Ultimate Camp Counselor Packing List – Everything You Need

by Rebecca
What to pack fro Camp Americq

If you are preparing for a summer working at a camp in America, you’ll love this camp counselor packing list to help you prepare everything you need before, what will easily be, the best summer of your life.

In the summer of 2017, I spent two amazing months working at an all-girls camp in Maine. I remember how nervous I was preparing for my summer in the states. I remember wondering, what can I expect from my time at camp? What do I need to take with me? What if I forget something important?

Due to my experience, I put together this guide. I did the worrying so now you don’t have to. This post will make getting ready for your trip super easy, answer the questions you have about packing for camp and make it so you really have nothing to worry about.

So check out the ultimate camp counselor packing list below, and get ready for FUN!

Camp Counselor Packing List

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Baggage

Main Luggage

first of all, on this camp counselor packing list, we’ll look at luggage. With your main luggage, there are two main options, backpack or suitcase. Each one has pros and cons when it comes to heading to camp for the summer.

Suitcases are easier to transport, and you’ll be less likely to get back pain from carting around your belongings. However, once you arrive at camp, the terrain may not be the best for your suitcase.

Furthermore, think about the space in your bunk. For that reason don’t pack a massive case you’ll have nowhere to store. Bunks are small and you don’t want to be tripping over your case at midnight on the way to the toilet because you couldn’t get it under your bed.

Cases may mean it’s easier to access your belongings though, which is always a plus. They are also easier to repack.

With a backpack, you are set for pretty much any terrain which is always good. Just remember not to overpack your bag because you WILL FEEL IT! This is especially true if you are going traveling after camp though – and I am saying this from experience. Having an overpacked backpack will make your life harder!

The good thing is, a pack will fit under your bed and they are easily stored.

Here are some of my recommendations for both suitcases and backpacks:

Daybags and Other

Alongside your main luggage, you’re going to need a day bag and a smaller bag good for days out/shopping trips.

For day bags, I’m a massive backpack nerd! I love how practical and comfortable they are, and how much you can fit inside them. When I got anywhere I love to be prepared, so always make sure I have a backpack full of things like bottled water, snacks, hair ties, maybe a book, plasters, a charging brick and basically anything else I think might be handy.

My two favorite backpack brands are Herschel and Fjallraven. Both brands are of good quality, which I feel is worth investing a little more money is as you want to make sure your backpack is comfortable and lasts a while.

For shopping trips and days out, you’ll be thankful you packed a smaller purse type bag. If you plan on hitting up your closest Wallmart like a pro, also consider bringing a solderable shopper bag.

Here are some of my recommendations:

 

Carry On Essentials

I thought it’d be handy to create a separate section dedicated to carry on essentials to make sure you have everything you need for your flight to America.

Documentation in Carry On

  • Passport.
  • Visa paperwork.
  • Onward travel information.
  • Flight itinerary.
  • Medical form.
  • Police Check.
  • SEVIS receipt.

Other Items For Carry On

  • Headphones.
  • A book.
  • Electronics and chargers.
  • Any medication you need.
  • If bringing a laptop or tablet, pack this in carry on.
  • In-flight snacks are a great bonus.

Clothing

This next section of camp counselor packing list is all about clothes. It’s important to figure out what to bring, considering it will probably be the bulk of your luggage. Before you think about clothing, consider these two things. Firstly, will you need a uniform and if so what. Secondly, what are your travel plans after camp and what will you need to bring.

After you’ve thought about those two things, and have made a list, here are some other stuff you’ll need to bring too.

List of clothing to pack

  • A good pair of trainers (sneakers) or two. You’ll live in these! Don’t bring anything too fancy, they’ll get muddy for sure.
  • A casual pair of shoes – something you can wear on day trips or when traveling.
  • Shorts – you’ll want a couple of pairs of good shorts to see you through the summer. Comfort is key.
  • Swimwear – you’ll spend a lot of your summer in the water. Check if your camp has rules against bikinis, or play it safe with a swimsuit.
  • T-shirts- If your camp has a uniform like mine, you’ll need enough to see you through each week. also, bring some casual tops you can wear out and about or on ‘color nights’ – which is what our camp called non-uniform evenings.
  • Hoodies- bring one or two warm hoodies. You will thank me as the weather can be so changeable and get pretty cold, especially when sleeping in a cold wooden bunkhouse at night or evenings spent out by the campfire. A lot of counselors at my camp (including me) overlooked this and we basically raided Walmart for anything warm.
  • A pair of jeans – Great for days off or any occasion you need to dress up for.
  • A week’s worth of underwear to last between camp wash days.
  • Some flip flops or water shoes – I am now a Teeva convert after all the campers showed me the light.
  • Cozy Pj’s – as I mentioned, it gets cold.
  • Bring some red, white and blue clothes for the 4th of July!
  • Fancy Dress! You’ll see how much this comes in handy at camp. We did so many activities that I ended up in fancy dress for. Cameo for a game where campers had to hunt the counsellers as they hid, and spooky gear for a haunted house to name but two examples.
  • A lightweight raincoat.
  • Finally, remember to pack whatever clothes you need for after camp travel. I would say you really don’t need to pack more than 7 days worth of outfits. Clothing in America is also rather cheap so you can always buy stuff while you are out there too. We went to an outlet mall and I got a pair of white converse and some lush Levi shorts for a fraction of what I would have paid at home.

Toiletries

You only really need to back enough of the basics, like shampoo, for the first week and you can buy more when you get there. The good thing is if you forget anything you can always get it once you are there as well. So, here’s a list of what you’ll need to pack.

  • Shampoo, conditioner and shower gel.
  • A razor.
  • Face wash and moisturizer.
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste.
  • Deodorant – which is actually rather expensive in America.
  • Any make-up you want to bring.
  • Nail polish (always comes in handy and help hide the dirt under your nails that won’t come out no matter how hard you scrub.)
  • Sunscreen and bug spray.
  • Any medications you need.
  • Hairbrush.
  • Tweezers.
  • Nail clippers/scissors
  • Hair ties /hair grips.
  • Face wipes.

 

Documentation

I mentioned some of the important documents you need to bring in the carry on section of this post, but because they are so important, I want to recap it all again.

  • Your Passport and J1 VISA.
  • Visa paperwork – DS-2019 form.
  • SEVIS receipt.
  • Insurance card.
  • Flight itinerary.
  • A copy of your camp contract.
  • A copy of your police check and medical form.
  • Any travel tickets for your departure and arrival.

Small Essentials

  • A camera to capture all of the incredible memories you’ll make throughout the summer. 
  • An American travel adaptor.
  • Sunglasses.
  • Pay as you go travel card – my favorite travel card is Revolut, which you can easily top up using there the app. 
  • American currency – always useful to come with $150 – $200 dollars on you when you arrive.
  • Torch (always comes in handy after lights out.)
  • Laundry bag.
  • A journal to help you remember all of the awesome memories you make. Check out the Creative Travel Journal here, which is a unique guided travel journal I created.

Optional Extras

  • Flag from home country – wear it as fancy dress, hang it in your bunk, proudly rep your home country.
  • Your favorite snack’s from home – essential from when homesickness/ Cadbury cravings arise. My Dad kindly shipped me out some tea bags and treats from the UK. I’d never been so happy to see a freddo in my entire life.
  • Photos from home – to help brighten up your bunk.

What To Buy Once You Arrive

Lastly, this section covers the things you can get once you arrive at camp, making your luggage a little lighter. It’s basically a camp tradition for the counselors to do a big Walmart run within the first few days at camp to stock up on much-needed items/ snacks. Therefore here are the things I recommend buying once you arrive. Some of these items may be provided by your camp.

  • Underbed storage boxes.
  • Mattress topper – camp beds aren’t exactly the most comfortable.
  • Bedding – depending on what is provided by the camp, it may be worth getting some Walmart bedding for comfort, warmth and to make your bunk feel more homely.
  • Clip-on fan – it can get super hot in the summer.
  • A water bottle.
  • Stationery
  • Shower caddy (Makes life so much easier when you are trekking across camp to the showers).
  • A Towel, if you didn’t pack one.
  • Snacks, snacks and more snacks!

 

Thank you for reading this packing list, and hopefully, you’ve found it helpful as you prepare for the best summer of your life, working as a camp counselor in America.

If you want to find out more about life as a camp counselor, check out this post I wrote about the first impressions I had after arriving at my camp, and the things you can expect from your time as a counselor.

Just an extra note: when I applied to become a camp counselor as a UK resident, I went through Camp Leaders who I highly recommend. They helped me with my application every step of the way.

If you liked this post, don’t forget to pin it to help others find it too:

I hope you enjoyed this blog post.

If you want to keep track of your travel adventures creatively and mindfully, I’ve created a travel journal that will be perfect for you. Check out my blog post here all about the Creative Travel Journal, which is available worldwide on Amazon.

Don’t forget to connect with me on social media, as I love hearing about your adventures.

Connect with me on facebook to keep up to date with new content.

You can follow my travels on Twitter.

Be inspired by my travel photography over on Instagram.

And get pinning some travel inspo over on Pinterest.

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Thanks for reading and happy travels,

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6 comments

Roseline Christin 07/08/2019 - 7:21 pm

I agree with you! comfort is more important than fashion! I always Make sure my shoes have the proper support for my feet.

Reply
Sweet World 07/08/2019 - 7:21 pm

I can completely relate to the feeling of not knowing what to pack, especially what exact documents to carry when I travel. This is a great post and you’ve put everything in great detail. Great work! Hope it helps a lot of people.

Reply
jenny 07/08/2019 - 7:21 pm

Very thorough list and so helpful. I never had the opportunity to be a camp counselor. But, I did have a lot of help and comfort from them when away from home for all of those days. Y’all make a huge difference in these kid’s lives.

Reply
alison netzer 07/08/2019 - 7:21 pm

What a great list. My daughter also has counselors from international countries (she goes to camp in the USA) come and she always speaks of the treats that come from her counselors countries. To her it is such a treat.

Reply
Ariel Samangka 07/08/2019 - 7:21 pm

I’m glad that you were able to bring up this topic, since most campers often forget about the importance of preparation when camping. I also love that you gather all the important packing list before the real camping event happens. Toiletries are always on my priority list when camping.

Reply
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