Packing for Camp: Trunk vs. Duffle?

Breaking Down the Age-Old Question of Trunk vs Duffle Bag

It’s mid June and your camper has the guest bed stacked high with hoodies, bathing suits, graphic tees, pajamas, towels, socks, socks and more socks. Now what? What are you going to use to store it all?  A traditional camp trunk?  A duffle bag?  A combination? As an experienced summer camp mom,  I am here to break it all down for you!

I’ll start with this:  no matter how much you and your camper stress about what bag/trunk to use, it won’t impact the fun your daughter will have at camp one bit! But there are advantages and disadvantages to each method.  Here’s my take on packing for camp Trunk vs Duffle bag edition:

Packing for Camp: Trunk

Benefits of the Camp Trunk

  • It’s classic! The traditional camp trunk might be what you imagined when you signed up for Camp Jeanne d’Arc.  We’ve all seen the movies where the campers all sling sturdy trunks from the camp bus. If you want to align with the classic camp experience, the trunk is one way to create that vibe.
  • Doubles as a table top! Playing cards, writing a letter, drawing a picture for your little sister … These are all more easily done atop your camp trunk.  Not only can a trunk serve as a table top, it can also be a seat or a step stool if you need to reach the top shelf.
  • More stuff and better access! Trunks are big.  The rectangular shape and lid allows for maximum stuffing. Trunks these days have little detachable sleeves and compartments perfect for letter writing supplies and the ever-growing skincare bundle. And because the lid can fully open, campers can more easily view and access all of the items inside the trunk. 
  • Better protection! Are you worried about the back-up pair of glasses you packed for your daughter?  The hard exterior of the trunk is a better way to make sure anything fragile doesn’t get trampled on or anything delicate doesn’t get wet.  
  • Express yourself! Last but not least, trunks are the optimal surface for stickers.  If you have a kid who is proud of their skateboarding skills, their hometown sports champs, or really loves horses, stickers are the way to ensure their aesthetic is on point!

Packing for Camp: Duffle Bag

Benefits of the Duffle Bag

  • Travel is easier! Enter the strap.  A large duffle bag will likely be equipped with multiple straps.  A 10-year old camper might have trouble lugging it, but chances are a burly dad or a fit mom can pull a duffle by its straps and haul it over their shoulder. 
  • More flexibility in the cabin! When it’s clean-up time, duffle bags are better for putting away on a shelf or under the beds.  Need to make space to practice the cabin dance routine?  Duffle bags can more easily be stacked or shoved into the corner.  If you are looking for flexibility to move around, the duffle bag is the better choice.
  • More pouches and zipped areas! Sometimes a trunk can feel like a free-for-all.  Socks and sweatshirts and the deck of cards all share the same large compartment. Dirty or wet clothes in trunks sometimes mix with the clean and dry stuff.  Duffle bags are more likely to keep things organized and separated, which is helpful when you are keeping track of your stuff for a few weeks!
  • Cost-effective.  Duffle bags are easier to find and are usually more cost effective than trunks.  You may even have a large duffle bag already lying around your house.

Overall Advice for Trunk vs Duffle Bag

As I said, you can’t really go wrong with the trunk vs duffle bag.  Thirty seconds into camp and your camper will forget about the whole discussion.  But if you’re really stuck in this decision, I do have some advice:

If you are traveling by plane (especially if there is a connecting flight) I recommend the duffle bag. Trunks tend to get beat up during the journey and airlines might jack up the price for oversized luggage. Plus, the benefits of the trunk will seem trivial compared to trying to lug the thing across several terminals to find your car in the airport parking lot!

If you plan to ship your child’s things to camp, trunks or duffle bags will both work.  This year, Camp Jeanne d’Arc partnered with a company that specializes in working with summer camps (they should save you money on shipping costs too!). Check it out here: CAMP SHIPPING.  

All things considered, as a former camper and camp mom, I might hedge towards the trunk for the extra space and the classic camp experience (and the rummy card game surface, of course!).