Having several summers of camp under my belt, I thought I’d share my top ten “must-haves” for this camp season!
This list can apply to any camping experience you are chaperoning, including CentriKid, Fuge Camps, and Crossings.
Without further ado, because I think I hear the church van honking for you, here are the top ten items on my camp survival checklist for chaperones:
- Extra Cleaning Supplies — trash bags, a broom & a roll of paper towels – The trash bags supplied in most camp settings are thin and small. Bring your own heavier-duty bags for the abundance of trash that your campers will inevitably produce! I have left camp with an entire trash bag full of … I don’t know what, but it was full! Stuff will get tracked inside your living quarters, whether it’s a tent, a lodge, or a room. Bring your broom to stay on top of what gets tracked in – your facility will thank you too! Drinks and other things will need to be wiped up, so toss in a roll of paper towels (or wipes) because toilet paper is not the best quicker picker-upper!
- Flyswatter – Not much to say here, but it’s helpful and handy to have, and most people don’t think about bringing one. Flies, bugs, spiders (eek!), and whatever else may fly (or crawl) into your room, having something to get them out is a must.
- First Aid Kit – There’s no need to buy an expensive one, but having a box of Band-Aids, some wound wash, tissues, antibacterial ointment, and gauze will save on trips trying to hunt down the camp leader for those minor scratches and bites.
- Extension Cords and Power Strips (and Fans!) – Many times, there are only one or two outlets in a room (if you’re lucky enough to be chaperoning a camp that has electricity!) and not always in the ideal spots. It’s helpful to bring a few extension cords and a power strip to be sure you have plenty of outlets to plug in multiple cell phones. Whether your camp allows cell phones or not, many kids will bring them and want to charge them! Extension cords are great for plugging in those fans, so bring a fan or two! I recommend tower fans, if possible, as they don’t take up much space in the car or the room!
- Clothespins – A cheap camp necessity! Clothespins will help in so many ways to make your camp stay a breeze! Many camps have clotheslines to hang wet towels and bathing suits, but, you know what, they don’t have — clothespins! Even if they don’t have clotheslines, you can hang damp stuff from hangers inside with clothespins. If your camp allows, command hooks are the ultimate in camp luxury as you can have one or two designated to each camper to hang nametags, towels, bathing suits, etc. You can also use clothespins to close up chip bags to keep out the ants. My favorite use of clothespins at camp is to use one for each toothbrush. What’s grosser and messier than having four different kids’ wet toothbrushes laying all over the sink? Clip the neck of the toothbrush, just under the bristles, in the clothespin, and then stand it up on the sink. It allows air to get around the toothbrush, keeps it dry, and is safe from touching the others! So, toss some cheap clothespins in your luggage.
- Rain Gear – Self-explanatory, but don’t forget it! Trash bags make crummy raincoats!
- Bathroom Amenities – Get a cheap small bathroom rug to throw on the floor. Trust me; you’ll be glad you did! Bring a hand towel or two because, again, toilet paper doesn’t get the job done for drying hands. Also, bring a small bottle of hand soap for kids to use. Most camps won’t supply soap, and if you want them to keep the germs at bay, bring the soap! Lastly, bring a package of baby wipes. These are handy for human and non-human surfaces! Not to be gross here, but it’s a nice option for kids to have in the bathroom to keep it ALL clean – just make sure they don’t flush them! They also come in handy for a quick wipe of the sink or anything sticky.
- Folding Camp Chair – You probably already have one in your car – bring it. Many camps have benches and such for chaperones, but not enough for everyone! It beats sitting on the grass, and you can fold it up and travel along with the kids and be comfortable watching all the activities!
- Plug-in Deodorizers – Kids don’t always smell like roses. And certainly not after a few days of summer camp. So bring a few plug-in deodorizers to help combat the stink, and you’ll thank me!
- Your Bible, a journal, and a devotional – Use the downtime for some self-care. Kids are connecting to God at camp, so why shouldn’t you? Pray over the kids, list their prayer requests, and journal about your experiences. You’ll always remember the big stories, but take note of the small things and the ways you see God moving in their lives at camp. Involve the kids in your prayer and journaling. At the end of each night, while they’re lying in bed, ask them how you could pray for them for the next day, how they connected with God at some point in the day, or what they learned about themselves that day.
Camp is awesome and fun, but admit it, we’re out of our element, and we like comfort! Hopefully, this list of things will help keep you more comfortable while chaperoning at summer camp! Spend more time enjoying the kids and less time wishing you’d remembered to bring a roll of paper towels to wipe up the fifth soda spill in your room! Have a great week at camp – you got this!
Feature photo of Kris Buckman and her youngest son during OMC at CentriKid.
Kris Buckman serves as the BCM/D children’s and youth ministry consultant.