Just as you had mastered lunch and backpack packing for the school year, they go and change it up on you.  Now it’s time for summer camp and you’re back at square one: what do you tuck in their backpacks for day camp? Here are seven unique items you may not have thought of, and the best places in LA to find them.

camping backpacks
photo credit: Jenn Fujikawa

Your camp will provide you with a list of food and specialty items to bring (swimsuits, tennis racquets, ipads or riding gear, for example), but take a peek at our list of unique items or amazing local shops that stock basics, and your kiddos will be the most prepared and happy kids at any camp. And don’t forget to label everything that you want to have come back home!

A Specialty Backpack
No matter what kind of camp or the length of the day, every camper needs to bring along at least a water bottle, sunscreen, snack (for if they don’t like what’s being served) and a fold up hat. A lightweight backpack is perfect for the haul. Remember to get the smallest one you can that will fit all their gear—a bag that’s too big often means kids won’t want to tote it along and won’t have gear handy when they need it.  Adventure 16 is one of our favorite LA spots to go backpack shopping because they offer a wide range of packs from small sizes for junior campers, to backpacks with built in hydration systems (no lost water bottles, hurray!).

Tip: Have your kids try on the backpacks and walk around the store, that way they get they get a good feel for carrying around a pack.

Adventure 16
11161 W. Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles
Online: adventure16.com

Wen detanglerphoto credit: chazdean.com

Wen Kids Apple Detangler Spray
If camp activities include water sports or activities, campers with long hair might find themselves with a tangled mess for the rest of the day. Wen Kids Detangler Spray is easy to apply, leaving silky hair and a sweet scent.  Even if your little Rapunzel starts the day in braids to avoid this scenario, we’ve learned that they often come undone (intentionally or not).  LA Stylist Chaz Dean has loads of experience seeing kids with LA hair, which means lots of tangles from pools and the beach, and these sprays not only do the job, the scents like apple (our favorite) watermelon and strawberry banana, keep kids spraying.

Chaz Dean Salon
6444 Fountain Ave.
Online: chazdean.com

Hang Ten sunscreen

photo credit: hangtensunscreen.com

Hang Ten SPF 50 Kids Mineral Sunscreen Lotion
Our little beach bums know all about protecting themselves from the sun’s rays. Summer camp means more sun time than usual and in summer’s stronger rays, so extra protection they won’t protest is a must. Hang Ten’s Mineral-based sunscreen is a must for tiny ones with allergies or sensitive skin so they can have all the outdoor fun without the worry.

Tip: Hang Ten’s formula is non-greasy which is a plus for little ones who don’t like to get their hands dirty. It’s available in many local stores, and always in stock at the Manhattan Beauty Center.

Manhattan Beauty Center
1006 Manhattan Ave.
Manhattan Beach
Online: hangtensunscreen.com

MUJI stamps

photo credit: Jenn Fujikawa

Customizable notebook
You may wonder why a notebook is listed on the packing list for camp essentials; it’s because unless they’re in computer camp, tech-dependent kids will have to break their screen addiction and go back to pen and paper. Electronics aren’t allowed at many camps, which means quiet time will be filled with reading, writing and drawing.

The MUJI store in Santa Monica offers a personalization station where you can customize products with provided stamps and art supplies right there in the store. Customizing a journal allows for quick identification amongst the other little camper’s supplies, and also makes is special, which means it will get more use!

2936 Main St.
Santa Monica

Disposable camera

photo credit: Urban Outfitters

Disposable Camera
Kids these days are all about their phones but cell phones are often another tech no-no at camp. You’ll have to go back to the stone age and get a one-use disposable, but it doesn’t have to be frumpy. This ultra cool one-use camera has a fun added twist of adding prints and backgrounds to your photos, making it the hippest disposable on the block.

Tip: Buy more than one camera. It takes kids a while to realize there’s not an unlimited amount of shots, like with camera phones.

Urban Outfitters can be found all over Los Angeles.  Find the one nearest you, or order online.
Online: urbanoutfitters.com

hiking boots

 photo credit: skechers.com

Hiking Boots
True, you may have signed them up for sewing, cooking or computer camp.  But for lot of us city folk, summer camp is a great time to expose the kids to nature and a camp with lots of outdoor activities. Unless your family regularly hits the trails every weekend, most likely your kids don’t own hiking boots. Rugged terrain and the possibility of wildlife is a great excuse to invest in a good pair of boots, and then you’ll use them all year on family hikes. The Skechers Outlet in Gardena offers a wide selection of styles for your little adventurer and it won’t break the bank.

Tip: Head to the clearance rack in the back, you can find shoes up to 70% off.

Skechers Factory Outlet
19000 S Vermont Ave.
Online: local.sketchers.com/ca/gardena/2

photo credit: REI

Kindercone Sleeping Bag
Ok, maybe you’re not sending them to sleepaway camp (or maybe you are!).  But lots of camps have a late night or one sleepover night option.  Summer is also a great time to do a family sleepover.  And outdoor movie nights can get cold.  While the weather in LA is perfect all year round, the desert climate means that temps drop sharply at night, and we’re often not prepared. This kid-friendly sleeping bag is insulated for all weather conditions and lets you adjust the bag’s length as your child grows.  It’s a great staple to have for summer camp, sleepovers and for that day when they do finally go to sleepaway camp all summer long… (please, not too soon!).

Tip: The Kindercone has a pillow pocket sewn into the lining for more room to stuff extra clothing or a comfortable pillow.

Available at REI.  REI has stores in Santa Monica, Manhattan Beach and Arcadia. Check the website for locations and hours.
Online: rei.com

Where in LA do you shop for essential camp supplies? Got any tips on surprise extras to tuck in their camp backpacks?

Jenn Fujikawa