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The Ultimate Camp Counselor Packing List For Summer Camp in America

Not sure what to pack for camp? We'll help make it easy - we've put together the ultimate summer camp counselor packing list.

It's almost time to head across the pond to summer camp in America. Whether it's your first time around, or you're a camp veteran, you'll want to make sure you've got all the summer camp essentials.

Author: Camp Leaders
25 Mar 16:17

What to pack for summer camp?

We don't have any summer camp packing hacks, and we can't pack your suitcase for you - but we can tell you how to pack for summer camp, to make sure you've got all the essentials for summer camp.

We've all been through the worry of wondering if you've packed everything you need for camp. That's why we've racked our brains, and come up with this list.

Whether you're a super-organised light packer, or a disorganised, frenzied, last-minute packer, who has to sit on your suitcase to zip it up, we're here to help.

Summer camp essentials

Before you keep scrolling, check out this video to see what Camp Leaders' own summer camp superstar, Imo, packs in her suitcase:

Ready to pack?

If you've got your suitcase out, and no time to waste, download our handy summer camp packing list PDF, and get your summer suitcase sorted.

Download the checklist

The camp counselor packing list:


The starting point for any good summer camp staff packing list.

2 x pair of trainers - You'll be wearing sneakers every single day. Bring comfortable shoes for activities, both indoor and outdoor. You'll need to pack some that you don't mind getting a little muddy.

1 x pair of casual shoes - We would suggest some nicer shoes to wear when out and about - nothing fancy, just some cleaner trainers will do.

3 x shorts - Sports shorts will definitely be needed for those hot summer days. You'll be living in those shorts - so make sure you they're comfy!

2 x pair of swimwear - It's summer camp, so you'll go in the water at some point. A lot, probably. Make sure to pack a swimming costume (one-piece) or board shorts. Some camps have rules regarding bikinis and speedos, so save those for your post-camp adventures.

7 x T-shirts - These tees will be ones you don't mind getting muddy. (Your camp also might have a uniform - double check this, as you might not need to pack so many of your own.)

Feel free to pack your Camp Leaders t-shirt. The bright blue is hard to miss, so it's perfect to wear find the gang before boarding your flight to America.

1 x warm hoodie - There's nothing better than pulling on a cozy hoodie and sitting by the campfire on a cool summer night. (See top tip number one).

1 x pair of jeans - For dressing up a little on your days off, or any rainy days when you're out exploring!

7 x pair of underwear/socks - A week's worth should be enough, as you'll have access to washing facilities.

1 x pair of flip-flops - For pool-side strolling. Optionally, you can bring Crocs, and flip them into "sport mode" when necessary.

3 x pj's - Much like a cozy hoodie, you'll want some comfy clothes to wear to bed. You'll never sleep better.


Top tip: Travel-size containers are ideal for heading to camp. You'll be there for the whole summer, so you can buy more when you need to.

What you'll need for the summer:

  • Shampoo, conditioner & shower gel
  • Face wash & moisturizer
  • Toothbrush & toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Sunscreen & bugspray - It’s best to buy your bug spray in America. The bugs seem to be immune to anything not bought in the US.
  • Any medications you need - If you require specific medication, ensure you have the appropriate level of medication with you, and/or advise with your camp if you will need to replenish your medication while you're in the U.S.A.

Don't forget your toothbrush.

Small Essentials
  • 1 x mobile phone & charger - Although your phone might turn into a dedicated selfie machine this summer, you'll be able to use it on wifi.*

  • 1 x camera If you want some higher quality photos, bring your camera. If you're just planning on using your phone, a selfie stick is optional.

  • 2 x American travel adaptor

  • 1 x pair sunglasses

  • Comfort items - These might include a travel pillow, headphones, books or music.

  • 1 x optional flag - Some camps celebrate 'International Day', but you don't need to wait for that to come around to proudly represent your home country.

  • 2 x packs of your favourite snack - Whether it's Cadbury's Dairy Milk or Percy Pigs, you won't have access to these again until you come home.

  • 1 x photo from home


$200 USD in cash

Pay as you go travel card - This is a great way to store your spending money and not be charged by the banks when withdrawing cash money.


Your Passport & 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

Your Camp Leaders handbook - from your prep day

Camp Leaders HQ top tips

"My best advice: a hoodie and joggers."

Take some of your warm, comfortable clothing favourites. It can get chilly in the evenings when the sun disappears. They also help keep the bugs away.

As the summer heats up, those joggers will become your nightly go to. Trackie bottoms are the most fashionable item at camp.

"Definitely pack something red, white or blue"

Pack at least one item which shows off the US national colours - you'll definitely want it for July 4th.

"Ask returners who've been to your camp before"

Speak with people who have been before. They’ll know exactly what you need for your camp, and will be able to give specific advice.

Returners can be found on your camp’s facebook group, but if you're struggling to find them, speak to your camp director. They can point you in the right direction.

So there you have it - the ultimate guide of what to put in your camp counselor backpack. Overall, you'll be surprised at just how little you need to survive and thrive this summer. Happy packing!"

- The Camp Leaders team

Camp Leaders
With over 20 years of travel experience, the Camp Leaders team has the answers to almost anything you can think of. We're here to help you sort your ultimate summer - feel free to ask us anything.

Print off the packing checklist

All your summer camp essentials.