Sleep Away Camp Essentials & Camping Hacks for Boy Scout Camping, Summer Camp, Etc

My son went to Boy Scout camp for the FIRST time a few weeks ago! He has been a Cub Scout since he was just a tiny little Tiger (1st grade), but for the most part, all of our camping has been family camping.

This was his first week long camp without myself or my husband present.

(trying to save up money to send your little one to sleep away camp? Learn how to create some wiggle room in your budget!)

To say I was a bit of a basket case as we drove away from dropping him off would be an understatement. However, he survived (and actually, I would say he THRIVED!) and when he came home we went over what worked well and what didn’t.

I figured these camping tips/camping hacks would be helpful for any parent sending their kid off for camp, so I decided to share it here on my FFF.

What worked:

Pack it all in a trunk

This was a Boy Scout recommendation, but honestly from now on, anytime either of my kids go on any kind of extended stay, we’ll be packing everything in a trunk!

These trunks are super affordable and tough. They also roll! We purchased ours at Academy, but you can also get it shipped right to your door from Amazon.

Write up a packing list

Our Boy Scout troop provided us with a basic packing list. Most likely, whatever camp your kiddo is attending will provide you with a packing list as well. Print out that packing list and use it to pack (of course), but also add to it where necessary.

My son had a few different bags with him. A day pack (his day pack is very similar to this one), a pack to go to the shower, a bag for when he went swimming, etc. We put a detailed list of what was in each bag on the packing list. 

We also gave him a highlighter so he could use the packing list as a reference when it was time to come home. Unfortunately, his tent mate left their tent wide open during a particularly heavy down pour and the packing list was ruined. Thankfully, he returned with all of his property.

He did say the breakdown of what was in each bag was super helpful though when he couldn’t find something he needed.

Send letters/care packages with your kiddo

This was a big one for us! My son LOVED this. Myself, my husband and my daughter all wrote my son letters. We split the care packages into one per day and told him that he had to follow the rule of only opening one per day!

My letters were very “Jesus loves you, so be good!” haha. My husband’s letters were basically a funny story that built on each day (I was dying laughing as I was reading them!). And my daughter basically wrote him video game references that she knew would annoy him.

I snuck in some fun items too:

Day 1 (first full day) – A journal with a few pens/pencils in hopes he would journal his week (he started to do this, and was excited to do this, but the journal was a casualty of the open tent during the rain storm 🙁 )

Day 2 – A few word search/sudoku puzzle books from the dollar store

Day 3 – Some flavor blasted goldfish, his fave! (although he told me next time, don’t pack these…because bears, duh)

Day 4 – Candy (starburst!)

Day 5 – Cash (we sent him with cash for the week, but figured by Friday he probably would be all out, so we thought it would be a fun last day treat)

Day 6 – A promise of something fun at home.

Package outfits in individual ziploc bags

This might not work for older kids, or if you are packing cold weather clothing. My son was going to be wearing t-shirts and shorts all week though, so this made life SO much easier (and was a LIFESAVER when his tent got wet…none of his clean clothes were wet! Because they were in ziploc bags!)

I have used this method of packing on vacations too. It works beautifully!

Send clothespins to hang wet items

Okay, full disclosure…he said he didn’t use these. I can tell by smelling his towel/swimsuit that this is true. Yuck. That was the grossest laundry I have EVER done. Regardless, maybe your kid will use them. I know I’ll bring clothespins camping with us from now on!

Next time, I think I’ll purchase some of these to send with him. I suspect these would get more use!

Send empty plastic grocery sacks for various trash/clothing items that get especially gross

Yes. Yes. Yes. You will have DISGUSTING laundry to do when your kid gets home. There is nothing you can do to change this. It will happen. You will open up their trunk and you will wonder what died in there?

However, the plastic grocery sacks can make things better. He was smart and put his super wet stuff in these bags.

Label EVERYTHING

Get a black sharpie and go to town on everything. EVERYTHING. Chances are, every kid in your kid’s cabin/tent/troop/etc will have similar items. If you want them to come home with what you sent them with, LABEL EVERYTHING. This includes clothing!

His camp chair and his cot (this is the cot he has, it’s great!), his flashlights, his water bottles, everything!

Send water shoes/shower shoes

Foot fungus. Enough said.

A spritz/fan can help a lot!

This was my son’s contribution to this post. I asked him what the MOST important thing was that he packed for his trip. He said a spray bottle with a fan (with extra batteries). This was one of those, eh…whatever I’ll just throw it in the cart purchases, but he said it really made a difference.

Where he camped, they only had 90 minutes of air conditioning a day (I know this because anytime we complain about being hot since he has been home, he likes to remind us about how he went a week with only 90 minutes of air conditioning a day, LOL) . The rest of the time he was out in the hot July Texas sun. He said this made a HUGE difference for his comfort and his experience.

My son had a GREAT time at Boy Scout camp. The memories he made and the experiences he packed into that one week make me feel good about the investment of money, time and how desperately I missed him.

Would I send him again? In a heartbeat!

Are you an old pro at sending your kids off to camp? Any camping essentials tips for me? Comment below! 

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