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Essential Packing Tips for Jewish Overnight Camp

camping equipment

Packing your child for overnight camp can seem like a daunting task. And, to be honest, it does take some preparation in order to avoid pre-departure meltdowns. Yours—not your camper’s. So here are some thoughts to make the entire experience just a little easier.

First, a few tips:

1. Read the suggested list from your camp. Seems obvious, but a lot of folks skip this step. If you trust the camp to care for your kid, trust that they know, from experience, how many pairs of socks your child will need while away from home.

2. Label everything!!! Don’t think for one minute that your daughter is the only one with the adorable #Camp shirt that Justice was carrying this summer. Personalized labels, written with a Sharpie—it doesn’t matter. While it won’t guarantee that the item will come back with your child, not identifying it will almost ensure that it won’t.

READ: Drag Your Kids To Summer Camp

3. Don’t overpack. The more you pack, the greater likelihood of things getting lost. If the recommended amount of t-shirts is 12, and they’ll be doing laundry, don’t make the mistake (ahem, ahem) of thinking that 18 is better.

13 Items to Send With Your Camper:

1. Hooks. The stick-on kind. So many uses for these. Hang a hat on it. Or a sweatshirt. Or a flashlight right by your child’s pillow. A visible place to keep the laundry bag. The possibilities are endless.

2. Refillable water bottle. At least two because one is bound to get left behind five miles back on a hike. Or at the athletic center. Or on a field trip. And label it.

3. Battery-operated fan. The temperature at camp can be unpredictable and your child’s bunk may not be air-conditioned.

4. Clip-on reading light. This can go right by your child’s pillow and perfect for reading right before bed.

5. Glow bracelets. Glow bracelets (necklaces, rings, etc.) are just plain cool. If your child is a bit frightened of the dark, one glow item tucked right under the covers can help. Send a bunch for the entire bunk and your camper will be a hit.

READ: The Kids Go to Overnight Camp & Mom Freaks Out

6. Camp Blankie. If your child typically sleeps with a lovie of some sort, you might be hesitant to send it to camp. God-forbid something happens to Blue Blankie. Enter the Camp Blankie. Recommended by mother extraordinaire, Rabbi Phyllis Sommer, the camp blankie is a special lovie that is used ONLY for camp. It meets the requirements of sending something snuggly from home while protecting the usual lovie from uncertain demise.

7. Rain Boots. Especially in the Northeast, it rains at camp and it gets muddy. Sending two pair of sneakers is essential, but sending a pair of rain boots is an extra that your camper will appreciate.

8. Hangers. Most bunks will have hanging bars but will not have hangers. These are especially important if you are hoping that your child’s Shabbat outfit doesn’t get crumpled up with the rest of the clothes.

9. Batteries. Just send a whole bunch. For the fan, the reading light, the flashlight. All of it.

10. Stuff to decorate bunk. Pictures from home—but not too many. This isn’t a shrine. A small rug. A cute throw pillow. Pages torn from Tiger Beat (yes, it’s still around) of your tween’s fave stars. Adorable kitten posters. Whatever will help your camper create personal space.

11. Ziploc bags. These are invaluable packing tools. Use them to group items together or to group entire outfits together. Also additional insurance to keep liquids from spilling and ruining everything.

12. Bed caddy/bunk organizer. To help corral items that your camper will want within reach. Tissues, flashlight (if it’s not hanging on a hook), book, etc.

READ: First Day of Camp, No Looking Back

13. Shabbat Notes. Each week at home, we bless our children after we light the Shabbat candles. The first year at camp, our kids observed that they really missed getting a blessing. So I created Shabbat Notes. It’s a photocopy of my hands (which I typically place on their heads during the blessing) with the words of the blessing on it. I also add one thing they’ve done (rather, one thing that I am betting they’ve done) during the past week that make us proud. I hand the entire stack to the bunk counselor at drop-off.

Bonus tip: DO NOT pack anything that has been prohibited by camp. (A) It will be confiscated and (B) it sends the message to your child that rules are for other people. Please don’t put the camp in the position of being the bad guy and your child in the position of being embarrassed.

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