If you’re thinking of doing Camp America this summer (or even next summer!) then knowing what to bring is a really huge part of planning to go.
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When working at a summer camp, you need to keep in mind the fact that you’re going to be outside in the sun a lot, sometimes doing outdoor water activities, and probably getting covered in food or dirt every other day. Some days you might feel really homesick and some days you won’t. Some days it may rain and be really cold, some days it’ll be so hot you won’t want to go outside at all, so knowing what to bring can be really helpful.
What to know before you start packing
Different camps may require you to bring certain things
Please remember that this is just a simple guide, and that more likely than not, your camp will be different to the one I’ve worked at. Once you have your interview and are placed at a camp, you should know roughly what your camp will be like, their living conditions, and what they expect you to bring.
Depending on your camp, you may be working more or less outside than you might originally think. The camp I worked for was managed by Girl Scouts, so I was outside everyday helping with different activities like archery or paddle boarding.
Just keep in mind that the camp may require you to bring specific things with you, even more so if you’re working as a specific role (media, theatre, swimming, etc). If you’re worried, just reach out to your camp director and they’ll be able to answer any questions you have!
Don’t bring personal or breakable things that you can’t replace
This one probably sounds like a bit of a no-brainer, but if you own something personal like jewellery or a trinket that’s breakable, just don’t bring it. Working for Camp America isn’t you moving across the world for the rest of your life, you’re only going to be there 2-3 months before heading back home.
That being said, you can bring some stuff from home if you’re worried about being homesick from being away for so long. If you wanted to, you could bring a stuffed toy or pillowcase for while you sleep, as well as a few pictures of friends and family to put on your wall by your bed. If your camp is like mine, then it might be likely that you’ll have main living quarters for counsellors – where you’ll sleep on your days off and if you’re not staying in a unit, which means you won’t have to move all of your stuff all the time.
Bring around 10-11 days worth of clothes to last between washes
As I’ve said before, each camp will be completely different – some may be camps with week long and day sessions, some camps may be all summer long (this is usually really large camps where the campers stay for the entire duration).
Regardless of what your camp is like, you want to make sure you bring enough clothes or outfits to last at least a week or two before washing – because yes, your camp will have a washing machine, so you won’t need to bring a huge suitcase full of clothes to last you the whole summer.
Since it’s summer, you’re going to get hot a clammy pretty much everyday, so knowing you have some clean clothes for the next day is always good. Plus, if you’re an activity specialist (you might be working with horses or by the water) or you’re working in a rainy state, having clothes that aren’t covered in dirt and dust is a blessing.
Another good thing to remember is to bring some clothes when you’re off camp too. It’s likely that your camp will arrange trips out on your days off (or even just to pop to Walmart in between camp sessions!), so it can be really refreshing to wear something that isn’t walking boots or a shirt that smells like camp fire smoke.
If this is your first time taking a flight by yourself, make sure you check out my guide on how to prepare for your first solo flight!
Packing list – what you should bring
This is just a simple packing list based off what I brought with me last year and what my director suggested for me to bring – of course you can tweak this to suit your personal needs as well as what your camp recommends. Remember that you want to bring clothes that you don’t mind getting well worn by the end of summer, but also that they’re comfy for being active in! You’re going to be walking and running around all the time, so clothes that you can move around in is what to look for!
- Tops / t-shirts – I took around 6
- Jeans / trousers – optional, but if you work with horses you might require them
- Plaid / flannel shirt (optional, but good to cover up or keep you warm)
- Sweater or hoodie – I recommend two that are comfy for when its cold
- Fold away raincoat – for unexpected rain and storms!
- Vests – 3 or 4
- Shorts – These will be an everyday item – I took 5-6 pairs
- Underwear – enough to last 1-2 weeks
- Socks – Lots! You’ll need more than you’ll think, so bring as many as you can fit
- Walking shoes or trainers – depends on your type of camp and what you’d prefer, just know they’ll get wet and muddy!
- Rain boots / wellies (optional if your walking shoes are waterproof)
- Baseball cap / hat
- Flipflops / shower shoes (trust me you don’t want to leave without them)
- Pyjamas – bringing 2 pairs is good idea incase you need to wash one.
- Deodorant (I really like the ones from Wild)
- Toothpaste & toothbrush
- Shampoo and conditioner – I recommend using bars like from Ethique as they last longer!
- Body wash – or you could just use shampoo
- Face wash & flannels
- SPF moisturiser
- Sun cream / sunscreen – spray on ones are good while out at camp too
- Hair brush & hair ties
- Vitamins (important since you’ll be eating different to normal)
- Personalised medication
- Menstrual products (if needed)
- Lip balm (SPF ones are good too!)
- Boarding pass & flight details
- Copies of passport & ID – make sure your family have a copy too
- Police check/DBS form
- Visa and SEVIS forms
- International adapter (either get one with multiple ports or also bring an extension)
- Phone charger
- Battery pack (for if you have to sleep without electric)
- Torch / flashlight
- Carabiners – helpful for attaching things to your bag
- Water bottle – I recommend an insulated one!
- Backpack – you camp might supply one, but they’re great for on and off camp.
- US cash and wallet/purse
- A towel – your camp may supply one, but bring one if you have room (you may want to bring two if your camp has a pool or lake).
- Snacks / sweets from home
- A watch – so you can keep track of camp activities and meal times.
Optional things you could also bring
- A sleeping bag or blanket – check with your camp first incase they already have spares, but it can get a little chilly overnight!
- Camera – if you like to take pictures while travelling, bringing a camera out with you on your days off is a great way to capture memories!
- Kindle / e-reader – these will save you loads of room in your luggage compared to physical books and are great for having downtime or when you’re on your flight!
- Luggage scales – if you’re worried about if your luggage will be overweight then getting a simple luggage scale is a great idea!
- Journal – a great way to keep camp memories!
- Pens and pencils – more likely than not you’ll be taking notes throughout the summer or writing in your journal, or maybe you just like to doodle! Having a handful of writing utensils will come in handy.
- Alarm clock – an idea if your camp won’t let you keep your phone overnight
- Bluetooth speaker – check with your camp first, but often the kids love having some music!
Since you’ll be at camp for a couple of months, you could either bring enough toiletries to last you a couple weeks and pick some new ones from Walmart, or you could opt for solid options like shampoo and conditioner bars or refillable deodorants, which will save you money and space in your suitcase! If you wanna learn more, then make sure you check out my guide to sustainable toiletries!
What you don’t need to bring
Since you’ll be working for the majority of the summer, you don’t need to bring your entire life belongings with you – plus you’ll be making new friends and exploring the local places by your camp too.
- Laptop – chances are that your camp won’t have the best wifi anyways, so unless you need it to do school work before going to uni, I’d recommend leaving it at home.
- Tablet or handhold game consoles – unless you want to bring your tablet to watch downloaded tv, you’ll be more likely busy spending time outside with your new friends (plus you don’t want it to get broken!)
- Precious or breakable things – like I said above, if there’s something you thought about bringing but are worried about it getting lost or broken, leave it at home. You’ll be back home before you know it and you won’t even miss having said thing.
- Hair driers or straighteners – since the US uses a lower voltage than the UK (and other countries) it’s likely that they won’t work as efficiently, plus they take up a lot of room in your luggage! Chances are that one of your new American friends might bring one with them and you can borrow theirs.
- Your entire wardrobe – you only need around 10-11 days worth of clothes in reality since you’ll have washing machines at your camp for you to use. If you’re in need of new clothes while at camp, there are tonnes of GoodWills (charity / thrift stores), as well as Walmart and Target that you can check out while you’re there.
This is just a general guide to what to bring along with you when working for Camp America, so I hope it helps out when you get packing! Is there anything you wish you took with you when working at a summer camp? Let me know!
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