If you’re like I was 5 years ago, there is no way that “dream vacation” would be in the same sentence as tent or camping. However, in the last two years I have been on a camping trip on my anniversary, slept in 15 national parks, and have opened my eyes to the redwoods and birds singing more times than I can count.
Picking Your Destination
Do Your Research – All campsites are NOT created equal. When reviewing a campsite on the internet make sure to answer these questions.
- How close are the sites to the parking area? Although initial set up will be more difficult if your tent site is more than a few feet from your car, the whole point of sleeping in nature is being in nature. If the first thing you see in the morning when you unzip your tent is your car, you have taken your vacation that much closer to your commute.
- How close together are the tent sites? It makes sense that campground owners want to get as many tents as they can into their campground, but there are often one or two sites that are next to boulders or mature trees. These spots offer a little more room and a little more privacy.
- Who operates the camp site? While the best campsites are often operated by national parks, some campgrounds are operated by renowned hotels and on the grounds of vineyards. The Ventana Inn in Big Sur, California is a perfect example of an excellent hospitality staff creating a refuge in nature. The website HipCamp is also a great place to find more unusual campsites that allow you to create the feeling of vacation and not merely sleeping outside.
- Bathrooms! – Campsites bathrooms can range from a portable and a sun shower to a gorgeous concrete and tile room that would not be out of place in a trendy restaurant. Having a bathroom that makes you feel relaxed(i.e., doesn’t smell bad or make you cringe at the germs you are about to interact with) is so important. Check out the reviews of the campsite, photos, and description to make sure you know what you are getting.
You Found Your Location – Now What?
Identify Your Must Haves – I am a much happier person with a good cup of coffee and a comfortable mattress, so I make sure I bring a Handspresso machine and a comfy sleeping mat. I have backpacked without these things and it’s great too, but it’s more of an adventure vacation than a dream vacation. By making sure that you bring the things that bring you the most comfort, you are taking the “roughing it” out of a camping trip.
Meal Plan(or Don’t) – Waking up in nature and eating outside are the best parts of camping, but if you don’t enjoy cooking, going camping doesn’t mean you have to cook outside! Many campsites offer meals you can re-heat and a number of places I have camped are close to great restaurants. If you do like to cook, you can make a fantastic, gourmet meal at a campsite – I still remember the cherry cobbler and steak with pistachio butter we ate a campsite at Zion. You will have to plan so that you have the ingredients and get a little creative with the tools you use, but it’s not hard.
Plan Activities in Advance – Perhaps you want to go wine tasting or really love to read. Many vineyards offer camping adventures on their properties. I have also brought a hammock, a stack of books, and some board games and have spent a completely relaxing day doing nothing.
Want to make your next camping trip amazing? Download our free packing list!