Your girl here just got back from a three-day camping trip in Big Sur. My hair still smells like campfire, and I’m reluctant to wash it out just yet.
I have a couple thoughts to share with you on the art of camping. Of course.
I’ve also got a few camping recipes to share. Of course.
Have a checklist and a shopping list.
Remember the five P’s: Prior preparation prevents poor performance. As soon as your campsite is reserved, start planning. Open up a document file or get a piece of paper and mentally walk through your camping day. Write down all the little things you’ll need to perform various tasks — a bucket for washing cookware, a mallet for pounding down tent stakes, a torch lighter, etc.
Also, in spite of the fact that camping is meant to be rustic, it can end up being awfully expensive. Start a shopping list, and keep an eye out for good bargains online, in thrift stores, or at bulk-sale shops.
You will forget stuff.
Even the best of lists will have a few omissions. Don’t panic; you can buy it when you get there. Camp stores make a ton of money selling matches, toiletries, towels, and food to campers. It might be a wee bit overpriced, but at least it’ll be available. Or, if you realize you missed something before you arrive at the camp site, you can make a pit stop at a big box store like Target and pick up what you need.
If you plan for one thing, plan for rain.
Rain is the only thing that can actually ruin a good camping trip. If there is even the slightest chance of rain, bring tarps and/or a canopy, rain ponchos, and galoshes. Make sure your tent will stay dry; it should have a waterproof bottom and top.
Don’t bring electronics.
Now is the time for digital detox, not Facebook. Take this time to relax and reset, and leave the world (including email, text messages, social networks, and all the anxieties that go along with them) behind.
I know you’re tempted to bring your laptop and play a movie or two at night, but think about all the stargazing, song-singing, and bat-watching you’ll miss out on if you do!
You’re packing too much food.
Dollars’ll get you donuts you’ll end up trekking home with a cooler full of leftovers. Don’t let your eyes get bigger than your stomach; plan for three meals and one dessert per day. Pack just enough snack food for the road and one hike. Again, you can always get more from the camp store.
You’re packing too many toiletries.
Especially if you're going camping with friends and/or lover(s), there's a lot of temptation to try to look like a glowing-skinned, princess-haired L.L. Bean catalog model. Looking camp-cute means staying somewhat clean and wearing bright flannels. Be as low-maintenance as possible, and bring all those fun samples you've been amassing ever since you got that Birchbox subscription and started going to Kiehl's way too often. Do not bring a blowdryer, foundation, nail polish, or perfume. Do bring sunscreen, bug spray, hair ties, and plenty of your favorite lip balm. Remember that camping is an opportunity to focus on the world around you rather than what you see in the mirror.
Get a small two-burner camp stove.
Cooking over a campfire is for Ma from Little House on the Prairie. A forty-dollar camp stove means you can cook in the rain (with a tarp or canopy overhead). It also means you can cook in a reasonable amount of time; campfires can take forever to boil water. Ironically, they will burn food very quickly if you’re not careful, as well. A little predictability goes a long way for camp cooking.
You will get cold.
Unless it’s June in Georgia, you’re going to need to pack night things that are warm and cozy. Our homes are all insulated well enough that we tend not to feel the temperature changes at night so very drastically. Pack a wonderfully warm sleeping bag, a couple thick blankets, and heavy-duty pajamas — flannels, sweatpants, that guilty-pleasure velour track suit.
You will get bored.
The beauty of camping is that you get to escape all the normal time-killing activities of your everyday life. This leaves you with a lot of time to kill. Pack board games, card games, a croquet or bocce set (depending on the terrain), a guitar, a fishing set-up, a few good books or trashy magazines — anything that will help you to relax and enjoy the company of those around you.
Get out of your tent.
Go to bed an hour or two after sunset, and you won’t be so grumpy when the sunrise (and birds) wake you up in the morning. Get out of your sleeping bag, have a hearty breakfast, and start exploring! You’re out in nature; it’s time to appreciate it. Take a long, meandering photo-walk or hike some designated trails. Go cool your feet in a stream or take a dive into a swimming hole. Climb rocks; pick flowers. Get plenty of exercise to justify all those heavy camp meals you’re eating.
One of the best parts of camping and urban escape is the absence of noise pollution. Set aside some quiet time to notice the sounds around you — water flowing, frogs and crickets singing at night, birds singing in the morning, wind through leaves, squirrels and field mice scampering through dried grass.
And the silence isn’t just for you; it’s also a courtesy to other campers around you (same goes for bright lights, as well). With the absence of ambient white noise, your voice carries a lot farther than you might imagine. Loud, late-night (read: drunken) conversations will make you look stupid and selfish. A self-imposed curfew on noisy activities is best for everyone and gives you time for cuddling, heart-to-hearts, and soft singing around a campfire.