5 Things to Take Along to Sikh Summer Camp

Sleeping Overnight at Gurmat Camp

Sikh summer camp is a lot like any other summer camp, except that the focus is on learning about Sikhism. Day camp and over night camps may be held at a gurdwara, a Sikh academy, private residence, or a popular youth campground, and last anywhere from half a day up until a couple of weeks. Knowing what to take along can improve camper's experience.

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Five Things To Take to Gurmat Camp

Items that over night campers should pack to take along can be divided into 5 main categories. One thing you never need to take is food. Langar is always provided from the free kitchen at every Sikh spiritual retreat.

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Clothing, Bana, Turban and Kakars

Jericho Sikh Aid team member ties turban at request of Haiti child earthquake victim Charles.
Turban and head cover at Sikh aid camp in Haiti. Photo © [Courtesy United Sikhs]

Most Sikh camps have the Guru Granth Sahib holy scripture in prakash on the premises and require campers to cover their hair with either a turban, chunni, head scarf, or bandana. Baseball caps, and other similar headgear, are discouraged as not complying with gurmat tenets and the Sikhism code of conduct.

Appropriate dress for morning and evening worship is encouraged at Gurmat camp and may include Bana or spiritual attire such as kurta pajama for boys and a salvar kamees for girls, and shawl. Appropriate casual wear tailored to scheduled activities may include jackets, modest t-shirts, jeans, or knee length shorts for outdoor sports, or swimming.

Campers may also be encouraged to wear kakar, or 5 required articles of faith:

  1. Kachhera - Cotton Undergarment
  2. Kanga - Wooden Comb
  3. Kara - Steel Bangle
  4. Kes / Keski - Unshorn Hair / Short Turban
  5. Kirpan - Ceremonial Short Sword

Head covers such as a 2-3 meter length of orange turban cloth, and articles of faith may may be provided for free, or be available for purchase, depending on camp policy.

Campers are encouraged to bathe while wearing kachhera, or cotton underwear, and would need at least one extra dry undergarment to replace wet one worn by bathing.

Shoes are never worn in the Sikh worship hall. Campers may find it convenient to take along shoes that are easy to slip on and off like chapples, flip flops, sandals and thongs. Sports shoes like running shoes, sneakers, tennis shoes, and trainers, may be desirable for participating in active sports, or gatka martial arts training.

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Prayer Books, Nitnem, Gutka, Pothi and Senchi

Sacred Nitnem Text and Layout with English and Roman Transliteration
Sacred Nitnem Text and Layout with English and Roman Transliteration. Photo © [S Khalsa]

Learning Gurmukhi alphabet in order to read and recite daily prayers is a top priority in Gurmat camp. Beginners who are familiar with the English language and alphabet will find prayer books with Roman letter transliterations of Gurbani to be very helpful. Gurumukhi and English Nitnem prayer books. Camp may provide, or have English prayerbook pothi for purchase for beginners, and Gurmukhi Nitnem gutkas for intermediate and advanced readers. Those proficient in reading Gurmukhi may advance to practice reading senchi, or senthi, in study volumes of Guru Granth Sahib.


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Kirtan Musical Instruments

Children's Camp Kirtan Class
Children's Camp Kirtan Class 2008. Photo © [Kulpreet Singh]

In many Sikh camps emphasis is on learning shabads in order to perform kirtan during evening worship. Campers will want to take along any Amrit kirtan hymnals and personal musical instruments they may have at home to use themselves and share with other campers:

  • Harmonium (Vaja), or keyboard.
  • Tabla, or other drum.
  • Dilruba, Sitar, Guitar, or other string instrument.
  • Kartal, tambourine, or shakers.
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Camp Bedding and Shawls

SangatRainsubhai Kirtan
Sangat at Rainsubhai Kirtan. Photo © [Khalsa Panth]

Be prepared to wake up early. A personal alarm is optional unless you want a warm shower. Camps may or may not provide sleeping facilities, or mattress. Find out whether you will need to take along a tent, and sleeping pad. Items you will most likely need for sleeping and early morning meditation include:

  • Pillow and pillow case.
  • Blanket, or sleeping bag
  • Bedroll, or sleeping mat (unless mattress is provided)
  • Shawl for Amritvela morning meditation, and evening programs.
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Toiletries and Grooming

Kanga, the Sikh comb.
Kanga, the Sikh comb. Photo © [S Khalsa]

Campers wake up early and may often have to stand in line to use the shower. Early birds get warm water, while water showers are touted for health and wakefulness, so everyone wins. Campers will want to pack basic toiletries to take along to Gurmat camp:

  • Kanga for combing hair.
  • Keski for wrapping up hair (kes).
  • Dry kachhera.
  • Bath soap and towel.
  • Hair and body oil.
  • Shampoo and conditioner.
  • Tooth brush, tooth paste, tongue scraper.
  • Toilet tissue and plastic water cup for rinsing after using toilet.

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Don't Miss: 11 Things You'll Learn at Gurmat Camp

Gurmat camp focus is on religious studies of about every aspect of Sikhism. Though gurdwara hosted camps are primarily geared towards Sikh youth, parents and adult volunteers keep things running smoothly, and anyone of any age wanting to learn about Sikhism is always welcome.