How Many Bandanas Do I Need? An Exposé On the Nature of Filling a Duffel

Our guest blogger this week is none other than the loquacious Xandra Ellin (CIT 2013). Xandra shares some packing tips for all of our campers and counselors alike.


How Many Bandanas Do I Need?
An Exposé On the Nature of Filling a Duffel

By Xandra Ellin

People underestimate how challenging packing for camp is. Though it may seem natural to anyone who has ever spent time in a place other than his or her home, it’s actually pretty strange that we have to determine precisely which of our precious things we will have for the next however-many weeks and which we will have to part with. It’s like when someone asks you what you would bring on a desert island if you could only have five items. Except it’s what you would bring to a locale five minutes from a WalMart if you could only bring as many bags as will fit in your parents’ car. I digress.

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I feel like all campers, even the really meticulous packers who probably exist, have one item that they always forget or never bring enough of. My item is pants. It amazes me; in the eight years I’ve attended camp, I don’t think I’ve ever brought the adequate number of pants. Everyone knows to always go slightly higher than camp’s recommended packing list (if you think I will be spending four weeks with 10-12 pairs of underwear, you are mistaken). Still, I can’t but wonder why even my modified packing list frequently fails me. Of course, one must cast aside the inevitable throw-away items: the high-waisted jean shorts that we are all convinced we will need for something, which end up taking a backseat in the bureau to running shorts and colorful spandex. Somehow, though, it doesn’t matter. I’ve never once been patronized for wearing the same pair of Soffe shorts three days in a row, and I guarantee that has happened at some point. People are willing to look beyond the messy surface to the person who lies below, which is a pretty rare situation in the life of a teenage girl.

Now, a cautionary tale: A couple summers ago, I arrived at camp with a bag brimming almost exclusively with items from a pre-college program, at which blouses and jeans were the norm. My fellow campers looked on in amazement as I unpacked dresses, polos, and tunics, wondering a) if they could borrow the garments for future Airy dances, and b) if this was my first summer at camp. After all, any practiced Louise camper knows that nice clothes (translation: something other than what the average person might wear to sleep) are not only avoided but quite often frowned upon. When the unpacking ceased, terror struck. Though I was completely prepared for probably upwards of five cab nights, I had forgotten a blanket, a pillow,

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toothpaste, a flashlight, and, of course, an acceptable quantity of running shorts. My incredible friends banded together, however, to make me feel like slightly less of an idiot. A girl I had just met stripped a blanket off of her bed for me. Another lent me her toothpaste every morning and evening until my own was sent to me. And so on and so forth until all my needs were fulfilled. Though I thanked them profusely (at least I hope I did; if I did not, and any of you are reading this, I thank you profusely), their actions never seemed to be burdensome.

The fact is, camp is the only place I can really think of in which “stuff” doesn’t matter. Ownership is void beyond its gates, because once a girl enters them, she must learn to share her space. I don’t mean this in a kleptomaniacal sense; we don’t just steal each other’s things. But sharing is sort of in the job description. It’s how we make connections with one another. An openness with possessions lays the groundwork for the deep, everlasting, faithful relationships that camp so famously produces.

Packing creates a lot of unnecessary headaches. Take it from me: none of the worry is worth it. While I would recommend packing carefully, sometimes it takes a little bit of forgetfulness or some straying from the packing list to grasp the real point of camp. Camp is not about the stuff; it’s about the people.