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The ridiculousness of packing for camp

Packing lists for weeks-long camps are a little ridiculous. In response, parents already paying thousands of dollars for sleepaway camps are deciding that the cost to get their child’s camp trunk squared away by professionals is worth the expense.

A prepared bundle of toiletries from Camp Kits, for example, can cost $98 to $185.

Prep services can cost $125 per hour to pack the trunk, and a “camp appointment” at the children’s boutique Denny’s in New York can cost an average of $1,500 to $2,000 to prepare a fully loaded, thoroughly labeled camp wardrobe.

Upon returning home, laundry can also be outsourced. First Class Laundry Services in West Palm Beach offers a pick-up and drop-off service for $225 per trunk.

All of this seems kind of ridiculous to me. Another example of “not every thing needs to be a thing.”

Both of my children are going away to camp this summer. We are not paying anyone to pack our children’s things, though admittedly, it’s been quite the chore, primarily for Elysha, who has taken point on this project. The lists are incredibly specific and seemingly endless. Medication is a bureaucratic nightmare.

It’s become a second job. A side hustle in order to hustle your child away for a couple of weeks.

When I went to Boy Scout camp as a kid, a few things were different:

We built our own trunks from wood, nails, and paint. That trunk, now 40 years old, is sitting in my garage and still contains camping supplies. It’s heavy and cumbersome and unadorned.

It served me well.

I packed my own trunk based on a list provided by my Scoutmaster. It consisted of things like shirts, pants, tee shirts, socks, underwear, and a toothbrush. I brought a single bathing suit to camp because, throughout my entire childhood, I owned one bathing suit, which seemed right back then and still seems right today, despite my children’s multitude of bathing suits.

I tried to remember a towel and a raincoat. When I forgot one or both, I was wet for a while.

I survived.

I packed my trunk hours before departure.

I did not require any additional clothing or any other item that I didn’t already own.

When I spent more than a week at camp, which I often did, I washed and dried my laundry on Sundays at the camp’s laundry room.

When I attended my Boy Scout camp – Yawgoog Scout Reservation – in the 1980s, it cost about $100 per week. I paid for most of that myself from the work I did throughout the school year.

Today, a week at Yawgoog costs a relatively modest $500, though that cost still far outpaces inflation.

Still, it was a simpler, perhaps better time.

Actually, no. It was definitely a better time.

I can’t help but wonder if our kids would be better off packing their own supplies and managing their own materials. Maybe a small part of the learning I did while at camp—and I probably learned more at camp than anywhere else as a child—came from taking care of my preparations and planning for camp.

Experiencing the pain and frustration of forgetting something important.

Learning the value of the Scout motto: “Be prepared.”

Discovering the confidence that comes from independence and self-sufficiency.

When you’re outsourcing packing and laundry to third-party services, you’re not exactly preparing your child for the challenges of the world, and you’re certainly not affording them the opportunity to take care of themselves.