Why do you need a go-bag, you might ask?
Have you ever taken a camper to the hospital dressed as an alien with full face paint?
(For some reason, my costume involved overalls and rain boots – I don’t remember why)
The nurse took one look at me and said, “ahh, you must be from the camp.”
I decided that I needed a go-bag after one too many trips into town where I wished I had time to change – or wished I had BROUGHT change… and depending on your camp, you might want one too.
Disclaimer: Many of my experiences rushing into town revolve around hospital trips – because I worked with a population who had many medical needs, and we erred on the side of caution. Not because I ran unsafe camps – I promise! Although there were the occasional falls, there were also chest pains, stomach problems, ear aches, strep throat, seizure disorders, etc.
Here are the essentials I think every camp director should have in a go-bag stashed in the trunk of their car.
- Baby wipes
Good for cleaning off face paint, or cleaning a camper’s dirty face or hands.
Runny noses, tears, etc.
- Warm sweater (or three, preferably zip up)
If you’ve ever sat in a hospital waiting room (especially overnight) you know it can get CHILLY so I always made sure to bring a warm sweater and to tell the second staff to grab one for themselves and the camper too. But in case there’s no time for grabbing sweaters, it would be handy to have one available for each of you. Zip up is best, because if it doesn’t fit, at least they can drape it over their shoulders.
- Change of clothes
If there’s no time to grab a sweater, there’s no time to change out of your super hero costume. You may be able to take off your cape… but that’s not going to change the fact that you’re wearing a bathing suit over tights – in that moment you’ll really appreciate the t-shirt and pants you stashed away.
If your camp is outside of a small community, you may have to use change to leave the hospital parking lot (no fancy credit card machines or parking validation at the small hospitals where my camps were). You may also want change for vending machines, or tolls, or any other number of things.
- Water bottle(s)
Instead of using your change at the vending machines (you likely won’t be reimbursed without a receipt), bring your own water, and one for your camper (and second staff if you’re feeling extra kind). If you’re anything like me, you’ll be sad you didn’t bring some water if you have to wait a while.
Again, if you’re going to be there for a while (do you guys have long wait times at your hospitals? I do.) you might miss a meal, throw some (nut free) granola bars in your bag.
- Phone charger
While I’m someone who hates when the gas tank is below half (probably due to all these emergency hospital trips!) that has not translated to my phone battery, it feels like I’m always under 60% charged, and that can be bad in a situation where you’re going to have to stay put for a while and keep contact up with the camp and the family.
- Emergency numbers – hard copy
It’s all well and good to have all your emergency contact numbers in your phone, but if your phone dies, cell service goes down, or something happens to your phone – you will likely still have access to land lines wherever you are, and you’ll be wishing you had the numbers of your contacts available in that moment.
- Plastic bags
These are great to put clothes in if your camper has an accident, or needs to vomit en route.
- Advil/ Tylenol* or other meds
If you’re prone to stress headaches, this may come in handy in any situation where you require a ‘go bag’.
*These are obviously not meant for campers
And of course, if you take any other medication, you should have some ‘extra’ stashed away in case you’re not back in time to take it when scheduled.
- Notebook & pen
If there’s an emergency, you may need to record the series of events, log calls made and actions taken, record changes in symptoms, etc.
It also gives you somewhere to jot down lists of things you need to do once you’re back, and doodle, if you’re bored.
- First aid kit
It just never hurts to have one on hand, no matter where you are or what you’re doing.
- Incontinent products for campers
This is very niche specific, but if you work with the disability community and your campers wear absorbent products (Attends, Depends, etc.) it might be worth it to have a few extra pairs stashed away in your go-bag.
With that said, I realize that everyone has different needs, wears different sizes, etc. BUT if you don’t have time to bring the camper’s specific supplies, I’d much rather have someone change into a pair that doesn’t fit the best for a few hours, than sit in a mess for those hours. That would be heart breaking.
- Extra gloves
I’ve already mentioned vomit and absorbent products… need I say more?
- Book, magazine, comic book, colouring book
Anything that might keep you and your camper entertained while you wait.
- Camper files
You may have access to your camper’s digital files if you have an online registration system, but you should always have a backup in case you don’t have internet access. At the very least have your camper’s heath form with their family contact and emergency contact.
There are probably a boat load of other things I’m missing – especially if you consider other types of emergencies.
But I think this is a good list to start.
Let me know if you have a ‘go-bag’ and what you put in it, or if you’re going to make one now, and what essentials you will put in it!