. For holding schedules, field trip lists, and friendship bracelets you’re working on.)
  • Pens
  • Notebook
  • Post-its
  • Kid Scissors & Tape (Kids will ask you for tape and scissors 1000 times a day. Just bring them along. It’s worth it. )
  • Healthy Snacks (avoid the candy)
  • Lavender Essential Oils (I use a diffuser at home and it helps me sleep, so I pack a roll-on essential oil thingy when I travel!
  • Goofy dress-up items (A tutu, some bunny ears, something small but silly…you always end up needing this stuff!)

I also bring my computer along nowadays, but back when I was just a counselor and art instructor I really had no need for it.

Now, I know what you might be thinking; What does this even have to do with reading, writing, or running? The short answer is…it’s only vaguely related. I try to do a little reading, writing and running while away at camp. But mostly, in all my years of trial-and-error packing, I’ve searched the internet for suggested packing lists and I’ve been very disappointed with what I’ve found. So although this post is long and unrelated to my general blog theme, I wanted to put it out there because I think it’s information a lot of people need!

So there you have it! everything you’ll really need for camp:)


Happy trails, folks!

Now You Tell Me…

  • Have you ever been to or worked at a camp?
  • What were your camp essentials?
  • What helps you stay healthy and relaxed when you’re traveling?



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *