First-time Summer Camper Must Knows!

As a First-Time Summer Camper: What Do I Need To Know! 

Dear camper,

I’d like to take you back in time to when I was a 14 year-old, first-time summer camper at Camp Jeanne d’Arc, and give you some camper-to-camper advice. I wonder if you are feeling flutters in your stomach. Maybe it’s nervousness or excitement or anticipation.  Or everything! I get it. I’ve been there. There are a lot of unknowns and a lot to look forward to. Here is some advice about the pre-camp jitters and preparation:

Missing Home?

It is totally normal for a first time summer camper to miss their home and family when they first arrive, even for returning campers! When I was at camp I probably missed my dog the most. Here are some things I have to say about homesickness:

  • My first summer, the first day was really awkward but by the end of the second day, I felt like I had made friends for life. Don’t be afraid to open up to a cabin mate, they are probably feeling the same way you are!
  • Getting letters and packages are the best! My mom sent a Coco Puffs tee shirt straight from Amazon to camp and even if it was a little cheesy, it made my day. 
  • I always felt that my counselors were there for us.  During my summers at camp, there were a few times I was sad, or one of my friends was sad.  But strangely enough, these times were what brought us closer together.  Camp becomes a second family.

What Should I Pack?

A first-time summer camper should definitely look at the packing list Camp provides for you.  But also, I will give you some off-list must-haves.  

  • Bring a few items for cabin decorating or cabin projects – tape, sharpie, scissors, etc.  You don’t have to bring your entire arts and crafts supply, but a few of these key items will take a cabin project to the next level!
  • Crocs.  Whether you are on “team Croc” or team “not-Croc”, this footwear option is perfect for camp.  They are closed-toe, which is necessary for archery. They are waterproof, which is critical on wet grass and waterfront fun. And jibits, need I say more?! 
  • Lots of socks and footwear that can get wet.  One summer, I skimped on footwear and I am still thinking about the soggy sneakers I had to wear for days on end.  So my advice, bring rainboots, extra sneakers, and lots of socks.  
  • Upstate New York can be chilly! Bring some clothes to keep you nice and toasty on cool evenings like big sweatshirts – the more oversized, the better – and comfy sweatpants.

What About the Food?

Camp has been around for over a hundred years and believe me, they have seen picky eaters!  You know who I mean – the kids who only eat beige food, the vegetarians, the kids who survive on Lucky Charms and Cheez-Its.  Yep, Camp has seen them all.  If you are worried about the food options, here is what I have experienced:

  • Family style meals are fun. Table assignments rotate and when you are sharing meals with the kids and counselors at your table, you really get to know them. This made the dining experience relaxed and fun. 
  • I had some safe foods at camp that I could rely on.  If the hot option wasn’t my thing, I could always have a sandwich from the counter or anything from the salad bar.
  • I actually tried new foods at camp. I used to be a “food can’t touch” kind of person. But I didn’t know that I liked tacos until it was served at camp.  Suddenly I was mixing meat with lettuce and cheese… who is this kid?! 
  • Don’t worry, dessert is definitely a thing!

Anything Else I Should Prepare For?

This is a hard question because you don’t really know what each summer brings.  But to every first-time summer camper, I will say this: be prepared to feel like a different person at camp.  Camp has a funny way about bringing out qualities in yourself you never knew you had.  Just roll with it!  If you are not a leader at school, you might be one at camp.  If you’re not a sports star, you might actually crush it in riflery.  If you are not into drama at home, you might star in the camp play. Be open to a new you!

I hope your first season at camp is as awesome for you as it was for me. I think it will surprise you in all the best ways!

Happy camping,


I'm in the bright blue!