Ultimate Summer Camp Counselor Packing List: The Only Guide You’ll Need

by Bex
american summer camp with a large main bunk on the banks of a blue lake

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Attention all camp counselors, are you ready to embark on an unforgettable summer filled with laughter, s’mores, and campfire sing-alongs? Well, get ready because I’m about to share with you the ultimate Camp Counselor Packing List that will prepare you for anything coming your way! This list is a tried and tested winner used by a real-life Camp Counsellor – me.

Your Ultimate Camp Counselor Packing List

In the chaotic whirlwind of camp preparations, it’s easy to overlook the importance of a well-prepared packing list. Fear not, In this guide, we’ll unravel the secrets to creating the ultimate packing list that will keep you organised and ready to conquer any camp adventure or activity. 

The Importance of a well-prepared packing List for camp counsellors

Picture this: you’re surrounded by enthusiastic campers, the sun shines, and adventure is in the air. But oh no! You realise you forgot your trusty flashlight, and it’s a pitch-black scavenger hunt tonight. A well-prepared packing list can be your superhero cape, saving you from moments of forgetfulness and ensuring smooth sailing throughout your camp journey.

A comprehensive packing list is like a magical spell transforming your camp experience from good to extraordinary. It ensures that you have all the necessary items at your fingertips. From the essentials like clothing and toiletries to the whimsical extras that bring laughter and joy, a thoughtfully curated packing list sets the stage for a seamless and unforgettable summer adventure.

Clothing - Camp Counselor Packing List ​

Let’s talk wardrobe essentials! When it comes to clothing, versatility is the name of the game. Pack a mix of t-shirts, shorts, and long pants to handle whatever Mother Nature throws your way. And don’t forget about layering! A snazzy hoodie or a trusty flannel shirt can easily transform your outfit from sunny days to chilly nights. Pro tip: Pack a raincoat too, because who knows when a surprise shower will turn your camp into a water wonderland?

Camp Clothes Clothing Packing List:

7 x T-shirts – These tees will be ones you don’t mind getting muddy. (Your camp also might have a uniform – double check this, as you might not need to pack so many of your own.)

3 x shorts – Sports shorts will definitely be needed for those hot summer days. You’ll be living in those shorts – so make sure you they’re comfy!

2 x swimwear – You are guaranteed to go in the water at some point during the summer. Make sure to pack a swimming costume (one-piece) or board shorts. Some camps have rules about bikinis and speedos, so save those for your post-camp adventures.

2 x warm hoodies – There’s nothing better than pulling on a cosy hoodie and sitting by the campfire on a cool summer night. It can also get pretty chilly in bunkhouses so it’s always wise to have an extra layer.7 x pairs of underwear/socks – A week’s worth should be enough, as you’ll have access to washing facilities. Pack everything you need including pants, socks, bras, sports bras etc.

3 x PJs -You’ll want some comfy clothes to wear to bed. Also, keep in mind you may be sharing a bunk with your campers, so make sure what you bring is appropriate. 

1 x Raincoat – When it rains, it really pours at camp. I’ve been stuck in a storm before. Basically, do not forget to bring a good waterproof coat!

Work Out Gear – Depending on what type of counsellor you will be and if you plan to exercise in your free time.

Sweatpants/ Jogging bottoms – The ultimate in comfort and perfect for camp.

what to pack for a summer at camp america

Off Camp Clothes Clothing Packing List:

Take around 6 to 7 different outfits and things you can easily mix and match.

5/6 Tops – These can be a mix of vests, shirts, t-shirts, tank tops etc.

4/5 Bottoms – denim shorts, patterned shorts, skirts etc.

3 Casual Dresses/Playsuits.

1 Smart Dress – formal wear for the end of camp meal etc.

A Pair of Jeans – Perfect to dress up or dress down

Jacket/Cardigan – something to wear on your nights off when it is cooler in the evening.

Accessories: Sunglasses /Jewellery

Special Camp Clothes Packing List

Celebration Outfit – Make sure you pack one smart outfit to wear at the end-of-camp celebrations!

4th July – Make sure to bring some red white and blue clothes to get all dressed up for the 4th of July. Your camp will likely have some special activities planned.

Color Wars – An annual event a camp, make sure to bring some brightly coloured bold clothes to dress up.

Fancy Dress – There are bound to be countless opportunities for fancy dress at camp. I’ve worn tutu’s, camo gear and I will never forget myself and my fellow female bunk counsellors being turned into 1 Direction by our campers for a competition. And I am not too proud to say, we won that’s to my amazing serenading skills.

Below are a few fun fancy dress pieces you can pick up to bring with you to camp:

4th July TuTu Skirt

4th July Headbands

Colourful Fancy Dress

Footwear Packing List:

Get ready to put your best foot forward! Comfortable and versatile footwear is key to conquering camp life like a champ. Bring a pair of sturdy, closed-toe shoes for hiking and running around with your campers. But don’t forget to pack a pair of water-friendly shoes or sandals for all those splashing adventures in the lake or river. Remember, happy feet make for a happy counselor!

1 or 2 x pairs of trainers

1 or 2 x pair of casual shoes – Bring some nicer shoes to wear when out and about on your days off. I say you can’t go wrong with Converse, my go-to everyday shoe (Yes, I live in Converse.)

1 x Water shoes/ flip flops

1 x Hiking boots – if part of your role is to hike and walk

1 x Tennis Shoes (if you plan to play tennis)

Optional Extras: Croc’s – love them or hate them they make great camp shoes.

 

camp counsellor packing list
Running a local 5k race on the 4th July

Toiletries - Camp Counselor Packing List ​

Let’s face it, even superheroes need to freshen up! Pack your trusty toiletries to keep that energetic spirit alive. Toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner – check! And don’t forget the all-important shower shoes. Pro tip: Pack travel-sized and small versions of your non-negotiable toiletries, and pick up the rest once you arrive at camp. Walmart run anybody? Plus you can pick up a funky shower caddy for extra organisational points.

Toiletry Packing List:

Shampoo

Conditioner

Shower gel

Face wash 

Moisturizer

Toothbrush & toothpaste

Deodorant

Hair Ties

Contact Lenses and Solution (if needed) 

Face Wipes

Tweezers

Nail Clippers

Makeup 

Hair Brush

Hair styling Products

Razor

Suncream / Aftersun

Medical Packing List:

This section is all about tailoring your list to your own individual needs. Make sure to be prepared though. Pack any medication you need, and some extra items such as mozzie spray and bite ointment.

what to pack for camp america

Optional extras to enhance the camp experience

This is where we can have some fun with the items we bring to camp. We’ll cover different sections of optional extras that will help enhance your experience at camp.

Entertainment Packing List:

Calling all campfire maestros and game gurus! While camp is all about embracing the great outdoors, it doesn’t mean you can’t sprinkle in some extra fun. Pack your trusty guitar or ukulele to strum melodies under the starry night sky. Don’t forget to bring a deck of cards or some classic board games for those cosy cabin evenings. And for the artsy souls, a stash of craft supplies will unleash your creative superpowers. Get ready to entertain and inspire!

Musical Instrument

Playing Cards

Small Games – Uno is the best!

Craft Supplies

Books or Kindle

Journal

Comfort items Packing list:

Camp life can be exhilarating, but a touch of comfort can go a long way. For those warm summer nights, a portable fan can be your best friend. And let’s not forget about personal snacks! Fuel up with your favourite treats to keep your energy levels soaring high. Lastly, some pictures of loved ones and friends can provide a touch of homey comfort.

Pictures/photographs to decorate your cabin. These are great to cheer you up if you are having a bad day. They are also a perfect way to introduce your campers to the people you have left back at home.

Decorations for the cabin. It’s amazing the different things like flags and bunting can have. This help to make your cabin feel more homely.

A toy/stuffed animal. A great remedy for homesickness and a little slice of home. 

Eye Mask and Ear Plugs, are needed if it’s your turn for a weekend lay-in.

Portable Fan

Extra Cosy Blankets / Pillows

Water Bottle – Make sure you always have one on you at camp to stay hydrated. Nalgene bottles are a great choice as they are very sturdy and dependable.

Day bag or backpack – perfect for day trips.

Electronics Packing List:

Let’s talk gadgets and gizmos aplenty! Remember, different countries may have different electrical outlets. Don’t get your chargers all tangled up in a web of confusion. Pack some handy adaptors to keep your devices charged and ready for action. All of the below are optional depending on what you would like to take.

Phone

Phone Charger

Larger Electronics such as Laptop or Ipad and charger

Head torch

Portable Speaker

Camera Gear

Any Power Adapters you need

Headphones

Hairdryer

Hair straighteners

Tips For International Staff Members

This section is for my fellow globetrotting counselors! If you’re joining the camp adventure from a far-off land, here are some important tips to ensure your international experience is as smooth as a summer breeze. First things first, check your passports, visas, and travel insurance. Make sure they are up to date and ready for action. The last thing we want is any pesky paperwork villains raining on your camp parade!

Documents and paperwork Packing List:

Your Passport and J1 VISA

Visa paperwork 

SEVIS receipt

Insurance card

Flight itinerary

A copy of your camp contract

A copy of your police check and medical form

Any travel tickets for your departure and arrival

Items to Buy After Arriving at Camp

Hold on to your camp hats, because I’m about to reveal a little secret that will make your packing process a breeze! Once you arrive at camp, you’ll discover a magical place called a superstore, most likely Walmart.I remember thinking during my first visit to Walmart that it was like a treasure trove filled with all the goodies I could need during my stay. Including lots and lots of yummy American snacks! So, take a deep breath and embrace the convenience of grabbing those essential items right on-site.

What to buy when you get to camp – Essentials:

Shampoo

Conditioner

Body Wash

Shaving cream/razor

Face wash

Nail polish remover/nail polish

Female hygiene products

Cotton buds 

Bug spray

Moisturiser 

Sun Cream

Extras You Can Buy Once You Arrive At Camp

Underbed storage boxes.

Shoe storage

Clip-on fan (a lifesaver in the summer heat!)

Friendship bracelet string

Duck tape – this stuff has soo many uses!

Water bottle

Stationery 

Shower caddy – honestly this will make your life 100% easier. Before I got one, my trek to the shower block involved numerous dropped toiletries and frantic fumbling. 

Beach Towel

Mattress topper – The perfect thing to fix any lumpy camp bed. Bring on the comfort!

Camp Counselor Packing Tips and Strategies

Let’s dive into some genius packing tips that will make you the reigning champ of efficient camp packing.

First up, use this blogpost to make a checklist! It’s like having a trusty sidekick who ensures you don’t forget a single item. Tick off each item as you pack and bask in the glory of being the most organized counsellor in the camp universe.

Secondly, embrace the art of packing light. Leave those unnecessary items behind and prioritise the essentials.

No space, no problem

Next up, if you have limited packing space? No problemo! Roll your clothes instead of folding them to maximize space and minimize wrinkles. Utilise those hidden nooks and crannies by stuffing socks and underwear inside your shoes. 

Oh, and don’t forget the power of packing cubes—they’ll keep your belongings neatly categorised and save you from being a hot mess (trust me I speak from experience and am now a packing cube convert.)

With these techniques in your packing arsenal, you’ll be amazed at how much you can fit in your camp-bound suitcase!

Suitcase vs Backpack

When it comes to choosing between a suitcase and a backpack for your camp counsellor adventure, the decision can feel as tough as scaling a mountain. But fear not. Let’s weigh up the pros and cons together. 

Backpack Pros

  1. Mobility: A backpack offers greater mobility and flexibility. Are you planning on doing much travel after camp? Will extra mobility help?
  2. Versatility: Backpacks are designed with multiple compartments and pockets, great for organisation.
  3. Compactness: Backpacks are generally more compact and can be easily stored in tight spaces, making them ideal for shared cabins or limited storage areas at camp.

Backpack Cons:

  1. Limited Space: While backpacks provide good organisation, they typically have less overall space compared to suitcases. This means you may have to be more selective with the items you pack.
  2. Wrinkled Clothing: The lack of structured compartments in backpacks may result in clothes getting wrinkled, requiring some extra effort to keep them neat.
  3. Fragile Items: Backpacks offer less protection for fragile items, such as electronics or breakable souvenirs, compared to suitcases with their hard-shell or padded interiors.

Suitcase Pros:

  1. Ample Space: Suitcases generally offer more space and allow for better organisation, making it easier to pack a variety of items, including bulkier or delicate belongings.
  2. Protection: Suitcases offer better protection for fragile items.
  3. Easy Access: Suitcases typically have a large main compartment that allows for easy access to your packed items without needing to dig through layers or sections.

Suitcase Cons:

  1. Limited Mobility: Suitcases can be less manoeuvrable, especially on uneven or rough terrain, making it more challenging to navigate through outdoor environments.
  2. Bulkiness: Suitcases can be bulky and cumbersome to carry, especially if you need to move around frequently or transport them over long distances.
  3. Storage: It may be harder to find space to store a large suitcase at camp. 
Meeting Lenny the Chocolate Moose on my day off

Ultimate Camp Counselor Packing List: Conclusion

We’ve journeyed through the realms of camp counselor packing, from essential items to optional extras, tips for international staff, and the art of post-arrival shopping. Now, let’s take a moment to recap our adventure. Now you are armed with the ultimate packing list, ensuring you’re ready for any camp challenge that comes your way. So, whether you’re teaching archery, leading sing-alongs, or unleashing your inner crafting wizard, remember that a well-prepared pack leads to a successful and enjoyable camp experience.

Are you ready to pack?

So, Camp counsellors, it’s time to put our packing skills to the test! Grab your backpack or suitcases, and embark on your camp adventure armed with the knowledge and tips shared in this guide. Pack with confidence, embrace the fun, and create memories that will last a lifetime. I can’t wait to hear about your camp escapades and the magical moments you experience. Share your own packing tips or unforgettable stories in the comments below!

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