What to pack on your next camping trip

Now that PACIFIC has shared some of the top camping and glamping spots around San Diego, you’re one step closer to hitting the open road for an outdoor adventure. If you are a newbie, start out with car camping to get comfortable with “roughing it” before you head out on backcountry trails.

To get rolling, make sure you have the necessities (and a few luxuries) to keep your nature vibe upbeat. Before you know it, you’ll be clamoring for more nights in the wild. 

The basics

Tent & sleeping bags: Head to an outdoor store, such as REI, where tents are set up as models, and sleeping bags hang for up-close touch and feel opportunities. Talk with one of the knowledgeable staff members, who can guide you through the size and temperature range you need. Once you know what you want, there are great deals and discounts online, if you have the patience and time.

Sleeping pad: This is an absolute necessity if you are snoozing on the ground, for both comfort and temperature control. Look for a self-inflatable model like those from Therm-a-Rest, or one you can blow up in a few minutes, like one from Big Agnes. In a pinch, an extra thick yoga mat will do wonders.

First aid kit: If you’re one for shenanigans or even slightly accident prone, be smart and pack a fully equipped first aid kit. Easily found at Walmart, REI, and Dick’s Sporting Goods, these kits priced anywhere between $10-$50 come with band aids, ointment, moleskins (for hiking blisters), gauze, tape, painkillers and more to handle those bumps, bruises and scrapes you’re bound to encounter in the outdoors.

Headlamps: Speaking of accidents, let’s not trip on our way to the bathroom, and eat dirt at 4 a.m. Avoid tree slams with a headlamp by Black Diamond, and the accidental drop into the toilet that might happen with a flashlight.

Camping stove: Whether it’s a quick stew reheat, scrambling eggs in the morning or simply boiling water, a stove is a must. For simple one-nighters, a Coleman single burner butane stove does the trick ($18), or if you are a blossoming outdoor chef, go bigger with a two burner/grill/griddle combo ($109) or seriously impress with a two-burner range and stove ($225), both by Camp Chef.

Cooler: You’ve got to keep your San Diego craft beer (and ahem, water) cold, right? If money is no issue, then a highly-touted YETI (ranging from $200-$1,300) will keep your goods cold for days. For the budget-conscious, coolers by Igloo, Lifetime or Coleman can be nabbed at most local stores for $40-$100.

The luxuries

Coffee press: Whether this is a luxury or a basic, caffeine is an early-morning ritual after wine and whiskey around the campfire and potential 6 a.m. bird calls. Head to L.L. Bean for a range of camping coffee press choices, including the popular Stanley Vacuum French Press ($65), the GSI Java Press Coffee Maker ($30), the L.L. Bean Stainless Steel Percolator ($70), or the Glacier Six Cup Percolator ($30). Don’t forget the mugs, like the adorable outdoor-themed ones by United by Blue.

Pillows: Unless you are backcountry camping, there’s no need to bring a small blow-up version. In other words, throw your favorite bed pillow in the car. No one at the campsite is going to say, “They aren’t real campers because they brought (gasp) a pillow.” If you are determined to prep for backpacking, head to Backcountry for a wide range of lightweight choices.

Blankets: Perfect for sitting by the campfire, placing between your sleeping pad and bag for extra warmth, or piling on top on extra chilly nights, one could argue these are a basic to car camping. Want to go extra lux? Take that down-alternative comforter off your bed and snuggle under the stars.

Insulated stainless water bottles: Sure you can bring water in pretty much any vessel, but these newer inventions, like the popular Hydro Flask versions, perform the best at keeping beverages cold and warm the longest. They also don’t sweat or affect the taste like plastic in warm conditions, making them a San Diego must.

And unless you are Bear Grylls, you need to bring your own food. Don’t forget your toothbrush. Happy camping!

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