I am extremely familiar with the current trend of summer camps requiring campers to have cameras that don’t rely on phones, tablets, or internet connection. And I absolutely support the idea of giving kids a break from screens when they head off to sleepaway camp. Fear not, they’re not mutually exclusive!

After a full ten years of sending kids to summer camp as campers — and now some as counselors! — I can confidently say that even kids obsessed with social media will grow to love that extended stretch of unplugged time away from their smartphone cameras and may even discover the joy of an instant camera, an old school point-and shoot, or a completely screen-free camera requiring delayed gratification.

With that, here are the best cameras for summer camp, based on my experience, with input from my own teens, plus a little research.

Related: The best summer camp care package gifts from a veteran camp mom

The best cameras to send to summer camp from a 10-year veteran camp mom | cool mom tech

The Best Cameras to Send to Summer Camp:
6 Great Options

Note that while some options run on batteries, or don’t require any external charging, others do need a wall outlet or a USB-C cord. If your kid is in a serious no-electricity kind of camp, or sleeping in tents all summer, factor that into the decision. Also, double-check with your camp to be sure that any camera you might send to summer camp is okay by the directors.

Best cameras for summer camp: Fujifilm Instax Mini 12 is the best instant camera

Best Camera for Summer Camp, Overall Pick:

Fujifilm Instax Mini Instant Camera

$79, Target or Amazon (some colors discounted)

I’ve been recommending this fun, durable, super easy instant camera from Fujifilm for years because our kids take theirs to camp each summer — it really does hold up that long. And having tried other similar instant cameras, we really haven’t found one that’s even close in the category. It’s fun, it’s easy to use, and kids love the instant fun of seeing their photos somewhere besides a phone, making it my top choice of the best cameras for summer camp. Just remember to label it! There will definitely be other campers who have one.

Pro tip: Send the kids to camp with a role of tape, so they can hang their photos up around the bunk.

Good to know: The cost of Instax film can add up. I’d say you shouldn’t spend more than about $1/photo.  Amazon has great deals on Instax bundles that include film, batteries, lenses, frames and a carrying case. Or at a minimum, get the camera plus a multipack of film and save yourself a lot of money — or stock up on this 100-frame set of film that includes stickers and frames. Kids will definitely go through a lot of film!

Best cameras for summer camp: GoPro Hero 12 is the best for film, activities, and underwater shooting

Best Video Camera for Summer Camp:

GoPro Hero 12 Waterproof Action Cam

$299, Amazon — currently 25% offf; or compare with Target
Shown above with the GoPro Handler floating hand grip, on sale for $19.62

I hadn’t immediately thought to add the GoPro Hero to this list, but when I asked my teens for the best cameras for summer camp and two of them simultaneously yelled “GoPro!” I knew I had to include it.

For campers who want to film the talent show, get wacky in the pool or the lake with friends, record zipline or waterskiing adventures, or just capture the silliness that happens in a flash rainstorm, GoPro is the perfect choice. We’ve sent one photo-loving kid with our GoPro for the past two summers and it’s been a highlight for them.

The image quality is phenomenally crisp, with HDR video and photos, an amazing new wide angle, and some incredible new night effects. It won’t run for days on end though; I recommend you set it to 1080p30 for the most film time before needing a charge — about 2.5 hours of continuous recording, but that’s really really good recording.

When they get home, they can even save stills from video frames using the GoPro Quik app, which yields quite decent still photos since the video quality is so sharp. Best of all, the GoPro Hero 12 is an extremely rugged camera, literally built for mud and water and dusty trails. So while it’s expensive compared with other options — and you do want it in the hands of only responsible kids — it’s most likely to come back home in good shape when the summer is done.

If you want to save a bit, go ahead and buy the GoPro Hero 10 (on sale at Amazon for $219) — but considering the difference in quality and features, if you can afford the new model, spend the extra $80 if you can, and you’ll definitely have one of the very best cameras for summer camp and well beyond.

Good to know: Kids will need access to an outlet to charge the camera, and you want to include a decent-sized memory card so they don’t run out of space. No kid needs a 1TB memory card, unless they’re live-streaming a triathlon — a 128GB microSD memory card (I like Sandisk) should be sufficient to capture a good 10 hours of video or tens of thousands of photos. You might also bring a USB-C cable on visiting day and download all the film they’ve captured so far to a laptop or phone just to keep it safe. Then hand the GoPro back, ready to capture new memories.

Best cameras for summer camp: Kodak PixPro Waterproof Digital camera is rugged and built for adventure

Best Waterproof Camera for Summer Camp:

Kodak PixPro WPZ2 Waterproof Digital Camera

$149 on sale, Amazon

The Kodak PixPro Waterproof Digital Camera is basically made to take to summer camp. It’s dustproof, shock-proof, and waterproof as promised to nearly 50 feet. It lets you take regular snapshots with up to a 4x zoom, plus full 1080P HD video. Reviewers say it can take a pretty good licking if kids drop it, and while pro camera reviews say it’s not going to yield the photo quality of a camera three times the price, it’s a terrific value for a truly automatic, rugged camera that kids can have fun with. It’s also nice that the zoom lens itself is inaccessible and protected, and that the ports, batter, and SD card are locked behind a cover to keep them safe even underwater.

Good to know: It will only support a 32GB microSD card or smaller, That still gives you thousands of photos, and about 5 hours of video, but if your kid intends to film every single night’s activities fo rsix weeks, you’ll need back-up cards.


Best cameras for summer camp: A Kodak PixPro Point-and-Shoot is more affordable than the alternatives

Best Camera for Summer Camp: Classic Point-and-Shoot

Kodak PixPro FZ55 Point-and-Shoot

$99 on sale in some colors, Amazon

If you have an old point-and-shoot from the pre-smartphone days, dig it out of that drawer and hand it to your kids because they’ll love it as a summer camp camera. If not, you can find a good one like this, from Kodak, for around $100 and sometimes less. (As much as I love Canon It’s slim, it’s lightweight, it takes decent photos, and that 5X optical zoom is plenty for most campers. Like a smartphone, kids will have to remember to charge it at the end of the day.

While they do get that immediate gratification of seeing their photos on the screen after shooting, the real fun is getting home and viewing them on a tablet or phone, then sharing them with friends to reconnect over the memories.

Good to know: If you drop the camera while the zoom lens is extended and it happens to ding the lens, it may not retract and that’s the end of the camera. (Ask me how I know.) If you’re worried about this, you might be better off with Kodak’s PixPro Waterproof Camera, above.

Related: These sleepaway camp packing tips keep things stress-free, if not tear-free.


Best cameras for summer camp: Camp Snap is a digital, screenless point-and-shoot

Best Camera for Summer Camp: Totally Screen-Free

Camp Snap Screen-Free Digital Camera

$68, Urban Outfitters

In a brilliant bit of marketing, the Camp Snap Digital Camera ads have filled my Instagram feed over the past few months as the best camera for summer camp. They promise a camp-appropriate camera that skips all screens to “keep you in the moment” since it’s literally just a shutter button and a switch to turn the LED flash on and off. That said, it does allow you to download a few Hipstamatic-era film styles (or as the kids call them, filters), and the colors are terrific.

By all accounts it’s a fairly sturdy, camera if not meant for dropping on a rocky trail. Kids should get a good 500 photos before needing a USB-C charge — make sure they’re allowed to charge a device at camp, or let that be something you can take care of on visiting day.

Good to know: The biggest complaint from users seems to be the delay between activating the shutter button and the photo processing. That means the photographer needs to hold very still or they’re going to come home with a lot of disappointingly blurry photos. So if you’ve got a kid who really cares about the quality of the photos and not just the memories, it may not be a top choice.

Best cameras for summer camp: A classic FunSaver from Kodak is now recyclable

Best Camera for Summer Camp: Most Affordable Option

Kodak FunSaver 35mm Disposable (and Recyclable) Camera

$29/2-pack, Amazon

Remember when we first started seeing disposable cameras at every wedding? Now you’ll see them at every summer camp that bans electronics. There’s something “novel” for our kids about the delayed gratification — they won’t know what their 27 snapshots per camera will look like until they get home and develop them at the local pharmacy.  The pics should look pretty great though, with that 800-ISO speed film, and a flash for nighttime shots, making this one of the best cameras for summer camp if you’d rather not spend a fortune on one.

Good to know: A lot of people mention that they should really be called Recyclable Cameras and not Disposable Cameras. The BBC reports that they really are made to be recycled into new cameras each time — and for the most part, they are, provided the film processing center you use sends them back.