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Summer Sleep-Away Camp Essentials

By Isabel Kallman

Yes, of course you will get a list from your summer sleep-away camp telling you that you should pack sheets, sunscreen and bug spray. Plus lots more I’m sure. But on this list are the extras that can make your child’s experience just a little sweeter while away from home.


this one time at band camp...

Self-address some stamped stationery. But not just any stationery, go all out. It doesn’t have to be super expensive either. For example, if you peruse the stationery vendors on Etsy you can find some wonderful artists who can make you limited runs at affordable prices. My favorite is Adnagam which makes one of a kind, handmade stationery and envelopes from children’s books (like Curious George & Dr. Seuss), vintage sports page clippings, and sheet music. Look at how awesome.

Of course your child will need a flashlight at sleep-away camp. Even if it’s just to read your letters under the covers after dark when he’s feeling a little homesick. Or, if you’re a really cool mom, you’ll pack night vision goggles instead.

summer_camp_cameraDigital Camera
For our generation, I think one of the best parts of Facebook continues to be reconnecting with folks from our past, like summer camp buddies and watching (or recoiling) as we get tagged in old camp photos. It’s only a right of passage that our kids should go through the same, no? Personally, I love the new cameras by Samsung with the front/back LCD screen and the Kodak ones with the “Share” button.


shamelessly borrowed from Design Mom

If there is one thing you buy from this list, it should be labels. Label Everything is my mommy mantra. For years, I have used Mabel’s Labels. I fell in love with the company years ago when when I loaded up on labels to stick on my son’s school uniforms (the labels don’t come off in the wash) and tags to put on his backpack. Since then, Mabel’s Labels has introduced a line of stickers for personal items and electronics (which they have sent to me for free to use for possible editorial consideration). This is a company that I will use and recommend until I am an old grandmother.

summer camp essentialsJournal
At coffee houses around NYC, a Moleskine journal is a total status symbol. Which comes as no surprise given that it’s a legendary notebook used by artists and authors such as Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, and Ernest Hemingway. If you think your kid would appreciate and write in his journal, I couldn’t think of a better place for him to record perhaps some of the most formative summers of his life. Moleskines are easy to find in bookstores like Barnes & Noble and Borders. And, Amazon carries them too.

summer_camp_personalized_pencilsPersonalized Pencils & Pens
Don’t expect any letters or journal writing if there aren’t any pencils or pens around.  And, if you order in large quantities, you can parcel out the stash into care packages throughout your son’s time away. Any leftovers can be used as back-to-school supplies.  We think these personalized pencils are really nice and though I have never ordered these personalized pens, the price seems decent enough.

summer_camp_water_bottlePersonalized Water Bottle
We’re really liking the Klean Kanteen styles that Pottery Barn has for offer. But really, the point is that you want your kid hydrated and not to lose his bottle. That’s all.

summer_camp_travel_pouchPersonal Media Travel Pouch
Not long ago, I gifted my husband– the airport jockey– something similar from KangaRoom and now the man that has everything won’t stop singing its praises. This clever case organizes up to three personal electronic devices and all of their chargers. Each item is nestled in its own separate compartment with its charger stored neatly below it. Of course, don’t forget to– wait for it–  label everything.

Isabel Kallman
About the Author

Isabel Kallman

Isabel Kallman is the founding mom of

Feel free to send nice emails to isabel[at]alphamom[dot]com.


Isabel Kallman is the founding mom of

Feel free to send nice emails to isabel[at]alphamom[dot]com.

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Might I also suggest a safe? When I was a kid and went to summer camp, anything even remotely resembling something expensive was lost or stolen. My first night at camp I went to get my new camera(that my Mom had told me not to take) and it was gone. I hadn’t even unpacked my bags yet and someone stole my camera. I never saw it again. The only thing the counselors could tell me was, “I’m sorry, but you shouldn’t have brought something you didn’t want to get stolen, lost, or broken.” So if it’s expensive or new I… Read more »


[…] it’s time for camp! If your child’s headed for sleep-away camp, she’ll need these summer camp essentials that you won’t find on your typical supply list. — Alphamom SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: […]


All good ideas except for the media travel pouch. Any camp worth it’s salt works hard to unplug and requires these things be left at home. I would also say that most good camps do not have a rash of theft and a safe would not be appropriate. But the theme “do not bring it if you will be crushed if lost or broken” is a good theme for campers to embrace. I would add a crazy creek type camp chair, some face paint with the camps colors for the color war competition, collection of good airband songs on your… Read more »


     I would also suggest bringing duct tape (you never know when you’ll need that), plain white T-Shirt (for tie-dying), gimp, scissors, Crazy Creek, Bunk Junk Organizer (sold at, nail polish & remover (for girls- it’s always a big hit), rain boots (especially if your camp is in New England), extra blankets (I personally always freeze), fan (make sure it’s quiet), water mister to spray water on yourself when you get hot, and make sure your sunscreen is sprayable for quick lavishes.

     I hope you enjoy camp!