Summer Camp Checklist
Summer Camp Checklist

Summer Camp Checklist

No screens, just dirty fingernails, forest forts, and fresh air! Outside camp gives kids open-play freedom for wide-open minds.

We love summer camp. So we’ve partnered with a favorite summer camp here in Portland, Trackers Earth outside education, for insight into how to bring the spirit of camp to every kid’s summer. It starts with some prep. Here are their tips for how to plan for day or overnight summer camp (without the stress!).

Get Ready Mentally

Is your child new to the summer camp scene? Are they apprehensive about being in a new environment with new people? Here are some things you can do ahead of time to help your child mentally prepare for going to camp:

Involve your child in choosing the camp.
Ask what they want from a camp this year—it might be different than in the past. Do they want to go with a friend or make new friends? Do they want to do a one-day camp, a week-long camp, or maybe a sleep-away camp? 

Talk to your kids about what camp will be like this year.
Read the camp descriptions with them. 

Let them help pack.
Once you choose a camp, let them help with other parts of planning, like a packing list (here's a printable one with some ideas).

Check in with them as camp gets closer.
If you sense that your child is nervous, ask them questions and encourage them to talk about it. Kids usually feel better when they’ve voiced their concerns.

Role-play talking to new people and making new friends.
Socializing can be hard for all of us—our kids are no exception.

Give them a taste of the adventure.
Go for a hike or play a few camp games to remind them how fun camp is. If you have pictures of earlier camp adventures, look at them together.

Show your enthusiasm!
If kids see that you are excited about them going to camp, that you are confident about it, that helps set the tone.

Get Ready Financially

Camps can be a financial commitment. Make a budget to save for camp. Why not get your child involved? Kids can contribute by earning something to contribute to the camp fund. They can earn money through extra weekend chores you pay them for, or an outside job like babysitting, lawn care, or stacking firewood for elders in your neighborhood. There are lots of jobs that kids of all ages can do. When kids contribute to paying for something, it holds more value for them.

Did you know that you can use a Dependent Care FSA for day camps? Most parents use this pre-tax benefit for things like preschool and afterschool care, but it can also be used for summer day camp.

Many camps offer payment plans and scholarships for families who need assistance. Check camp websites for more information.

Get Ready Practically

By practically, we mean know what your child needs to bring to camp. Most camps will send you a packing list a week or two before. Here is a Summer Camp Checklist (printable PDF) with all the basics you can expect to see on any list:

• Hat: Preferably wide-brimmed to protect from sun exposure, but good in the rain, too.
• Shoes: Pack or wear shoes that can get wet, like KEEN’s awesome water sandals.
• Clothes: The best clothes for summer are loose, breathable, and light-colored. Also, packing a change of clothes is helpful in case a child gets wet.
• Sunscreen: Apply first coat at home, pack for camp, then reapply mid-day.
• Hand sanitizer: Small bottle of hand sanitizer and/or package of wipes. 
• Lunch & snacks: Make sure foods are shelf-stable (in other words, ok to eat if it sits in the sun all day).
• Water bottle: The best bottles have a wide mouth (easier to fill and drink from), are big enough to fill your kid up at each water break, and light enough to carry when full.
• Check the weather! Look at the weather report each morning and send warmer clothing and rain gear as needed, including KEEN waterproof boots or quick-dry sandals.
• Leave the valuables at home: The last thing you want your child worrying about is losing their precious camera or stuffie at camp. Plus phones can distract kids from the fun happening all around them.

Sending your child to camp gives them a space to embark on new adventures with old friends, meet new friends and instructors who care about them, and connect with the natural world. With a little planning, it doesn't have to be stressful. 


For over fifteen years, tens of thousands of families have Tracked experiences outdoors with Trackers Earth and their year-round Guides — in seasonal camp events, through outdoor sport, mentor and apprenticeship programs, and during after-school and school-day adventures. Their mission is to inspire kids and families outdoors, creating stories and memories — new friendships, wonder, and possibilities — within ourselves, between each other, and with the world around us.

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