what to pack for school residential

What to pack for a school residential or school camping trip / packing list

Once children get to the older classes in primary school, the school residential looms. For most, it’s staying at a study centre or adventure centre. Some go camping. For both there’s the need to ensure your child has the correct items to take with them, so here’s what to pack for a school residential or school camping trip.

Our school always provide us with a basic packing list for residential trips or other overnights. I suppose because they want to avoid children turning up without something that’s essential. They want to avoid children arriving with so much gear they can’t carry it. And don’t want to worry about children going home missing items.

Obviously it’s worth checking with your child’s school in advance whether there’s anything more unusual the child will need, especially if they don’t have outdoor gear. Sods law, whatever you need to buy last minute will be out of stock. It’s always good to be prepared in advance.

Some items on the packing list below will depend on where your child is staying. Will bedding be provided or not? How far will the child be expected to carry their luggage? If it’s a long way then a suitcase on wheels might be easier than a huge rucksack. A suitcase can be easier to find clothes in rather than digging through a backpack.

what to pack for school residential

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Packing list for school residential (or school camping trip)


  • Wheeled suitcase or backpack
  • Small day backpack
  • Torch – headtorches* are helpful as they keep hands free
  • Plastic bags – for dirty washing
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Cuddly toy

Clothing (according to weather)

  • Underwear
  • Socks
  • Trousers or shorts
  • T-shirts (include at least 1 long sleeved)
  • Walking boots or shoes, or wellington boots
  • Trainers
  • Fleece or coat
  • Waterproof coat with hood
  • Waterproof trousers
  • Hat – sun hat or woolly hat as needed
  • Pyjamas/onesie
  • Slippers or indoor footwear

Toiletries and personal items

  • Toiletries bag
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Brush/comb
  • Soap and shampoo, or 2 in 1 shower gel (decant into travel size bottles)
  • Deodorant (not aerosol)
  • Suncream
  • Insect repellent – pump not aerosol
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Any medication needed
  • Period pack for girls (just in case)


  • Disposable camera*
  • Notebook and pen or pencil
  • Small amount of spending money (if school suggests it, check the amount allowed)
  • Stamped addressed envelope or postcard in case they want to write home
  • Sweets (check if allowed)

For camping

Pack the above, plus

  • Plate, bowl, cup and cutlery
  • Tea towel
  • Bedding mat (roll up)
  • Sleeping bag
  • Pillow
yellow US school bus by 2 tents in the countryside

Tips for packing for school camping trips or residentials

1. Get your child to pack their own case.

It helps them with packing on the return journey, and means they’ll know what they packed from home.

2. Label everything

Everything you’re hoping to get back anyway.

3. Pack used items

Chances are items will get filthy and may even get lost. Children will also recognise their own clothes better if they’ve worn them before.

4. Make sure your child can carry their bag.

If the ground will be suitable use a wheeled case, if not a backpack.

5. Don’t overfill if you can

Decant toiletries or use 2 in 1 options so they take up less room. Apart from underwear and t shirts, don’t pack a new outfit for each day. Yes they’ll need something spare in case they get wet one day, but we all know children will quite happily wear the same thing over and over again.

6. Roll rather than fold when packing

My 11 year old’s been packing his clothes for holiday for a while, so I know he’s capable of packing a bag quite well. But if they’ve not practised, get them learning before they go away.

7. Avoid sending aerosol versions of toiletries

If they’re sharing rooms or tents, aerosols aren’t good for children to breath in. Imagine if there’s 4-6 of them sharing a room and all spraying deodorant around.

8. Get children to practice changing bed linen

If they’re not using sleeping bags and their own pillows, they’ll probably have to make their own bed.

What else would you add or recommend to pack for a school residential?

Like this post, try these other tips for nearby days out.

matchbox challenge
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  1. You are so right about taking old clothes. I raided charity shops and asked friends for hand-me-downs. When my girls went on residentials they warned us that the kids would have to carry luggage up a couple of flights of stairs. A rucksack was ideal for this and we used packing cubes to make it manageable. We also used microfibre towels which are very light. The school asked us to send 2 pairs of socks per day as they get wet and to put some newspaper in for stuffing shoes.

    1. Packing cubes are a great idea. And we were also told they’d have to be able to carry bags themselves. Same with towels, we love the decathlon ones as they’re light, fold down small and dry fast.

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