Practical Packing: Camper vs. Counselor
June 2, 2016, by Jake
Practical Packing: Camper vs. Counselor
June 2, 2016, by Jake

I probably won’t be going to Target this year, which is more emotionally complex than it seems. Target has always been my go-to pre-camp outfitter of choice, my one-stop-shop for everything I need – but as I was leafing through my packing list in anticipation of my upcoming summer at camp, I had a sensation of almost-loss as I went through the list and realized that I already had almost every necessary item. What’s more, I realized how many of my previous staples I ultimately decided to forego – the life of a counselor is vastly different than that of a camper, and it’s important to account for that when packing, especially when you’re packing and carrying your own bag. So if you’re making the leap from camper to counselor – or you’re a counselor who’s trying to bring a little less in their duffle, here are a few tips to help you get packed.

Selling Your Sole

As a camper, a summer of footwear used to mean sandals, strapped sandals, generic sneakers, rain-proof sneakers, heavier duty rain boots, and hiking shoes, all of which were obviously in addition to the tennis shoes, basketball sneakers, soccer cleats, lacrosse cleats, and other sport-specific footwear I would bring.

Now, as my athletic aspirations have slipped away with my desire to carry several pounds of shoes to the car, I’ve ultimately economized in the footwear department. Sneakers, rain shoes, sandals, and Chacos (strapped water sandals) will suffice for two months. If you’re going to be playing a specific sport, of course you should bring the proper shoes – even the tennis counselor can’t walk on the clay courts without the right soles – but by and large, it’s good to slim down in the footwear department.

Gone are the Games

Summer camp is a wonderful time to play all sorts of games, and I used to happily bring a few up each summer. Mad Libs, board games, card games, ball games – anything that has an object and a set of rules still fascinates me to this day. I spent countless rest hours and after-Taps nights playing whatever game was popular among my friends and my bunkmates.

However, as a counselor, the time – and the packing space – simply isn’t there. During prime game-time, counselors will be *gasp* on duty fetching forgotten items, running kids to the nurse for Band-Aids, and individually coating each camper in SPF 45. Down time, when it comes, is a chance to take a deep breath and unwind – after spending entire days on your feet, you’ll probably relish a chance to relax and read a book. This isn’t to say that you’ll be game free – I’m always happy to hop in when the opportunity presents itself. However, your campers will probably have their games of choice, and the off-chance that you’ll play a board game once isn’t enough to secure it a space on the ride to camp.

Less Is More

I must have single-handedly kept Fruit of the Loom in business as a camper. T-shirts, boxers, socks – when it came to the essentials my mindset reflected a frantic grocery shopper hours before a hurricane: if you don’t run out, the trip has been successful. And at the end of the summer, when many of those clothes hadn’t been touched? Well, they would play a foundational role next year as I once again filled the Target cart with various clothes.

And now, I’ll be adhering more or less exactly with the recommended packing list. Over time I’ve learned that 10 shirts is more than enough for a week, and that it’s easier to pack laundry detergent than a backup wardrobe. Pajama pants can be re-worn, as can a hoodie that’s only made the trek from the cabin to the dining hall for breakfast. And if you find you need more of something, there’s always the trip to Wal-Mart.

Keep It Crazy

There are certain camp staples that never go away, and as a counselor you’re going to want to be a part of the fun. Fourth of July? Make sure you have all the red, white, and blue gear you can muster. Whatever your camp colors are, be prepared to go all out for color war. And wacky costumes and accessories can make all the difference on themed nights, so don’t forget your tutu or your cowboy hat. And speaking of crazy, just because you’re a counselor, doesn’t mean you can forego your lumbar support – make sure your Crazy Creek still makes the trip.

Maine Camp Experience Resources & Tools

Looking for the perfect Maine camp for your child?  Try out our helpful tool where you can select a camp by choosing: type of camp (girls, boys or coed) and session length (1-8 weeks).  It helps to narrow down a few camps to a manageable list that includes rates.  Then you can research these camps in more depth.  

Next, be sure to contact our Maine Campcierge™ to discuss these camps as well as for free, year-round advice and assistance on choosing a great Maine summer camp for your child.

You can share your own Maine camps memories & expressions of gratitude on our Memories of Camp section of our website.

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“I greatly enjoyed speaking with Laurie (Guide at Maine Camp Experience). Thanks to her guidance, ideas and suggestions we truly feel that our ultimate choice is the right one for us. We can trust that our seven year old daughter will have a wonderful summer!”

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