by Mindi Godfrey
I recently attended a weekend retreat in the mountains. I’ve been to this particular camp several times before but it had been a while since I’d done the “camp” thing—the last few student retreat/events I’ve been to, we’ve stayed in hotels. And being a little out of practice at the traditional camp going, I forgot to pack my survival kit.
Once upon a time, I was at traditional camp venues an average of six times a year. It was during this season I came up with my “survival kit.” And while I managed just fine without the kit, it would have come in handy and made things just a little nicer:

The Basics

  • Bath Mat—Most camp cabins now have bathrooms, but they never have bath mats. It’s just a little nicer and safer. I like the ones from Target that are like the ones you find at hotels.
  • Extra Hooks—Either the over the door or Command hooks. Having a few extra places to hang towels, swimsuits, and wet clothes is always handy.
  • Night Light—Sure, by middle school most kids have outgrown them, but they are handy to help kids find the bathroom in a strange place in the middle of the night.
  • Hand Soap and Paper Towels—Usually not provided but quite useful.
  • Power Strip—Because girls typically bring a plethora of blow dryers and curling irons.
  • Alarm Clock—Most kids use their cell phones as watches so if they’re leaving them off, then they’re constantly asking you the time. Plus giving them a community alarm clock puts the responsibility of getting up and getting ready on time back on them.
  • Trash Bags—For packing up sleeping bags, bedding, dirty clothes.
  • Sharpie and Duct Tape—A youth worker should never, ever be without these two items. Ever.

The “Mom” Items

  • Toothpaste
  • Band-Aids
  • Q-Tips
  • Pads/tampons
  • Sunscreen
  • Gallon Ziplocs

The “Rock Star” Counselor Bonus Items

  • Colored Markers and Blank Notecards—Make a birthday card on the fly, do a creative journaling project, write encouragement notes for campers.
  • Treats—Leave mints on their pillows or just have a snack to bust out for late night munchies or during cabin discussions.
  • Pocket Games—Cards, Scrabble Slam (my personal favorite), Would You Rather, Have You Ever…It’s just handy to have a plan for the “I’m bored” or to help kids get to know each other.
  • Nylon Line (very inexpensive and can be found in Wal-Mart’s camping section)—Like the hooks, you never know when you want to have an improvised clothesline, hang something up, tie something down, etc.
  • A Leatherman, or another multi-purpose tool, comes in handy.
  • Reading Light or a Flashlight—Because sometimes the night light isn’t enough. Also good for spooky faces during ghost stories.
  • Solo Cups—For the “I need a drink” moment or just for them to hold their toothbrush/paste by the sink. And they can use the Sharpie you brought to write their names on their cups.
  • Glow-in-the-dark ball—I use this as the “talking ball” after lights out: whoever has it can share the highlight of her day and then pass it to the next person. It helps settle them down without me having to say, “Shh, go to sleep” a thousand times.

I’d like to point out that while yes, these suggestions stem from my experiences of being a counselor to girls, that doesn’t mean that they can’t be tweaked for boys, or that male youth pastors shouldn’t bring power strips for curling irons or “feminine items.” Give these things to your female volunteers to hang on to.