I concluded my first ever camping trip about a week ago (that’s right, this girl went camping and became one with the outdoors–Kinda). Now that I’ve had time to reflect on my trip, I’d like to share some pointers that I think I’m pretty qualified to give at this point in my life. My camping trip was not a typical “camp in the woods” excursion, it was on a beach, Pismo Beach, California, to be exact. And while beach camping seems like the more appealing type of camping trip to take, it’s not necessarily easier. Here are the top 4 things (in no particular order) I learned and think are extremely important for all you brave souls who dare to experience beach living for a weekend.
1. Arrive at your beach destination during sunlight hours– with sunlight hours to spare.
There are no lights on the beach, so for obvious reasons, it’s beneficial to get to the beach while you can actually see what you’re doing. My friend and I arrived at the beach slightly before dusk — Let’s agree to blame Cali traffic for our late arrival — and we were responsible for setting up the tents for the entire group. With little insight and a lack of help from the park ranger, we hurriedly found a space that our inexperienced minds thought was perfect and assembled the tents. We were very proud of our turn around time (TAT) for pitching the tents right before nightfall– and with good reason; neither of us had ever pitched a civilian tent or any tent (in my case). Our pride was quickly killed when we were told we hadn’t gone far enough down the shoreline and would have to move from our location by 11:00 PM. Well, what do you do when it’s pitch black outside and you have to tear down a tent and drive a farther distance before you can set it up? You get shit done. I was lucky to have an excellent and cooperative partner, but please spare me the stress and straining of my eyes the next time! I now know, if I should ever go beach camping again, I’ll plan to be at my location while it’s bright outside.
2. Bring water-proof clothes – or freeze in your soaking wet clothes.
What’s at the beach? Aha! The ocean! So excuse me for being so oblivious to the fact that it could be misty at the beach. I’ve probably never noticed this because I’m usually in a bikini, and it’s so hot that I don’t mind feeling mist blown my way, but trust me when I say that California beaches aren’t too “bikini-friendly” based on my experiences. I was fully clothed in denim and cotton — to be exact, I had on destroyed blue jeans, a white v-neck and a blue jean button up shirt– and those are not clothing items that you really want to be in when you’re soaking wet. Perhaps a rain jacket or even fabrics that absorb water more quickly would have been more useful and warm for me during this trip. I could have avoided an unhealthy amount of shivering and could possibly have a more approving view of Cali beaches than I do right now.
3. Travel in a vehicle that has 4-wheel drive to avoid getting stuck in deep & soft sand.
I’m not going to pretend that I even knew what a 4-wheel drive was before this trip because I definitely did not. HOWEVER, now I know that this type of vehicle is certainly the type to have if you plan to drive on sand (and you will if you EVER go beach camping, duh). To clear things up, it wasn’t the original plan to literally camp on the beach, so we probably would have been more prepared had it been THE PLAN. Nevertheless, getting stuck in sand because you’re not in a 4-wheel drive vehicle is not worth the 45 minutes that you could instead dedicate to chugging brewskies with your woes.
4. Ditch lighter fluid and bring gasoline to keep your fire burning.
We’ve all probably imagined a nice beach bonfire with some nice tunes, good people, roasted marshmallows and an ice cold one. Doesn’t it remind you of a Hollister shopping bag? No? Okay, nevermind, maybe that’s just me. Moving on, the bonfire was probably THE MOST important part of our trip. Not simply because it was cool (especially at night) but because bonfires are the symbolic part of camping. How do you go camping without a bonfire???? Well, in my case, you throw some pieces of damp wood in a hole you’ve dug in the sand, throw some lighter fluid on it and voila! You get nothing!! A 2 second flame that quickly dies and leaves your eyes wandering around the camp area to view the more “experienced” campers’ fires. With the help of our friendly neighbors, we were eventually able to get a nice and cozy, lasting fire burning. All it took was some dry wood, gasoline (which apparently works better than lighter fluid on the beach) and an upward placement of the wood (teepee style) onto a not-so-deep hole in the sand. I certainly valued this lesson more than others. Trust me. You don’t want to be “those people” who can’t start a fire when camping. For laughs, check out our 2 attempts at fires, and you be the judge of the one you’d rather have on your trip.
Overall, beach camping was amazing. Who wouldn’t want to fall asleep to the sound of the ocean — and I’m not talking about that weak sound you get with one of your iPhone apps. The learning lessons were just that, learning lessons. They didn’t hinder me from enjoying the experience and certainly won’t keep me from doing it again. The next time, I just plan to be more prepared– And since I’ve given you these tips, so will you! Happy Camping 🙂