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If you're planning to send your child to camp, you may be wondering what he or she will need to bring. The good news is that most of what you'll need to pack can already be found at home. But there are likely to be some items you'll need to buy that no camper should be without.  Check in with your child's camp to get their specific packing list.  They are definitely the experts on what’s needed by their campers! This year when purchasing products, we encourage you to look for and purchase items that are healthy for both your child and the Earth.  To get you started, check out the following list.

Natural Bug Spray

The active ingredient in most chemical-based mosquito repellents is DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide), developed by the US military in the 1940s.  This powerful chemical is absorbed readily into the skin, and should be used with caution.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that repellents used on children contain no more than 10% DEET.  You can avoid unwanted bug bites with a DEET-free option, like All Terrains Herbal Armor Spray or Badger Anti-Bug Balm.  Don't let fear of bugs (or repellents) curtail your child’s enjoyment of nature. By learning new, healthier ways to avoid insects, like wearing long sleeves and tucking pants into socks, and understanding safe application procedures of safe repellents, children can continue to enjoy the outdoors without harm. 

Eco-Friendly Fleece

Many brands of eco-friendly fleece clothing contain recycled PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) that undergoes a remelting process. Manufacturers spin the melted plastic into fiber, using the same process for producing polyester from non-recycled PET. The resulting fleece fabric is considered eco-friendly because recycling saves raw petroleum --- a primary ingredient in PET --- as well as the energy that original PET production consumes. Turning beverage plastics into wearable fleece reduces the number of bottles in landfills.  When purchasing new clothes, you might see if the old clothing can be recycled.  To learn more check out Patagonia's Common Thread Initiative.

Solar Power!

If you child is planning on bringing any electronics to camp, look for products that have rechargable batteries, or better yet a solar charger. For example, the Solio Classic solar charger keeps virtually all hand-held electronics topped off with free solar power anywhere you can find sunshine. Plug into the sun!

Biodegradable Soaps and Shampoo

To protect local water supplies, it is important to use Biodegradable soaps and shampoos.  There are many great options on the market, such as Camp Suds and Wilderness WashDr. Bronners Castille Soap is made for gentle skin, and can be used as a shampoo, dental mouthwash, or soap.

Sun Safety

The best sunscreen is a hat, a shirt, and shade, yet that is not always possible at camp.  Did you know that not all sunscreens are created equal? When your child can’t avoid exposing their skin to the sun, use EWG’s Sunscreen Guide to find top-rated sunscreens with broad spectrum (UVA and UVB) protection but fewer hazardous chemicals that penetrate the skin. Check out the best products for summer 2012, like Badger All-Natural Face and Body Sunscreen.


get out

This post was written by Jenna Ringelheim as part of Get Out!, an environmental stewardship e-initiative funded by a grant from REI.  Jenna is an environmentalist by profession, with a keen interest in transformational leadership, coaching and personal development. She has worked for a variety of non-profits including, The Northwest Earth Institute, Wild Gift, The Trust for Public Land, and the Nature Conservancy. Jenna has a BA in Environmental Studies and Anthropology from Skidmore College, and a Masters degree in Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning from Tufts University, and is currently enrolled as an MBA student in Sustainable Business at the Bainbridge Graduate Institute.  She is a published author, and a Senior Fellow of the Environmental Leadership Program. Most importantly, Jenna spent all of her childhood summers going to camp in New England.  She is a founding Board member of the Wildflower Camp Foundation.