If you’ve never been camping I know what you’re gonna say. However, sleeping under the stars is one of the cheapest, most fun vacay’s you’ll ever experience. And being alone out in the wilderness at nighttime is thrillingly scary.
First things first. I’m not talking about pitching a tent on the edge of a cliff. That’s a different type of camping. There’s primitive camping where you are in the middle of nothing, have no running water or toilet, and you’re on your own. Then there’s glamping, which I prefer, and there’s also car camping, where you sleep in the car or bed of a truck. Today we’re gonna discuss glamping. It can get as glamorous or as simple as you would like.
When you go to a campground, you have pre-reserved a campsite. The hardcore campers book spaces far in advance. What do I mean by space? Imagine a large wooded area and each campsite is like an oversized parking space. There are bathrooms and showers throughout the campground, and a camping office, that sometimes has a community store attached. Each campsite itself most likely will have a fire pit, a picnic table, and some have a post with a water spigot and/or an electrical outlet. You pull your car right up to the campsite. This is where you’ll like to keep your food, to safely deter animals and insects from devouring it, or your family. Just kidding. Maybe.
If you or your company have a physical disability, check with your state parks office. Some states give a fat discount for people with a disability. Also, if it looks booked up online, there might be a ‘handicapped’ (that word sucks, but it’s still how it’s labeled) site that’s open. These spaces are usually closest to the bathrooms and the office, and avoiding any stairs to climb.
Also, when booking a site, be mindful of noise. If you book right next to the bathrooms, driveway, or other high traffic areas and you’re a light sleeper, well, that just kinda sucks. The first couple of times, you’ll be winging it, but you’ll get better with each camping trip.
Let’s get into the most important part, and why I love camping. The Food. Now, I’ve camped with friends who will pack steaks and so forth to put on the grill. I, however, being veg, like to make potatoes, portobello, shiitake, and all other mushrooms, s’mores, corn, peanut butter and jelly sammies, chips, sandwiches, and more simple things you could grill. Also think ahead. Certain things, like whole potatoes, can take forever. Prebaked potatoes are a great idea. Bake ’em at home, wrap them, throw ’em in the cooler, then warm them over the fire, or you can just cut them into smaller pieces before grilling. Be sure to bring plenty of fruits and veggies to balance it out. Nothing like constipation on a camping trip. You’ll find yourself noticing how some foods have a different flavor being cooked over a fire. Most importantly, you need a way to make coffee, if you’re a morning coffee drinker. For this, I have opted for instant coffee in the past, but then I bought a tiny coffee maker for when I camp where there is an outlet available. Oh, and jugs of distilled water. You’ll be using a lot of it. Keep an eye out for more camping recipes to come!
If you’re not a fire starter, buy liquid fire starter. It’s a bottle of flammable liquid, usually sold in the local camping store or a sporting goods shop. On one excursion, a man across the creek with a nice big fire watched me try over and over and over to get my fire going. All I accomplished was a small flame that would burn out. He seemed to be entertained by this. I finally called it quits and ate snacks for dinner. The next morning I went to the on-site camp store, and asked if they had a special kindling wood that would burn easily. This was a young guy, flannel shirt, woodsy type, who handed me a bottle of stuff and said, ‘this is watcha need. Be careful.’ That night, I had a massive fire with ease. I ate well, and lounged by the flames with my dog, leaving the man across the creek intrigued at how I became so successful with my fire overnight.
Choosing the right tent will be another conversation, but whatever you do, don’t go camping with rain in the forecast. Just don’t.
Sleep, sleep, sleep. If you are a solo camper, like myself, you will not sleep well, or you’ll run to the car in fear of your fear. When I’m with company, I sleep soundly. Although, I prefer solo adventures. Finding your sleep setup will take some time. Just a sleeping bag on the ground won’t cut it. Before pitching your tent, rake or smooth off the area for rocks and twigs. Inside the tent, you first want an air mattress or a thick foam yoga mat to go under your sleeping bag. I myself, have been known to ‘lock’ my tent by putting my key ring through the tabs on the zippers, but any boogey man could simply cut right though my tent, if he wanted to murder me. It helped me sleep, however. Another rule – don’t wear pretty pajamas. Pack warm! You are outdoors in the night air. And depending on where you are, it can get very cold, especially if you are in mountainous areas or the beach-y winds. Once in Big Sur, not thinking about the difference in temperature for L.A., I ended up in the camp store buying a wardrobe of sweats and tube socks and a thick hoodie. It as freezing at night up there. My new swimsuit and shorts never saw the light of day.
Some campers enjoy lounging by the fire pit and hanging out at the campsite, while others go hiking or to explore. I’m the type that usually looks for a stream or enjoys the campsite. Don’t forget insect repellent and always pack an antihistamine (aka benadryl). If you get stung, poison ivy, or your dog gets into something, you have a solution, rather than ending your getaway.
Please don’t judge it on your first excursion. Remember everything gets better with practice. With the initial trip you might say, ‘I should’ve brought….’ And next time you will. Before you know it, you’ll be a pro. If this isn’t for you, a lot of campgrounds offer cabins. Most have a bathroom, some with a kitchen. It will cost extra and they book up, so plan well in advance. Happy Trails!