If you’re new to camping, like I was two years ago, there may be some things that catch you off guard when you go camping for the first time. Even car camping, which seems tantalizingly easy (everything’s right there in the trunk, right?) can come with pitfalls of its own.
Case in point: I recently went to Assateague Island and camped overnight. Beach camping, yay! Except…there was a thunderstorm. And not just any thunderstorm – one that lasted all night. Yes, all night. 8 hours of torrential rain and wind that battered our little tent like we were the last people on earth and Mother Nature was pissed. We gave up around 3:30am when the water started to leak into the tent and our sleeping bags were soaked from sitting in two inches of water.
All in all, it was a fine trip, but I don’t think I’m going to forget that night, ever. While there wasn’t much we could do about the weather, there are some things we could have done to make our lives a little easier. So here are my tips and tricks for having a successful car camping experience!
- Bring plastic bags. These are useful for trash, for spreading on damp ground to protect your tush, and for re-packing wet/damp items for the return trip home.
- If there is any chance of rain, pack each outfit (or set of clothes – such as all undergarments, all shirts, etc.) into its own ziploc bag. That way, no matter what happens with the rest of your gear you’ll have a dry set of clothing.
- Bring toilet paper. Self-explanatory! You never know what the restroom situation is going to be. Also pack this in a ziploc bag.
- Invest in a sleeping pad. These things seem strangely expensive (its basically a glorified pool inflatable, after all) but a good one is worth its weight in gold. I have this one from REI. You will sleep more comfortably not only because you are cushioned from the ground, but the air inside the sleeping pad protects you from the cold and helps to keep you warm. Also, if your tent happens to flood…let’s just say that the sleeping pad can help act as a flotation device to “float” you and your sleeping bag above the water and keep you dry…erm, drier. Not that I have any personal experience with this or anything…
- Plan your meals ahead of time. Know what you are bringing to eat, and don’t try to subsist on granola bars the entire trip. Obviously this depends completely on the duration of your trip, how many people you are feeding, and whether you are car camping or backpacking…but in general, you can be more creative with the food than you probably think you can. I backpacked in the Grand Canyon in 2011 and on our third night, we had cherry cheesecake. Cheesecake. At the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Okay maybe that’s a little ambitious for most of us, but I’m just sayin’ – the possibilities are endless.
- Pack face wipes – it’s a hassle to wash your face in camping conditions – and the wipes make it easy.
- Invest in a headlamp. A flashlight can suffice for many situations, but a headlamp makes lighting your way so much more easy and convenient, especially for situations like finding the restroom in the dark (and having a light while you do your business – do you really want to be juggling a flashlight in one hand while you do that? Think about it).
- And last but certainly not least…check the weather before you leave :).