Camping is an escape. An inexpensive getaway without modern conveniences like googling a song that came into your head but you can't remember the band that sings it or obsessively checking your likes on instagram or watching the second season of fucking Gray's Anatomy or some shit again. No distractions. It's just you, the trees, the sea and the people you're with. That's it, that's all.
Camping on the beach is undeniably the best thing that ever was. Waking up to the sound of mother ocean is the most therapeutic shit out there. No amount of rehab can compare to the cleansing effect of the surf. Ever. Crawl out of the tent. Bundle up. Get the coffee going. Sit on a log and look at the ocean with salt in your lungs. All without saying a thing. Damn man. That's all you need.
Let me just say that I have been known to be the queen of over preparing. I can thank good ol' dad for that one. But my preparation station is not so much for any kind of weather imaginable or potential disasters but for maximum leisurely enjoyment. I fucking hate when I don't have that thing that I really need right now that would be so awesome and good but I didn't think of it and now I'm sad. But when you have to hike in to your sandy oasis home (and that's even a 15 minute hike) it gets REALLY old when you have to go back for trip #3 because you decided to bring 5 outfits, your entire bathroom and enough food to feed an army. There's a fine line between "glamping" (which absolutely has its time and place) and just being really dope at living outside.
On the flip side, you don't have to be Robinson Crusoe or Dog the Bounty Hunter to go camping. Having things that are good doesn't make you a priss. Passing out in a dirt pile with no sleeping bag, surrounded by cans of PBR and a pissed on fire is not the ultimate symbol of camping excellence. Similarly, if you're not adventuring solely with a buck knife, portaging through a poisonous swamp to sleep in a bear's den in your head-to-toe Patagonia getup, it doesn't mean that you're not "really camping". Fuck that shit. Yah, they both sound hard AF, but if the Motorhead camping experience isn't your cup of tea, and your'e not a MEC junkie freak, you can still be a legit camper. There are ways to maintain your rugged outdoorsy persona and not come back to wifi feel wrecked. It's not a roughing it competition. It's leaving your stressy, spazzy self behind and being a kid playing outside for a weekend. Building forts. Swimming. Eating weird fire food. Singing songs and passing out with no "I should be writing emails" or "I should call my mom". Give your texting thumbs a break and JUST. FUCKING. BE. man.
The key to having the right stuff without bringing all the stuff or not enough stuff is to start with the essentials - some of which you may not have thought of but are crucial to outdoor slumber parties. Bring these 10 things and everything is going to be ok/amazing.
(Not included in this list are the obvious tent, mats and sleeping bags. Don't be an asshole.)
1. Bocce or Book or Cards / All of them
(Ok that's 3 things. I cheated.)
You're going to need an activity. Especially if you're beach camping anywhere north of LA, because the ocean is a salty, frigid bitch and your "swims" are more like painfully intense plunges into heart stopping ice baths. They don't last that long. And they're likely few and far in between. So you'll need something else to do. Bocce is the undisputed king of beach games. Don't even bother telling me about some stupid other thing that you played as a child on your family vacations. Bocce is better. Always. But if you're not a game person, bring a dang book. Feed your brain with smutty romance. Whatever. Just get some passive leisure in there while your subconscious absorbs the rolling sea sounds. It's free therapy. Don't be an idiot and just get loser pissed the whole time. Give your brain cells a break. Also, if you're doing the couples thing, playing cards is a great way to not be irritated by everything your love person does.
2. Face cloths
Not just for the chicks. This isn't some glamourous spa ritual. My aunty literally rips up old, stained towels into mini facecloths and brings them to the beach. In the morning she is the first up getting the hot water going for coffee (and some deliciously weird hippy breakfast) and each groggy body that births itself out of his/her tent in the morning is welcomed with their very own hot, steamy face cloth. It changes your whole life in an instant. Everything is immediately warm, alive, beautiful and ready. All from a soaked, old, stinky towel scrap (not actually stinky cuz that's gross. Wash them first). It's the easiest way to make your morning the most amazing.
Brews are great when you go camping but sometimes it's nice to not come back feeling like you need to recover from your brush with nature. If it's not a party weekend, chill out. Bring a little flask of whisky with you for that evening nip by the fire. It requires no ice, no mix and won't take up precious room in your cooler. It's warm and tasty and will likely incite some good bonfire songs and maybe a roll about in the woods. Win win.
Yah, it's almost summer. Yah, it gets hot in the day. But it also gets fucking cold at night and in the morning. Don't be a moron and bring your cotton city wear expecting it to do anything when the pacific northwest wind is coming for your soul. It will rip right through your Billabong hoodie and leave you foolishly grasping yourself for precious heat. Bring a dang wool sweater. (And socks. And hat if it's April.)
Wool will actually incubate your body heat and keep out the moisture. If you're really headed for some weather, bring a wind breaker or an elfin cloak that you can wrap around your body to stop the biting wind from stealing your precious warmth. There's a reason people in the British Isles, New Zealand and the PNW are so into the shit. It's made for the bloomin' sea!
You'll always need it. You may not know for what but once you're there you're gonna be all "DAMNIT!" and hate yourself for not listening to me. (like when you have gross camping neighbours and you need to make a clothes line/blanket wall to block them and their grossness out)
Ever look for your shoes in the dark when you have to pee in the night and there's no stars or moon and you finally say fuck it and then pee all over yourself and then have to get back into your sleeping bag with pee feet?
Seems bougie, right? WRONG! Get a travel pillow. If you're older than 25, your body will thank you. They can compress into nearly nothing and will be far better than your t-shirts all mashed together which will invariably untangle and separate in the night and you'll wake to a sore neck, suffocating in a t-shirt heap and then have to rearrange everything and then there's a weird noise outside which is likely a squirrel but you're imagining a giant, man-eating cougar and then you're awake and your neck hurts and your t-shirt ball is flat and hard and shitty and you wish you just had a dang pillow.
8. Dr Bronner's liquid soap
Good for everything. Washing your parts. Washing your dishes. Washing your hair. Washing your pee feet. And it's biodegradable. One product.
9. Duct tape
Like rope, you won't know that you need it until you do. For all the things. Like taping that shitty, screaming kid's mouth shut. And then taping him to a tree.
Everyone has duct tape. Nobody will know it was you.
10. Tin foil
You can cook pretty much anything in it. You can bring all those gadgets like toast grilly things and such (I have a ridiculous stove and a fucking caste iron pan that we trek in when we're being dumb) but if there's no fire ban, cook in the dang fire! Just wrap everything up in a tin foil ball with some oil and salt (or sea water if not available) and presto change-o, dinner is served!
Do yourself a favour and go sleep in the sand. It'll do wonders for your soul. Just don't forget a stinky towel and a knife. OH a KNIFE! Shit. I totally forgot that.
Happy camping friends.