We guide parents on the best ways to dress kids for summer camp in 2023. An incredible and impacting experience at kids summer camps starts long before they step onto the bus for their first day at camp. It Begins With the Right Preparation.
Some Handy Contents
One of the main purposes for any kids summer camps is to imbue the kids with newfound strength and confidence. You first have to feel strong to be strong.
But none of these life-changing ripples can be felt if your kids are not FIRST feeling comfortable at summer camp.
Many campers will feel a high degree of anxiety and nervousness surrounding their first days at camp. Much of this discomfort will be rooted in the anticipation of their outdoor adventures. And will quickly dissipate with most kids as they settle into their new summer camp surroundings.
The biggest way you can support your kids comfort at summer camp is to prepare them with the right gear and clothing for their unforgettable camp experience.
I have fielded countless questions from parents over the years in regards to how to dress kids appropriately for camp. This can be a daunting challenge, especially considering the likelihood that they may soon grow out of it.
Well worry not parents, we have all the inside tips and tricks for you as we delve into your kids camp packing list. We’re here to support and help our wonderful camp parents. Lets get started!
Best Outdoor Blanket for Summer Camp
The activities at Summer Camp present a wonderful blend of both high and low activity options for the kids. Some of my favorite low-activity options include staples such as the nightly Campfire gathering. And although there’s always plenty of warm emotions with this activity, it can get quite cold for the campers in an outdoor amphi-theatre type setting.
One of the more comfortable choices for kids with a static activity such as this is a comfy outdoor blanket.
One of the best and most comfy outdoor blankets for the kids is the Kelty Bestie Blanket. It features a total size of 76″ x 42″, and can pack down to 11″ x 7″ with it’s own included stuff sack.
The Kelty Bestie Blanket is lined on the exterior with a strong and resilient 75D Polyester Taffeta construction. And the interior is lined with a soft and breathable CloudLoft Synthetic Fill fabric material. This outdoor blanket is machine washable, and available in 4 exciting color types for your young campers.
Your kiddoes are sure to stay roasty and warm for many Summer Camp seasons with the Kelty Bestie Blanket.
Best Kids Base Layers for Summer Camps
The Girls & Boys Rashguards from TFJH are a multi-functional option that can serve as both a rashguard and an effective kids base layer. The 4-way stretch polyester fabric features a weave pattern that provides UPF 50+ protection on those hot summer days. The fabric is soft, breathable, and available in a whopping 18 different color types for the kids. There are also short and long-sleeve options available.
Based on past reviews, these sizes do run Small and it is recommended that you order 1 size up from the actual size. These rashguards are machine washable (though Do NOT use a dryer to dry – always hang dry instead).
The TFJH Boys & Girls Rashguards are a handy and effective base layer for the kiddoes that is light on the wallet for parents.
The O’Neill Youth Basic Skins Long Sleeve Sun Shirt has been covering and protecting kids for many years at summer camp. Not only is the brand popular with the campers, this sun shirt from O’Neill features an incredibly comfortable Polyester/Spandex construction with minimal seam placements. Not surprising coming from a company that has been pioneering within the surf industry for decades.
The UPF 50+ protection from this venerable kids base layer has been officially recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation. The Basic Skins Long Sleeve shirt offers maximum rash protection, and is available in 10 different color types.
Based on pasts reviews, the sizes run True to Size. These sun shirts from O’Neill are designed to be worn as a slim performance fit (though not skin tight). For a looser fit for the campers, you might want to order a size up. These base layers are machine washable, and it is recommended to always hang dry them.
The kids are sure to be ready and comfortable for summer fun with the O’Neill Youth Basic Skins Long Sleeve Sun Shirt!
Best Kids Fleece Jackets for Summer Camps
For the best outdoor fleece jackets for kids, we recommend a brand that has been supporting outdoor adventure since 1938. Forging its way from a small warehouse in Portland, Oregon, Columbia has become a respected and trusted outdoor brand for all.
The Columbia Boys Steens Mt II Fleece Jacket will keep your young campers comfortable no matter the activity at summer camp. It is constructed from a hardy 100% Polyester MTR Filament Fleece construction with a 250 g/m² rating.
The sizing and color options for this kids fleece jacket are immense and sure to cover all the bases with even the most picky kids. This outdoor fleece jacket is available in a whopping 11 different sizes for the kids (ranging from 2T to X-Large) with 24 different and exciting color types.
Based on past reviews, the sizing runs True to Size, and is designed to be a looser fit to comfortably allow for more layers underneath. It is recommended by other parents to focus on the height and weight within Columbia’s sizing to find the true fit for the campers.
This kids fleece jacket features a standing collar, zippered hand pockets, and comfort stretch cuffs to keep it sealed from the wind.
The Columbia Girls Benton Spring Fleece Jacket is the best option to keep your young female campers comfy and warm at summer camp. It is very similar to the Columbia Boys Steens Mt II Fleece Jacket; differing only in the fit and the available color options.
Columbia has outdone themselves again with a generous range of 11 different sizes (from 2T to X-Large) to ensure an ideal fit for every kiddoe. And with an almost overwhelming choice of 31 different color types available, every camper will have the opportunity to sport their own unique look.
This outdoor jacket is machine washable, and some parents have experienced slight shrinking after the first wash. Based on past reviews, the sizing runs slightly Larger, and should comfortably fit other layers underneath.
Both of these kids outdoor fleece jackets from Columbia are reliable and quality options to keep the campers properly insulated at summer camp. Keep em warm and comfy for many seasons with the Columbia Boys Steens Mt II or the Girls Benton Springs Fleece Jackets!
Best Kids Down Jackets for Summer Camps
For an affordable kids down jacket, we recommend the Amazon Essentials Puffer Jacket for Boys and Girls.
The insulating fill material in these jackets is actually a polyester down-alternative that boasts the same comfort and resistance as traditional down. These kids outdoor jackets will be the warmest possible, recommended option for the young campers (combined with the right layering of course).
A polyester down-alternative actually holds a distinct advantage over traditional down when it comes to rainy conditions. Any moisture will flatten the interior fill of a traditional down jacket; rendering it unable to provide any insulation. This kids puffer jacket on the other hand will maintain some insulation when wet as the synthetic fill won’t completely flatten with moisture.
The shell, lining and fill of this jacket are of a strong polyester construction that will provide both breathability and a soft touch for the kids. These jackets are available in both hooded and non-hooded designs for boys and girls. And cover 9 different sizes for each; ranging from 2T to XX-Large.
Based on past reviews, the sizing for the boys outdoor jackets runs small, and it is recommended to order 1 size up from the Actual. The girls outdoor jackets feature a slimmer overall fit, and the sizing is True to Size.
Plenty of exciting variety can also be found with 11 different color options for boys, and 10 different color options for girls. These outdoor down jackets for kids also feature a water resistance finish, a standing collar, side pockets, and elastic cuffs. They are machine washable, and easily stored in their own included stuff sack.
Not only will the campers feel protected in the Amazon Essentials Puffer Jacket for Boys and Girls, they’ll also realize the comfort of being wrapped in a snug pillow.
What About the Raingear at Kids Summer Camps?
Weather at summer camp can be unpredictable, especially in mountain areas. It is highly important that your kid always have ready access to the right raingear just in case nature decides to throw a bit of a curve ball.
There is a ton of information to share on this important topic alone. So we’ve decided that it deserved its own dedicated post. Check it out – How to Pick your Kids Raincoats for Summer Camp & Beyond.
Best Hats & A Helpful Accessory for Summer Camps
With full active days outside under the blazing sun, it is important to send a reliable hat up with the kids to keep them protected. Gone are the days of khaki, wide-brim hats sitting on the heads of every kid at summer camp.
Now the campers yearn for branded hats that align with their desire to feel cool amongst their peers. Even specific styles of hat have become super popular, such as the ever sought-after trucker hat.
For a regular branded hat, we recommend Under Armours Blitzing 3.0 Cap. Under Armour is a popular brand amongst kids, and will help them to summon their inner warrior on their camp activities.
A pre-curved visor design with a stretchy and breathable polyester construction. This outdoor hat for kids has a boundless choice of colors with 17 different and exciting color types.
It is available in 2 different sizes, X-Small/Small and Small/Medium.
The front panel is backed with foam padding for additional comfort. And the built-in Heatgear sweatbrand provides enhanced stretch and breathability during even the most physical of camp activities. Embroidered logos on the front and back carry the stamp of respect, reliability and quality that we’ve come to expect from Under Armour over the years.
Under Armours Blitzing 3.0 hat is a great and popular option that will accompany the kiddoes over many seasons at summer camp.
For a trucker style hat, we recommend The North Face Mudder Trucker Hat.
The North Face has become synonymous over the years with true adventure and outdoor innovation. This trucker hat for kids will inspire your camper and protect them on those hot sunny days at summer camp.
A pre-curved visor design with a one-size-fits-all option and snap closures on the back for easy adjustability.
With 24 different color types to choose from, every kid should find a design that suits them. This outdoor hat also features a ponytail hole to comfortably accommodate any hairstyle.
The North Face center front logo patch emblazoned across the front will proudly show the campers’ outdoor spirit. The North Face Mudder Trucker Hat is sure to follow the kiddoes on many an outdoor adventure.
Coghlan’s Mosquito Head Net is the perfect accessory for your kids headwear. Mosquitos can be a constant nuisance in the outdoors, and a portable head net will make life far more comfortable at summer camp.
This Head Net from Coghlan’s is built from fine mesh, and elasticized at the neck for a snug fit. It will fit over most headwear, and the standard option will comfortably fit over a baseball cap.
Keep the mosquitos and other bugs out for the campers this summer with Coghlan’s Mosquito Head Net.
The First Questions to Consider on Dressing for your Kids Summer Camps
Where is the Summer Camp Located?
The location of the summer camp is key to how to dress your young camper. Considerations such as the region, the altitude, the surrounding topography, and the type of lodging all need to be taken into account when preparing for summer camp.
I’ve found the surrounding topography to be an important, and often overlooked, consideration.
I admit that when I was starting out as an Outdoor Science School instructor way back in the day, it didn’t really factor in for me as well. That was until I started to work at some kids camps that happened to be located in some deep, narrow canyons in the mountains.
In the early mornings at these camps, the cold always felt slightly more piercing. This was due to the fact that the canyons acted as a cold sink; trapping the frosty air and keeping the temperatures low.
Boy there were some nippy mornings for myself and the kids. Those were the days when I always took my cabin group on a small hike before breakfast just to get the blood pumping a bit. Nobody likes feeling cold.
Any summer camps located at lower altitudes and coastal regions will have different considerations to a camp that is located at 6500 ft in a mountain range.
One camp will definitely be warmer than the other. But keep in mind, that strong winds can be very cold at times at coastal camps. Protection from the wind, more so than warm insulation, will be a key consideration for the kiddoes.
What is the Time of Year?
This is clearly a bigger consideration for kids camps that occur outside of the summer season. But it is still important to note given that the weather could be slightly different at the beginning of the summer season (June) than at the tail end (August).
Be mindful of the differences in the dryness of the various camp regions and seasons.
With the wrong combination of clothing and the right level of dryness in the air, I have seen chafing on hikes exacerbate into ugly rashes for the kids.
Definitely something that can be avoided with the right prep and understanding of your young camper. And don’t forget to pack the chap stick as well!
Winter is cold at times anywhere you go. I still remember bright, sunny days walking around coastal camps back home in New Zealand as a kid.
No matter how warm the day felt though, we all knew to carry a jacket at all times. Because when that wind started blowing strong from the south, an arctic chill was surely coming our way.
Winter won’t be as dramatically felt in most coastal camps, but in mountain camps, it’s a different story. Plan accordingly!
Dress Considerations for Outdoor Summer Camp Activities
Keep in mind that it is actually the quieter and less active outdoor activities at summer camp that will require more consideration for your kids warmth and comfort.
When we engage in active outdoor activities, such as hiking and kayaking, our bodies constant motion will keep our blood pumping throughout our body. This will result in consistent warmth, and can even compel your camper to shed their clothing layers at more strenuous times.
It is the two hours each night at the Campfire activity where your camper will be sitting almost the entire time, vulnerable to the cold and wind, that will require more consideration. There are a few of these types of activities at every summer camp for kids and teens.
If inclement weather is expected, the summer camps will not allow such activities to be conducted outside. They will instead move to a large indoor space, such as the dining hall.
Layering Up for Kids Summer Camps
It’s All About Balancing the Right Layers with Warmth and Breathability.
One super warm jacket won’t be enough, the right layering for clothing will be required for your kids to be completely comfortable at summer camp. An ideal layering system looks like:
Base Layer or First Layer – A simple t-shirt will suffice. This layer will either retain or dry sweat, depending on fabric.
Mid Layer – A long sleeve t-shirt, fleece or down jacket. This layer is your insulation layer, and is responsible for keeping your kid warm.
Outer Layer – A wind and water resistant jacket or poncho. This layer is your protection layer from the wind and rain. It should keep the layers underneath dry and comfortable.
If your kid is especially sensitive to the cold, add an additional mid layer.
Perhaps also consider a down jacket. It not only feels like you’re wrapped in a pillow, it also traps a heck of a lot of body heat. A down jacket from a trusted outdoor brand should last for years.
What is the Right Fit?
Remember that truly effective warmth in the great outdoors is all about trapping our body heat.
This is why down jackets and sleeping bags are so handy. They all feature large, lofting compartments of duck and goose feathers that trap the heat and keep us insulated throughout the experience.
Given this consideration of trapping heat, the right fit for layering is generally the tighter, the better.
Each of your kids will have different feelings to how encumbered they might feel with their clothing. I personally never liked feeling like the Michelin Man. I wear clothing that keeps me warm, but still allows for free and unbound movement during camp activities.
Techniques such as doubling up on the base layers (long and short sleeve T’s worn together), or wearing a mid-layer vest have been particularly helpful for many kids and teens.
For your campers outer protection layers (such as their water-resistant jacket), it is okay to wear something that is a couple of sizes larger. It will still work to trap their body heat, and will provide a lot more life as it will endure many more summer camp seasons.
Synthetic vs. Cotton Clothing?
Cotton is comfortable, retains moisture, dries very slowly, and draws heat away from the body.
Therefore in hotter and drier outdoor locations, cotton will actually be more effective in keeping your young camper cool and comfortable in the heat. It also provides decent sun protection.
Cotton also doesn’t damage natural coastal features like the chemicals found in sunscreen and treated clothing.
Synthetics (nylon, polyester, fleece etc.) are more water resistant, dry far quicker, retain more body heat, and are far more durable.
This is very important in colder locations and those at higher elevations. Synthetics typically last much longer than cotton and provide superior warmth.
Denim is more durable than both cotton and synthetics. But it dries even slower than cotton, does not breathe, and retains a lot of heat.
However denim can be effective, depending on the activity, such as a casual wear-around camp pair, horseback riding, or shorter roped challenges with harnesses due to superior durability.
Make Sure It All Comes Back From Your Kids Summer Camps – Pack a Laundry Bag!
Packing a laundry bag for kids summer camps will not only ensure that no clothing is lost, but it will also separate your young campers clothing to be ready for washing at home. Camp clothing can come back with some uniquely smelly funkiness!
I have dealt with a mountain of lost and found clothes at the end of summer camp sessions. Its much more of a hassle to pick them up later, than to just prevent losing the clothes in the first place.
And many outdoor laundry bags are also water-resistant dry sacks that can be used on other outdoor adventures as well.
Consider the Level of Sun Protection in Each Piece of Clothing.
With thinner and more sensitive skin than adults, there needs to be more awareness in how sun protection is guaranteed for your kids at summer camp. This will help to ensure an uninterrupted camp experience for them.
There are fabrics that are designed to reflect UV light naturally, such as nylon and polyester. Fortunately for the kids, these fabrics are used in the vast majority of outdoor clothing today.
Another way to provide this protection is with clothing that features a UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) rating. Simply typing in “kids upf clothing” in search engines provides an immediate selection of effective clothing options.
Be sure to pack the sunscreen and a hat for them as well!
Be Aware of Spray-On Bug Repellency Treatments!
Many parents are tempted by the lure of the absolute guarantee of no bugs hassling their kids with this highly priced outdoor clothing. This clothing is very effective at the outset.
However we like to focus on outdoor clothing and gear that can survive the long haul, over many impacting summer camp seasons.
All spray-on bug repellency treatments will eventually completely wear out of the clothing, depending on the number of washing cycles. I doubt that any could be effective against a full 7 week summer camp season.
The Right Footwear Completes the Package at Kids Summer Camps.
The right footwear is critical for your kids comfort at summer camp.
It is one of the most important pieces of gear to consider for them. Their feet are their wheels, and hugely influential on the overall camp experience.
I always recommend that footwear first be tested and then bought at a physical store. It is very difficult to know how to size effectively without your kid actually putting them on.
Every outdoor brand sizes their shoes a little differently, there is no absolute consistent standard!
Find Durable and Multi-Functional Kids Camping Clothing.
Your time is incredibly valuable as a parent. Make sure you choose the right clothing the first time to ensure a maximum life as it grows with your kid.
The right outdoor clothing should be multi-functional and durable. You might even have some already sitting in your kids closet that you can double purpose.
Any synthetic clothing can easily be used for the outdoors as well. Tight-fitting, synthetic pajamas make great base layers!
That’s A Wrap!
Hopefully, this post on how to dress for kids summer camps is helpful, insightful, and enjoyable for you. There are so many incredible and life-changing values to be gained from summer camp.
We absolutely cannot allow any clothing discomfort to get in the way of this unique adventure for the kids. Its hard to burst with confidence and empowerment if your shivering and cold.
With the right outdoor clothing and layering, they will boldly walk into every activity ready to embrace newfound confidence, regardless of the weather or conditions.
I hope I have faithfully guided you, our wonderful camp parents, out there, and helped to ensure the best experience for your kids.
This post contains some excerpts from our KCE Camp Tidbit – How To Prepare Your Camper. Have a great time preparing your young camper for their unforgettable camp adventures!
“I’m comfortable with my body because of camp.”
– Former Camper
For more of the best kids camp tips and insight, subscribe to our free and exclusive KCE Camp Tidbits emails.