Summer Day Camp Packing List for Kids

Kids and counselor play at camp

Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

When the school year ends, many children of working parents head to day camp each weekday morning. Depending on the activities on the camp's agenda, the list of things your child needs to bring can be long. Make sure your child has everything they need each day to make day camp a fun and enjoyable experience.

Use the packing list below to help prepare for day camp.


If your child is toting a lot of gear to camp, choosing the right backpack to carry it all is important. The same one your child used during the school year may not be up to the task.

Here are a few things to consider when choosing the right backpack for your child:

  • Compartments. A backpack with multiple storage areas is best. Make sure some of the compartments are large enough to hold the extra set of clothes, swim gear, and towels that a day camper may need. Exterior pockets allow for quick access to smaller items, like tissues, hand sanitizer, sunscreen, and cellphones.
  • Durability. Day camp is hard on a backpack. Select one made of sturdy fabric or nylon. Make sure all of the zippers work properly.
  • Side bottle holder. Easy accessibility to water will help your camper stay properly hydrated all day long.

You may even consider a rolling backpack as day camp supplies can be heavy.

Change of Clothes

Summer camp can get wet and messy, especially if your kids spend a lot of time outdoors. Pack an extra set of clothing in case anything gets ripped, muddied, or wet. And don't forget to pack extra pairs of socks and underwear. There's nothing more miserable than going through the day with wet and dirty socks and underwear.

It may also be a good idea to pack an extra pair of shoes (preferably closed-toed) in case the ones they're wearing get wet or muddy. Store these extra shoes in a plastic bag, separate from the rest of the clothes.

Pack the spare clothes in an extra-large resealable plastic bag, so that your kids have somewhere to stuff their dirty or wet clothes.

Swim Gear

Swimming is sometimes a weekly or even daily activity at camp. Your child will need:

  • A bathing suit
  • Goggles
  • Swim shoes or flip flops
  • Towels

Include an empty plastic bag in your child's backpack to hold their wet swimsuits and towels.

Pack two smaller towels for your child: one to sit on and one to dry off with after swim time.

Bug Protection

Consider sending insect repellent wipes to ward off bug bites. They will make it easier for your child to apply the insect repellent and avoid the possibility of spraying bug spray in their eyes or those of a fellow camper. Another option is an insect repellent wristband.

Sun Protection

If your camper is going to be spending any amount of time outside, sun protection is a must (even when it's rainy or cloudy). Pack sunscreen, a pair of sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat to ensure your child isn't returned to you at the end of the day chapped and burned.

And don't forget to pack lip balm with SPF to avoid chapped lips.


You're going to want to send your camper off with enough toiletries to get by. Travel-sized or sample bottles of the following essentials work great. Things you might consider include:

  • A basic first-aid kit (including antiseptic wipes and ointment, band-aids, blister pads)
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Tissues
  • Wet wipes

If your child wears contact lenses, pack a backup pair of eyeglasses for those times their eyes get irritated. A spare pair of glasses can also be a lifesaver if your bespectacled camper loses or breaks their main pair.

If your child needs medication (prescription or over-the-counter) be sure to give it to the camp nurse with instructions on when it should be given. Inhalers also go to the nurse.

Plenty of Water

Water is the best drink for your child at camp. Not only is it the best at quenching thirst, but it also doesn't include the sugar and calories in many other drinks.

Pack a refillable water bottle, or a couple bottled waters, so your kid doesn't get dehydrated. Freeze one of the bottles the night before. As the ice melts throughout the day, your child will have a cold and refreshing drink.

Try to avoid packing sugary drinks, including soda, sports drinks, and fruit juice.

Lunch and Snacks

If your child's camp doesn't provide meals and snacks, here are some tips and suggestions for packing nutritious food that will keep your camper going through the busy summer day.

Lunch Ideas

  • Carrot sticks and sliced cucumbers with hummus or dip
  • Chicken nuggets
  • Cream cheese and veggie roll-up
  • Sliced cheese and/or deli meats with a variety of crackers
  • Turkey and cheese roll-ups
  • Turkey BLT wrap
  • Turkey, cheese, and veggie bento box

Most camps are nut-free zones. Be sure to check labels carefully and avoid all nut butters.

Keep in mind that your child may not have easy access to utensils. Packing their lunch in a plastic, bento-style lunchbox with cutlery gives them the freedom to eat wherever they are.

Snack Ideas

You'll want to avoid packing a lot of candy and sweets. Too many of these can make your child sick when outdoors in the heat. Instead, pack their lunchbox with snacks that are both tasty and nutritious:

  • Easy-to-pack fruits (such as apples, oranges, and grapes)
  • Granola bars or cereal bars
  • Popcorn
  • Pretzels
  • Raisins
  • Sliced cheese, string cheese, or mini cheeses
  • Trail mix
  • Veggies and dip (such as celery with peanut butter or carrots with hummus)

Pack your camper's food in a thermal tote bag with at least two ice packs. You can get ice packs in the camping or outdoor section of any local discount store. They are also often available during the spring and summer at grocery stores and pharmacies.

Include a little surprise in their lunchbox. It doesn't have to be anything fancy—just something to let them know that you love them and are thinking of them. Pack their favorite snack and use a permanent marker to decorate the bag with smiley faces or hearts. Write them a little note on the back of their napkin.

Don't Forget the Details

Use a permanent marker to label the most important things: backpacks, clothes, shoes, towels, and plastic bags. Masking tape, painter's tape, or wide rubber bands are all good options for labeling bottles.

With this day camp packing list, both you and your child can relax and enjoy the different pace that summer brings.

By Sue Kay
Sue Kay is a working mother, time-management and organization writer, and vice president of business development for InHealth Systems and Services.