Here are five things you might be worried about when it comes to camping, along with ways to cope.
Forgoing a comfy mattress for a sleeping bag may not sound appealing, but there are ways to lessen the ick. Driving to a campground versus hiking in means you can stuff your vehicle with provisions — including a tent you can stand up in for maximum comfort.
The taller the entrance to your tent, the less it affects your back. Then make sure to have a self-inflating mattress, like a Therm-a-Rest, or an air mattress you can inflate with a pump. Slip it under your sleeping bag to avoid the sleepless scenes from “The Princess and the Pea.” Another option is a collapsible camp cot.
Camping in spring and summer means using lighter rectangular sleeping bags stuffed with synthetic material. When it’s cold, go with a down-filled mummy-shaped sleeping bag that cinches around your face. I also found that bringing a bedroom pillow helped. It smelled and felt like home.
These days, some commercially operated campgrounds offer Internet access. But if you’re heading to wilderness-type parks, depending on location, you may not even have cellphone service.
You can always bring an external battery pack and angrily play Candy Crush for hours, but that really defeats the purpose of being outdoors.
I did bring my excellent Jackery Fit portable battery pack, but only to make sure my iPhone was charged enough to take photos during hikes into Pinnacles’ winding mountain caves.
Remember that the Internet will still be there later. Play cards, eat, drink, breathe in fresh air, hike, build a campfire and enjoy the company of others — in person instead of online.
You love food, and so do animals, including squirrels and bears, whose sense of smell overshadows ours and who may find your fragrant dinner supplies irresistible. Just remember: They want your food, not you.
Never leave trash, toiletries, dirty dishes, food or drinks unattended. Don’t leave trash and open containers in your car or around the campsite. Keep your tent zipped up, and keep in mind that bugs and birds also enjoy nibbling on half-eaten peanut butter sandwiches, so don’t give them the chance.
As for ticks and mosquitoes, insect repellent works. For major bug phobias, outdoor supply stores and websites sell inexpensive, lightweight mesh jackets you can zip yourself into — including your hands and face.
4. BATHROOMS AND ELECTRICITY
You can live without electricity, a full-length mirror and private bathrooms without sacrificing hygiene or general spiffiness.
Most developed tent campgrounds you can drive to have communal bathrooms with running drinking water, sinks and showers, but check in advance.
Try gas- or battery-powered lanterns for preparing food and hanging out in the evening. A headlamp works well for midnight bathroom runs and as a makeshift night-light hung in a tent.
Leaving your smoothie blender at home doesn’t mean you can’t have delicious food while camping.
Get a decent-size cooler that can keep your food cold for a few days before the ice melts and a small basin to wash dishes. Bring a propane gas-powered camp stove with one or two burners. In campgrounds with grills, you can fire-roast anything from Portobello mushrooms to zucchini. At night, my family and I made gooey s’mores.
“Approach camping as an adventure with possibilities of new experiences of fun, and the possibility of challenges,” my dad told me. “Camping gives you a sense of togetherness in a natural environment you’re not usually in, that you end up enjoying together.”