April 16, 2019
Getting Ready for Camp Thunderbird

In the past few weeks, we have fielded many phone calls about where and what to buy for camp and parents expressing general nervousness surrounding camp.  If you haven’t hit this stage, it may mean spring break is still in front of you or you have nerves of steel and are laid back about camp packing.  For the rest of us worry warts, here are some helpful hints for packing and an acknowledgement that you are not alone.

First year parents, know that all of us have been through this process and we are here to help.  We have tried to make the packing list as simple and thorough as possible, but it still can feel like a bear of a process.

Your most important camp purchase are the camp name labels. As a seasoned camp parent and camp director who does a lot of camper laundry during the summer, I am here to tell you that there are no less than 15-25 of those cute colored name labels stuck inside my camp dryer.  So, if you hope to see your campers items make it home, don’t use those on their clothes. Those are good for any hard surface and they come in a million sizes, colors and shapes. I would recommend the inch long ones that are either long or round because they are small enough to go on anything and big enough to see.

As for the clothing labels that actually stick, I highly recommend getting the white, iron on version from Label Land.  Recently, my kids cleaned out their closets and as part of my donating process, I attempted to remove name labels. I had to resort to using a permanent marker to cross out our Label Land tags.

There are many duffle bag options out there.  We highly recommend the road tripper duffle bags from REI in 100L or larger.  They are roomy and durable. At all cost, avoid the bags with wheels and ones that are ultra lightweight material. Also, remember that the airlines have specs for oversize and overweight, so don’t go too big.

When packing the bags, remember that the first thing we want to do at camp is make a bed and find pajamas and toiletries. So, please leave these items closer to the top or all together. And, give yourself a break and ship those bags or if from the Chicago area, use the Baggage Express service.  Bags are then waiting in the camper cabin on opening day.  If you ship through the airlines (pay attention to the size and weight rules), our luggage truck has to wait for the last flight and therefore doesn’t typically arrive until after 9:00pm.

Towels and robes: are essential items at camp. You may be tempted to throw in old towels for camp, but if those towels are thick and bulky, please refrain. Towels and robes can get reused every year and for a small investment at Target or a dollar store, you can purchase the lightest weight towels that are not too oversized. If you are wondering why we make this suggestion, leave a damp towel wadded up in a tight space for a few days and pull it out and take a good whiff.  We want towels that can be hung up on a hook, don’t drag on the floor and are thin enough to dry between uses.  For a robe or a wrap, go for a similar concept and avoid heavy cotton or terry. Amazon or one of the discount stores like TJ Maxx or Marshalls may have some reasonable options.

Capturing the memories of summer: Back in the day, the disposable cameras were great for camp. This is no longer the case because getting film “developed” is not readily available and often expensive.  Instead, we recommend an inexpensive digital camera with a decent size memory card on it.

Please also talk with your campers about appropriate use of a camera and the camp policy that only the videographers are allowed to take video.

Camp Bedding: A camper’s bed is their haven so make it their own, but don’t go over the top.

  • Speaking of tops, please no foam toppers. We have purchased all new mattresses in the past few years and the foam toppers are cumbersome and disposable and do not fit our environmentally conscious community.

Target and Amazon are great resources for inexpensive and well-made sheets and blankets.  If you go with a twin set of sheets, make sure the bottom sheet is fitted all the way around.  The Target jersey knits are great and come in lots of great colors.  We suggest avoiding white. For blankets, we are big fans of the Target Microplush Bed Blankets in twin size.  They are soft and snuggly and hold up well. We recommend three blankets because there are some nights that are pretty chilly and it is nice to have the three.

Bug Spray:

As parents, we understand wanting to purchase the least toxic bug spray possible.  However, as camp directors, we know that the organic sprays do not always work for our campers and this leads to bites, scratching and often the need for medical intervention. We recommend starting with the Off Family Care bug spray and maybe one container of the Off Deep Woods.  We do not recommend 100% deet for any of our campers.

Please also talk with your camper about how to appropriately use bug spray.  Campers often try to spray themselves or spray a straight line down their arms and legs.  For best coverage, we always encourage kids to ask a friend or counselor to help. And, that bug spray can be dangerous if used for other purposes.

Camp Thunderbird Logo and Clothing

We love seeing our campers representing the T-bird logo and hope they have lots of items to wear throughout the year. We have several designated providers of our logo and ask that you help us protect the integrity of our brand by only purchasing from these businesses.  We will send out an update of these locations soon, but we currently have agreements with www.amerasport.com and socampy.com.