Afraid to camp? Nothing to fear but fear itself

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 14, 2014 at 8:51 am •  Published: May 14, 2014
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PINNACLES NATIONAL PARK, Calif. (AP) — Growing up in Los Angeles, I loved camping.

My family and I regularly escaped the city's concrete sprawl for California's wilder edges, driving deep into the desert or high up into the mountains. We'd set up a tent and plunk down sleeping bags, each trip a dusty, if slightly smelly, adventure.

Then something changed. As an adult, I stopped camping. Though still an avid nature-lover and hiker, I didn't want to abandon the modern perks of home — roof, electricity, bed! — or similarly equipped hotels.

This year I decided to break that 15-year-long camping drought. I joined my stepmother, sister, aunt, uncle and Danish father, who has averaged three camping trips a year since he moved to California in 1977, on a three-day camping excursion in Pinnacles National Park, south of San Jose. The experience turned out fun, freeing and easier than I thought it would be.

Here are five things you might be worried about when it comes to camping, along with ways to cope.

SLEEPING

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 bringing a bedroom pillow helped. It smelled and felt like home.

UNPLUGGING

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.

Channel the great naturalist Henry David Thoreau, and 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.

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