Lost in Suburbia: The camp packing list

Tracy Beckerman

Rather than leave it up to us parents to try to figure out what to send with our children to sleepaway camp, most camps will provide a packing list to help guide us. I’m sure they do this to take the guesswork out of the process and also to reduce the anxiety the parents feel about what to send. Unfortunately, the packing list itself sent me into a tailspin.

“TWENTY-FOUR pair of underwear? Twenty-four?! Really?!” I asked incredulously as I checked over the camp list. “What? Am I outfitting the whole bunk with underwear?”

I checked the camp handbook to see how many times a week the camp did laundry and was shocked to see it was once a week.

“If they do laundry once a week, what does he need 24 pair of underwear for?” I asked my husband. “Even if they did it every two weeks, he would still only need 14 pair. He doesn’t even have 24 pair of underwear. All four of us combined do not have 24 pair of underwear,” I shouted, gesturing to our whole family.

“What’s going on?” asked my daughter, entering the room.

“Mom is having an underwear stroke,” explained my son.

“I just don’t understand what you need 24 pair of underwear for,” I said. 

“Maybe it’s a typo,” offered my husband. “Maybe it’s supposed to be 14.”

I sighed with relief. That was it. It was a typo. It made sense. Confident that we had solved the underwear crisis, I moved on with the rest of the list.

“WHAAA? TWENTY-FOUR pair of socks?! Is this one a typo, too?” 

I was really confused. Many years ago when dinosaurs had roamed the Earth, my brothers and I had gone to sleepaway camp, and I recalled that many of the boys had worn the same pair of underwear for the entire summer. Not that I was advocating this for my kids, but the reality was, once they got out of eyesight of mom, most kids couldn’t care less if they wore clean underwear or even any underwear, for that matter. It just wasn’t high on their list of camp priorities. Giving underwear wedgies? Yes. Wearing clean underwear? Not so much.

I wondered if the camp put all that underwear on the packing list just to make us moms think that clean underwear was a priority at this camp. They wanted us to believe the camp is dedicated to giving kids an appreciation for the great outdoors, teaching them how to be independent, and the importance of clean underwear. If this was the case, I thought maybe they should change their motto to “Fresh air and underwear.”

Camp philosophy notwithstanding, I was morally and financially against the idea of going out to buy my kids 14 more pair of socks and underwear than they already owned. I was just about ready to buck the system when I decided to check the camp packing list one more time. This is when I realized that the 24 pair of underwear were required items. Scanning the rest of the list though, I saw that a toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo and soap were not required items - they were merely suggested.

So apparently clean underwear at this camp is a must. 

A clean body to put the underwear on? Not so much.

For more Lost in Suburbia, visit Tracy’s blog at www.lostinsuburbia.net.