A Bag of Dirty Clothes and a Letter in the Mail: Sleepaway Camp Packing Tips

I registered my kiddos for summer sleepaway camp six months ago. That’s right, I was pretty confident that camp was happening this summer. Besides, they had a good refund policy. We’d spent so much time together during the pandemic that any opportunity to get them OUT OF THE HOUSE seemed like such a win-win.

We got ourselves vaccinated and the CDC said it was safe (enough)! So we counted the days and the next thing we knew, school ended and the kids were ready for their first summer at camp. This program has a day camp option and then there are week-long overnight camp sessions. When the first week of sleepaway camp was upon us, we got out the suitcases and the packing list and got to work.

Here were the most helpful takeaways we learned from packing for sleepaway camp:

Sleepaway Camp Packing TipsClothing

Pack one or two 13 gallon trash bags and some grocery store sacks. Your camper can then put their dirty clothes in the trash bags rather than destroying the suitcase or duffel bag, and then they can use the grocery sacks for dirty shoes and other accessories that need a wash.


Turns out, they don’t shower every day. Apparently, the swimming pool and sometimes, dish soap and a slip and slide get it done. So there is no need for large bottles of shampoo and conditioner or a big bar of soap. Save the space and lower your hygiene standards: send them with a travel-size bottle of shampoo, conditioner, and soap, or use empty 3 oz. bottles and fill them with what you have at home. Other small items such as travel deodorant, floss, toothbrush, and toothpaste rounded things out nicely, all stored in a gallon Ziploc bag.


While the camp had towels, the kids preferred ours because they “smelled like home” and were softer. To avoid wet items getting shoved in the bag which can sometimes get moldy and definitely stinky, I asked them to wring out any wet towel and swimsuit at the end of the day and let it dry overnight at the end of their bunk. Then when they got up in the morning, they could put the dirty items in the dirty clothes bag. This was a lifesaver and we didn’t have the little black dots that tend to develop on clothes that are wet and sit for a few days.


I packed pre-addressed and stamped envelopes with notecards inside so they could write to me when they wanted. They each sent one letter and thought it was fun to write home from camp without the worry of forgetting our address or not having a stamp.

I also left them handwritten notes from me and hid them in their bags to find as little surprises. They asked if they could bring sheets and pillows and that was fine with me. We put the pillowcase on their pillow, and then slid the sheets and a thin blanket inside as well to save room in their suitcases. Their sleeping bag made a great comforter, but they now want bags without the “slippery” inside so it doesn’t fall off anymore.

All of the feedback was positive from the kids, and they had exactly what they needed every day. They certainly returned home with a ton of dirty laundry, but the trash bags protected other items in the duffle bag as well as the bag itself.

They were exhausted from their adventures and wanted to curl up with a tablet or TV remote, but they still found time to sing some camp songs and regale me with stories about their time with their friends and the counselors who had the silliest names.

And that’s the best outcome, right? They had an amazing time and didn’t want to leave, and I didn’t have a messy explosion in their suitcases to clean up when they got home.

It’s the little things!

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