California: Camping

While the world is adjusting to new social norms and with COVID-19 still very much a problem (*cough* USA *cough*), it’s the perfect opportunity to explore areas a little bit closer to home.

Want to camp in California? This post will guide you through some of the things that you’ll need to know/do before you go, what essential items (and some not so essential) items to bring along, some of my favorite camping recipes, and a few tips & tricks to make your campsite feel safe & even luxurious.

BEFORE YOU YOU GO:

California allows for online reservations, off-the-beaten-path camping, permit area camping, as well as first-come-first-served campsites. I’m sure there’s other options but those are the main ones that you’ll come across. If you’re planning on camping ahead of time I suggest that you do your research (like I say in every post) and decide on an area you’d like to camp in. There’s a site called Hipcamp.com that allows campers to rate campsites and share their experiences. It’s a great resource for selecting a campsite that’ll work well for your needs. Once you know what campsite or general area you’d like to camp in you can head over to https://www.reservecalifornia.com/californiawebhome and book your reservation ahead of time so you are guaranteed the campsite of your choice.

GEAR TO BRING:

All right, as I mentioned, I am more of a “glamper” than a camper. I love nature and the outdoors but I also love convenience. That being said, I have a TON of camping gadgets that help to make our camping experience more enjoyable. You do not, by any means, need most of this gear to have a wonderful camping trip, but hey, it doesn’t hurt either to be over prepared. Given that we also camp with our dogs (and they require their own barrage of items) I’ve broken down the gear/food that we bring into four categories: Basecamp, Kitchen, Dogs, and Miscellaneous items.

Curious about specific items? Check out my other post “Camping: Gear & Gadgets” for more info on each item.

BASECAMP

  • Tent
  • Wagon
  • Cot
  • Air mattress
  • Air pump
  • Folding chairs
  • Blankets
  • Pillows
  • Lanterns
  • LED/fan combo
  • Paracords/Carabiners
  • Solar Shower
  • First aid kit
  • Lighters/matches
  • Solar garden light
  • Flashlights
  • Batteries
  • Duct tape
  • Step stool
  • Water canisters
  • Generator
  • Solar charging panel
  • Sleeping bags
  • Sleeping pads
  • Hatchet
  • Beach umbrella/Pop-up

DOGS

  • Food
  • Water
  • Treats
  • Crate/Pen
  • Bed
  • Blankets
  • Toys
  • Light up collars
  • Lung line
  • Screw in tether
  • Head leash
  • Sweaters
  • Booties
  • Neck gators
  • Collapsible bowls
  • First aid kit
  • Shampoo
  • Life vests
  • Skin ointments
  • Hexaclor-K wipes & shampoo
  • Ear drops & rinse
  • Eye drops & rinse
  • Poop bags

KITCHEN/COOKING

  • Camping pots
  • Cast irons skillets
  • Wood burning stove
  • Propane stove
  • Cast iron fire rack
  • Collapsible sinks
  • Folding table
  • Stasher bags
  • Cooking utensils
  • Eating utensils
  • Plateware
  • Drinkware
  • Chef’s knife
  • Cutting board
  • Can opener
  • Aluminum foil
  • Trash bags
  • Paper towels
  • Mixing bowls
  • Large cooler
  • Eco-friendly soap
  • Collapsible cups
  • 2-person silverware set
  • Propane tanks x6
  • Drink cooler
  • Fire starters
  • Sponge/cast iron scrubber

MISCELLANEOUS

  • Bug spray
  • Sunscreen
  • Citronella candles
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Hammock & mounting straps
  • Toilet paper
  • Picnic blanket
  • Extension cord
  • Towels
  • Survival kit
  • Hand soap
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Bottle opener
  • Extra bag/backpack
  • Dirty laundry bag
  • Tool kit
  • Beer coozies

MEALS & SNACKS:

When planning out meals for camping the key to easy cooking is to prep out as much as you can prior to your trip so you’re doing minimal prep at the actual campsite. Aside from the usual sandwich stuff, chips, and regular camping snacks, some of my favorite dishes & snacks to bring camping are:

Bacon & Egg Breakfast Burritos

Ingredients; Large tortillas, eggs, bacon, spinach, mushrooms, corn, black beans, bell peppers, jack/cheddar cheese & chipotle sauce*.

Italian Style Pasta Salad

Ingredients: Rotini pasta, cherry tomatoes, bocconcini, Parmesan cheese, salami, capers, cucumbers, parsley, shallots, lemon dressing.

Caprese Panzanella

Ingredients: croutons, cherry tomatoes, bocconcini, Parmesan cheese basil, balsamic dressing.

Steak & Potato Skillet

Ingredients: steak bits, Yukon gold potatoes, red bell peppers, mushrooms, onions, skillet seasoning packet.

Chicken Fajita Skillet Pasta

Ingredients: chicken, red/yellow/green bell peppers, onions, cream cheese, sour cream, jack/cheddar cheese, limes, fajita seasoning packet.

Mushroom & Pea Risotto

Ingredients: Arborio rice, mushrooms, peas, butter, stock, Parmesan cheese.

PACKING THE CAR:

This is one of the tricker parts of camping. Fitting everything and everyone into the vehicle comfortably is a bit like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Some helpful tricks that I’ve picked up are to obviously put large flat things down first, then put in your largest items like your coolers, and use one of those bags that you can put blankets and pillows in and then vacuum all the air to squish everything down. I like putting things into categorized bags and boxes too, to keep everything organized and easy to find once you get to the campsite.

SETTING UP CAMP:

First thing first, stretch those legs, take in the fresh air, and assess your campsite. You’ll want to check for sun exposure, which way the wind comes from, if there’s any sloping on the site, etc., before you determine where to place your tent. Ideally, you’ll want the tent in a shaded spot with the door pointing towards the wind (it helps with bugs coming into the tent), and somewhere on higher ground in case it rains, and as flat of a slope as possible.

I can’t stress this enough, set up the tent before you set up anything else. We always seem to crack a beer first and check out the area and then start setting up. Which usually leads to things not being done properly or things going missing because we can’t remember what we did with them while setting up, or running out of daylight altogether and trying to set up a tent with flashlights. Not ideal, trust me, Also, place your cooler in a well shaded area to ensure maximum ice retention during your trip.

Depending on how long you’re camping for, you’ll want to find a campsite with water access or bring enough water along with you. We go through about a gallon and a half per person a day.

To add some extra glam to the campsite, I bring lots of LED lamps and solar powered garden lights that I can shove into the ground around the campsite to light the perimeter. I’ve even seen come people bring string lights and hang them in the trees (without damaging anything) to create overhead light and it really makes a great atmosphere.

In case the campsite doesn’t offer a lot of shade, I like to bring an umbrella that I can snap onto my folding chair to block me from the sun. I also like to bring along a pop-up sun shade or a beach umbrella, at the very least, to provide some much needed shade.

Need help planning a camping trip? Need more tips and tricks? I can help! Simply comment or send me an email and I’ll tell you everything I know.

Remember, anything you bring in MUST be brought out with you. Leave no trace, do no harm.

HAPPY CAMPING!

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