Camp Prep Tips #3 – Minimize your Losses

Check our our previous Camp Prep Tips:
#1 – Some Basics 
#2 – Shop Like a Pro

Now that you know how to shop like a pro (ahem…make sure you’ve read Camp Prep Tips #2), our goal is to save you the frustration of unpacking those bags and not finding the waterbottle, cook kit and left hiking boot that you so masterfully picked out. The money you saved doesn’t last so long when you need to repurchase your son’s stuff for next summer. The bottom line is that even the most adult of campers lose stuff, but we can minimize those loses.

So how does stuff get lost at camp? Contrary to popular belief there is no North Star Gnome that comes and steals socks. Stuff gets lost at camp much like it gets lost at home. Walk into your son’s room and chances are you’ll find at least one or two pieces of clothing on the floor, not to mention a wet towel and a few other things under the bed. Unless your future camper has a 100% success rate at getting everything into his hamper at home, a few things won’t make it into the laundry bag at camp. At home, most kids have theirs own room while at camp, they shares a cabin with 8-12 other boys who are equally as adept at getting clothes off the floor and clothesline and into the laundry bag.

Does your son ever leave his coat at school? How about his baseball glove at practice or his backpack at a friends house? At camp, the athletic field is a shared locker for 175 kids and leaving tennis rackets and water bottles in the lodge after meals is much easier than dragging them all the way back to the cabin. Starting to get the picture?

Fear not, there is something that can be done. Here are some tips to get everything back at the end of the summer.

Have Them Help You Pack!
Yes, we know the process will be easier if you’re able to do it on your own. Having your child help in the packing process, however, has real value. It gives the a sense of ownership in the process of going to camp for the summer. It gives them a full realization of what it takes to get ready for the summer and gets them to start taking responsibility over their stuff. Most importantly, they know what they’re taking with them and hopefully will better keep track of that stuff.

Simply put, many campers don’t always recognize their own property. Throughout the summer we put out lost and found for everyone to see. We display unlabeled lost and found and no one claims it. We’ve brought labeled items to kids who insist that even though their name is labeled in that hoodie, it isn’t theirs. Having your son help you pack should lead to an increased sense of responsibility over their possessions, a great first step to not losing stuff.

Label Everything
Everything is the operative word. If a camper’s name is legibly marked on an item, unless its lost deep in the bog or packed in another camper’s bag, there is a great likelihood that it will make it home at the end of the summer.  When we do our final sorting of lost and found at the end of each session, we go through each item, pass stuff out with names on them and display everything else. Of the non-labeled items, most are not claimed. This pile includes expensive fleeces, baseball gloves, shoes (never complete pairs, of course) and far too many pairs of boxers (we’re not sure how those end up out of the cabins). We then post items on our “virtual lost and found” for parents to look through on social media, and most do not get claimed.

A few things to keep in mind with labeling.
– First off, label with your camper’s first and last name! “Ben R.” can be any one of five different campers and not everyone is going to know a camper’s nickname. Don’t use initials! Use the full name, or at a minimum the first initial and last name (we’ve got lots of Schulmans, Millers Marks’s and Marcus’s)!

– As far as how to label, sharpies and custom name stampers are great, but they’re not permanent on everything. We put waterbottles, cook kits and utensils through dish washers and after a few washes markers will wash off. Our recommendation is Mabel’s Labels or Stuck on You labels. In addition to the traditional iron-on clothes labels, they have peel and stick labels for clothes. They also have dishwasher safe lables which are great for waterbottles and anything else plastic or metal which are going to get wet. Labels are always legible and despite your best attempt to write names on tshirt tags, markers bleed. After a few times through the laundry, writing becomes fuzzy as well. Label those items in a discrete place inside the clothes so your camper isn’t embarrassed.

– Now as for labeling “everything”… we do mean that. Some things you may not have thought about labeling would include toiletries. You won’t believe how many shampoo bottles get left in the wash house. Throw a label on the inside of a baseball glove or the side of a tennis racket. You may not want those socks back at the end of the summer, but if you want your son to make it through four weeks without needing reinforcements, label the socks.

The Golden Rule
If you absolutely, positively have to have it back at the end of the summer, don’t pack it. This may be an expensive piece of sports equipment or it may be something more sentimental. We can do our best to minimize lost stuff, but items get dirty, worn out and lost.

And for those items that get lost, we promise that we’ll still post our virtual lost and found at the end of the session just in case!

Do you have questions to help you prepare for the summer? Want us to address something in an upcoming Camp Prep Tips? Email us at Chances are other families have the same questions and we want to help!