Camping and Fishing CaliforniaHints, Tips and Information to Get You Started on This Great Adventure
So now maybe you’ve begun thinking about getting started with camping but you’re still not quite sure where to actually begin. We’re going to take a look at some equipment including one of the best instant set up tents available. Let’s take a look at the basics with a simplified approach!
When I was a small child camping in Yosemite Nat’l Park, the campground at Pinecrest Lake or even a church summer camp, camping was a lot simpler. We didn’t bring radios or media or many other forms of entertainment.
The idea of camping in those days was to spend each day out enjoying nature and the beauty of the outdoors. So needless to say purchasing and packing the needed camping gear seemed a lot more basic and easy to accomplish.
Take a quick look at a pretty moderate list that almost everyone of us started with:
- Bedding… sleeping bag and mat or cot to sleep on.
- Camping Stove
- Cookware and Utensils
- First Aid Kit
- Insect Repellent
- Water Containers
The first thing that all of us campers have in common is that at night we sleep enclosed in something whether it’s an RV or a tent. Tents can come in all different sizes and shapes. They can be very inexpensive to purchase but also can range up into some amazing price ranges.
When I was a youngster and then on up into my 30’s I camped using smaller pup tents up to inexpensive 4 person tents. The last tent that I purchased was still under $100 and was large enough to zip two sleeping bags together on top of a foam pad and yet have room for some suitcases and a few other items.
Another great option for a bit larger family is the Core 9-Person Instant Cabin Tent (formerly Camp Valley). This particular tent manufacturer touts that it can be up and usable in or around 60 seconds and I actually have friends that can attest to this specific claim and absolutely love theirs. Check out this video of Pastor Ryan Devine pitching their instant setup tent in their driveway. By the way tent colors do vary.
One thing that you may want to do is bring a rake to smooth out the area that you pitch your tent in and also throw down a tarp to place your tent on. If the area that you are camping in is known for surprise showers, you may also want to bring a spade and trench around your tent to divert any surprise moisture from your tent area.
We all sleep in some kind of bedding whether sheets and blankets or a sleeping bag. As a child camping up in the Sierras during the summer, a very inexpensive sleeping bag always worked great for a good night’s sleep.
But one night while camping on the rim of the Grand Canyon in my childhood sleeping bag, I experienced a night of a different level of coldness that I’d never quite seen before.
Years later when I started fishing the Walker River in the Eastern Sierras, I remembered that miserable night and upgraded to a higher quality sleeping bag that would sustain much lower temperatures than the valley floor of Yosemite in August.
We all take along food and need a way to cook and prepare it. Some of us may cook meals over a campfire and that’s always a great, memorable experience but the majority of us use some form of a camping stove.
For many years we used an old Coleman 2-burner stove that operated on ‘white’ gas. Now those 2-burner stoves operate on ‘Coleman’ fuel or unleaded gas. However, they now produce a propane converter that installs in less than a minute and allows you to use the 1 lb. propane bottles that are much, much more convenient to operate.
We still have our ancient stove but now use the propane bottles which really cut down on the odor of gas and having to carry extra gallon cans of stove fuel.
Along with your camping stove you’re going to need a few pots, pans and utensils to cook with. I don’t remember the last time that we actually shopped for these items. Since we started really getting back into camping several years ago, we’ve just used older items from our kitchen at home and then replaced them with newer, more quality items as needed.
If you do need to shop for inexpensive cookware, just look for some T-fal cookware at your local department stores or check out Amazon for some fairly decent prices.
Quite a few people that we’ve met while camping and fishing have had elaborate setups when it comes to preparing meals but the reason that we keep the preparation of meals really simple is that we don’t want to spend the time cooking and cleaning up that we could be outside fishing or doing something else.
Another item that we’ve seen quite a few people using is the ‘Dutch Oven’. I’ve never used one but have been told that they’re pretty easy to use and are very efficient for cooking and baking.
Keeping all of your food cold is always a bit of a challenge depending on where you like to camp and how long you like to stay out. There are a few options for you to consider. One option that you can consider is using as much canned food and food that doesn’t need refrigeration as possible. Sometimes this isn’t the most tastiest way to go but I do admit that I like a good can of Stagg Chili… I like it a lot!
When I was a little younger doing a bit of tent camping, I would take two or three ice chests. We would freeze all the meat that we were taking and the morning that we left I would go down to my local Ace Hardware store where they sold dry ice. I would load an ice chest up about half way with dry ice and then pack the meat according to the days that we would be pulling it out, from the farthest day out on the bottom to the soonest usage on top.
The thing about dry ice is that the more you open the ice chest and access the food the quicker the dry ice dissipates. So, using dry ice really requires some organization to make it last. But, you can pack a lot of meats and frozen foods for a lot of meals if done properly.
If you’re not using dry ice in an ice chest and carefully organize all of your frozen food well, it can work to prolong the life of your ice. If you freeze some of your dinners precooked like casseroles, they work great to prolong ice and also require very little preparation for dinner allowing a little more time for hiking and fishing.
A good lantern is a must have also. These days there are quite a few options as to the types of lanterns available. When I was a kid growing up the only lantern available was fueled by white gas.
Now there are still the gas style but also battery powered and battery powered with rechargeable batteries. With the advent of LED lighting there are even more options.
We still have our old Coleman gas lantern but normally take the rechargeable one which meets all of our needs. One of the cool functions of our rechargeable lanterns is the cigarette lighter adapter, which allows us to use the truck to recharge it if we want to. It’s always nice to have options!
There are tons of different flashlights available to campers now. And to be truthful, it really is a matter of preference as to the size and style that ya’ like.
So, I’ll just tell ya’ what we prefer for all of our camping and fishing needs. We take one MagLite that holds three D cell batteries. This seems to have all the candlepower that we need for those occasional far off illuminations (like bears and coyotes) that might occur.
For all of the shorter range needs we usually take three smaller LED flashlights that use 3 triple A batteries each. These also have the adjustable beam just like the larger MagLite that is always close by.
We have upgraded our flashlights a little since I first wrote this post. While we do still carry all of these flashlights with us, we now predominately use the Intimidator from OLIGHT. For a review on this incredible flashlight just CLICK HERE!!!
An item that is easy to forget to pack but really important to have is a good first aid kit. If you do a lot of fishing like my wife and I do, you know how easy it is to get a hook stuck in your finger or to slip on a rock on the side of the stream or even out in the middle of a stream and to scrape the ‘ol shins.
If you camp a lot in snake country, it’s a good idea to have a first aid kit and a snake bite kit. But it’s even more important to know exactly what to do first should you ever get bitten by a rattler.
Every year before we go to the mountains we take both dogs in for their annual rattlesnake vaccinations. These vaccinations can give your dog 4 to 6 extra hours to get to a veterinarian with the appropriate antidote.
A side note to the first aid kit, is the value of having a quality insect repellent. Every year it’s just a bit different each time up in the areas that we camp and fish, but there’s always an area where the insect repellent comes in really handy and a good, quality repellent can mean the difference between major irritation and major enjoyment!
If you’ve seen our videos, you’ve probably seen our different water containers. These are a must, regardless of your style of camping. One style of container that I really like is the one that is pictured here with an on/off spigot.
These are easy to use and can just sit on the camping table and hold down a corner of the table cloth. A decent quality container can last many years and seasons of camping and aren’t necessarily that expensive.
We carry two of these but we also carry one or two other styles to fit whatever our needs will be for a specific outing.
If you like campfires, roasted marshmallows and S’mores at night under the starry sky then you know that one of the most important things that will need be packed is some firewood.
One of the places that we camp every year is about 400 miles north of our home. But if we buy a bundle of firewood from the campground host, many times it will have a little paper label on it showing that it was shipped from a business that is located a few miles down the road from where we live here in the Inland Empire.
The problem with purchasing that firewood is that it is very expensive and there are a lot of places along the way up there where we could purchase firewood for a lot less and get a lot more cluck for our buck.
Several years ago we found that a lot of the lumber yards here in Southern California will stack up all the odds and ends of a construction job order on a pallet and sell it quite inexpensively. So whenever we start getting low on firewood, we’ll go down to a local Ganahl Lumber and purchase a pallet of this wood and it’ll last us a good half a year at least.
Some of the best features of buying this wood is that it stacks very nicely in our garage or shed, it also fits nice and snug in the back of our pickup when we’re loading up for our trips and it also burns very clean at night in the fire pit without too much smoke. Probably the best feature is that we usually only pay between $25 and $40 for a whole pallet of wood that lasts a very long time!
If you’re going to take wood of any kind for a camp fire, more than likely you’re going to want to split some of that wood to fit your campfire just right. This year we had several nights of some perky breezes and I found myself building my campfires a little smaller and a little lower down in the pit and I used my old hatchet quite a bit each evening.
My hatchet is the same one that I bought many years ago when we were on a pretty tight budget. It’s totally low budget with a plain wooden handle but yet has lasted us since our first trips in our tent trailer.
But the secret to our hatchet still doing a great job is the fact that I make it a habit to sharpen it on a regular basis. I also carry a file in my tool box in case it gets a nick in it or something else causes it to get a little dull prematurely. It is definitely another one of those tools that you don’t want to leave home without.
Down the Road a Bit
As we begin falling in love with this thing called camping, we begin collecting a few more things here and there that make the experience a little more enjoyable every time we go and a few of those extras are:
If you like to stretch the camping season out a little bit into the fall or start a little earlier in the spring, it’s nice to have a portable heater that is capable of doing everything you need a portable heater to do.
If grilling is something you enjoy while camping it’s nice to have something that’ll last more than a few camping trips.
Probably one of the coolest things that we’ve discovered is how nice it is to be able to easily recharge all of the little electrical devices that we’ve come to enjoy in our daily lives. A small solar panel, a 12v battery and an inverter allows you to handle this task, nicely.
There are always going to be items that make your specific camping the best that it can be for you and as the camping seasons go by, you’ll discover them and add them to your camping gear. But just getting started doesn’t have to be very expensive.
In fact, many campgrounds have basic cabins that you can rent which makes it even easier to get a start in camping and to decide on your favorite camping areas to visit. If you have any ideas, suggestions or questions, please don’t be shy about ’em and share them with us! See ya’ in the Sierras!
By R.C. Stude