We’ve noticed you might be viewing our website from a different location. Visit your regional site for more relevant information and pricing.

The Ultimate Camp Counselor Packing List For Summer Camp in America

We make packing easy, with our ultimate guide on what to pack for a summer camp counselor job in America... There's even a list.

Author: Camp Leaders
14 Dec 11:05

"What do I need to pack for summer camp?"

Packing for summer camp in America is one of the hottest topics this time of year. Whether you're a last minute packer or are super organised - we all will go through the same packing struggles. From your classic 'Should I take a suitcase or a rucksack?' to sitting on your case in an attempt to zip it shut... we've been there.

To help you get organised and to make sure you're packing the summer camp essentials we've made you 'The Ultimate Camp Leaders Packing List' with everything you'll ever need to know all in one place.

Read on to find what you need plus a few extra top tips... no need to thank us, happy packing!

The packing list


2 x pair of trainers - You will be in “sneakers” every single day. Think comfortable shoes for activities both indoor and outdoor. You'll need to pack some that you don't mind getting a little ruined.

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

3 x shorts - Sports shorts will definitely be needed for those hot Summer days. You will be living in those shorts - so make sure you like them.

2 x pair of swimwear - No doubt, you will go in the water at some point. A lot, probably. So 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 Leader's t-shirt. That bright blue is hard to miss, so perfect to wear when boarding your flight to find the gang.

1 x warm hoodie - See top tip number one - For those chilly nights once the sun goes down.

1 x pair of jeans - For wearing on your days off or any rainy days when you're exploring the States!

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.

3 x pj's


Pack enough for your first week and then you can always pop over to Wal-Mart for bigger bottles. So we're talking travel-sized bottles of shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, face wash, toothpaste, deodorant and sunscreen.

Don't forget your toothbrush.

With bug spray - it’s best to buy it out there, the bugs seem to be pretty immune to anything non-US, so unless you want to be bitten up - invest in some on your first camp shop.

(If you require to take medication, please ensure you have the appropriate level of medication with you, and/or advise with your camp if you will need to replenish this stock of medication whilst in the U.S.A.)

Small Essentials
  • 1 x mobile phone - you will be able to use your home one on WIFI.*

  • 1 x phone charger

  • 2 x American travel adaptor

  • 1 x pair sunglasses

  • Comfort items for the flight; travel pillow, headphones, snacks, books or music, although you'll have some great movies to watch on the flight over.

  • 1 x camera (selfie stick optional)

  • 1 x optional flag (often camps have 'International Day' or times to represent your home country)

  • 2 x packs of your favourite snack, such as 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.

Documentation (the very important bits)

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 (train tickets)

Your Camp Leaders handbook - from your prep day

Camp Leaders HQ top tips

"A hoodie and joggers."

The best piece of advice (or clothing) we could ever give someone is to take some warm, comfortable favourites. It’s going to be very cold in the evenings when the sun disappears, you’ll find the temperature drops and your cabin will become arctic for the first few nights.

As the summer heats up those joggers will become your nightly go to, forget nice outfits - it’s going to be bug repellant, cosy and comfortable - trackie bottoms are the most fashionable item on camp.

"Definitely pack something red, white or blue"

Pack at least one item which shows off the US national colours as you will definitely need it for July 4th.

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

Speak with people who have been before. They’re the ones who will 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 and if you are struggling to find them - speak to your camp director, who will be able to point you in the right direction.

There you have it. One turbo list - of course, please add anything extra and speak to those returners… happy packing.

Did you find this list useful? Send us a message on Facebook or pop an email our way to let us know! Please don't hesitate to get in touch with one of our camp gurus if you have any questions. Our team members here and been to camp themselves, numerous times, so will have invaluable advice and answers for anything you might be wondering about.

Camp Leaders

Camp Leaders
With over 20 years of J1 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 J1 adventure - feel free to ask us anything.

Want new blog posts sent directly to your inbox?

Start your American summer camp adventure today.