So You Want to go Camping Solo? Part I

The Need to Try Something Different

I wanted to do something different for vacation so I decided to go camping. I asked people to join me and everyone refused. I got comments like " It's outdoors!" and " I don't like sleeping on the ground." Since I couldn't get anyone to go with me on my camping trip I decided to go alone.

When I made the decision to go camping alone, people were aghast. "You're a girl. You can't go alone because it is to dangerous!" I'm glad that I didn't listen to the naysayers because I had a wonderful time going camping alone.

The best solo camping trip advice that I can give is this; be prepared. This one thing that I can't emphasize enough. Being prepared for most anything is important for the solo camper because you have to do everything yourself.

Decisions, Decisions, Where to Camp

When I made up my mind to go camping alone, I had to figure out where I wanted to go. I was afraid to go out into the wilderness alone. I knew I didn't want to go to the woods after my guitar teacher went on his camping trip in the wilderness and met up with some men caring machetes. I had gone on a trip to Solvang CA earlier in the year and went wine tasting in the nearby town of Los Olivos. One of the servers at the tasting room Kevin, told me that he had gone camping for Father's Day at Refugio Beach. He said that it was about 20 miles from Solvang and it was really beautiful. He said that he had a great time with his family and he would do it again. That is when I decided that I would go camping there.

Step 1: Getting a Lay of the Land

Now that I've made my decision on where to camp, it is time to do research on where I wanted to go camping. It is important to research where you are going. There are many place that one can go camping near the ocean. There are the National Parks, private campsites, county recreation areas and state beaches which provide camping.

Refugio State Beach is a state park where the some campsites are less than 300 feet from the ocean. I thought that was perfect. It would be wonderful to sleep listening to the waves. I looked on the California State Parks website for more information.

On the California State Parks website it gives information about the rules and regulations and how to reserve a campsite. Note that the State Parks website doesn't have a place where you can reserve a campsite but you have to go to a different website called Reserve America.

I didn't reserve a campsite until I went to Refugio Beach for a daytrip just to check the place out. Refugio Beach is about 120 miles from Los Angeles. The best way to get there is to take U.S. 101. Once out of the populated areas, U.S.101 is a beautiful coastal drive with wonderful views. This route also goes through the historic and beautiful city of Santa Barbara.

If you live in Southern California and want to camp at Refugio Beach, It would be good to take the day trip. Santa Barbra has a nice beach but no camping. There's camping at Carpenteria and El Capitian State Beaches. Carpenteria is south of Santa Barbara and El Capiatan and Refugio are north. Santa Barbra has many nice restaurants on the beach and downtown.

I started my research on Refugio beach in mid summer when it was over 100 degrees in Los Angeles. I was going to make my trip in the late summer/ early fall. This would give me time to do more research on camping, on Refugio Beach and if there were any better camping sites in the area and what kind of equipment I would need.

When I arrived there it was a 15 dollar fee tor day use. I told the attendant that I wanted to check out the campsite because I was thinking about camping there closer to fall when the kids were out of school. He told me that the campsite was all ways crowded and you would need a reservation.

I went and drove around the camping area and found out the campsite was divided by a creek. The smaller sites, were closer to the day use area and the larger sites on the south side of the creek.

The campers were a mix of thirty foot motorhomes to tents all mixed in together. I was leery of all of the big motorhomes that were around so close to the tents. I knew that I was not going to be renting a motorhome for a two to three day camping trip. Besides a big motorhome was a lot to maneuver and that is not my definition of camping. I liked the idea of a tent. It feels more like camping. Isn't the reason to go camping to stay in a tent not a house on wheels? When I was looking around the campsite, I saw one of those bohemian motor homes with a satellite dish. I guess they couldn't miss an episode of their favorite television show to enjoy nature and the sounds of the ocean.

When I got home I went to the reservation site, found a spot and reserved it. It costs durring peak season for a premium spot near the beach 45.00 a day during peak season and 35.00 when off peak season. You can get a discount if you are disabled and have the disabled licence plate or the placard. I also found a website where you can see a picture of your campsite. I had a campsite which was not far from the beach and the bathrooms. When I saw the picture and the description of the campsite, I thought that I had a good site.

After I reserved my campsite, I started monitoring the weather. My particular intrest was in the rainfall. How much rain would fall around the time that I would go camping hoping for no rain at all.

Now that I found the perfect spot one campsite away from the ocean, I was ready to get my equipment.

I Have the Spot; Now, What about the Gear?

The gear that you take should fit in what ever vehicle you are going to your campsite. Remember that you're going on a short trip not a long journey. Everything that you bring, you have to take back so keep that in mind when shopping for gear. When buying camping gear ask yourself three basic questions: How many times am I going to use the equipment? Where and when will I do most of the camping? How much am I willing to spend. if it is your first camping trip you want to get good gear and not spend a lot of money. This is where the internet comes in handy

I have made one of the most important decisions of the trip, I'm going to sleep in a tent. There are many kinds of tents. Tents can range in size from the multi room tents to cot tents. I picked the Leberna 3 person 7x7 feet one touch set up tent. When I looked at it on Amazon, one person who bought the tent made a video on how to set it up. It looked relatively easy. I was going to be alone and might not get any help setting up the tent so I got one that was easy as possible to set up. I know, a three person tent for one person, is that a little much? Camping experts say that it is better to have a tent which is bigger than how many people who would be staying in the tent, so that gear can be stowed in the tent with you. I also considered a 4 person tent but it might have been too big, so I got the three man tent. The tent came with a rainfly with poles, stakes and bag. I bought additional tent stakes, two extra tarps (one big and one small) and a rubber mallet. I got extra tent stakes and 2 tarps one to use to put over the tent in case of rain (eventhough I have a rainfly) and the other to protect the bottom of the tent..

Now that I have the tent, where am I going to sleep. Their are many choices for sleeping while camping. Their cots, air mattresses and sleeping bags or a combination of those. I chose to use a cot, sleeping bag, blanket and pillow. I bought the padded cot from Pro Bass Shop, the sleeping bag is the Colman Autumn Trails sleeping bag which is rated to keep warm up to 20 degrees. The blanket and pillow came from home.

Two of the major things for a camping trip have now been taken care of, shelter and sleep. Now to eating and the other luxuries / necessities for a camping trip.

Cooking, their are many options for cooking depending on where and what time of year you are going camping. The most popular way of cooking while camping is to use propane stoves. Butane stoves are becoming popular. The one problem with the butane is that it becomes liquid when temperatures drop below freezing. There are many websites which tell you how to pick the right stove for you camping trip.Before I bought the butane burner, I had read reviews on both types of stoves. The major compliant from campers who had a propane stove was that they either gave you a high flame or a low flame and no in between. When I read reviews about the butane burner, it sounded like it was easy to use and the flame was easier to control. I chose the butane burner which has 12,000 BTU (British Thermal Units). The burner uses butane canisters which are easy to install in the burner.The complaint that was most common on the Amazon website was the availability of the fuel and the price. These burners are popular with Asian families where it is traditional to cook at the table and they use this type of burner. I bought the burner at an Asian market where I could find the burner and the fuel for less than it would have cost to buy both on Amazon and I saved shipping too.

These are the cooking utensils that I brought, a Lodge 10 inch square grill / griddle reversible and a small saucepan. I used the cooking utensils that I had at home. I brought a spatula, tongs, big spoon, cutting board,knifes last and most important a can opener with a bottle opener.. Instead of using real dishes and silverware, I brought plastic so it wouldn't be so many dishes to wash. When you cook there's always dishes to wash. The question becomes how do I wash dishes? I solved that problem by buying two dishpans one for washing the dishes and one to rinse. Okay, bought the dishpans for washing and rinsing dishes but where is the water coming from? Solution, get a 12 volt portable shower and a five gallon paint bucket to put clean water in to wash dishes.

Keeping fresh food cold is a challenge when camping. Using a styrofoam cooler is ok for use for day use but for a few days this might not do. One reason is that you have to stock it with ice every few hours and there might not be a store nearby. Second reason is that styrofoam cooler are not very durable. Just bump it a few times and the styrofoam begins to slough off. A better choice for a cooler is an Igloo Playmate. I brought the Igloo cooler to keep ice for drinking ( soda,wine and water). I have an electric cooler which runs off of a 12 volt connection. I found this the more practical solution for keeping fresh foods cool. For storing dry foods it is best to keep it in the car so that animals don't get into it. If going out into the forest where there more and bigger wild animals, it is best to get a food locker which is bear proof. Bears have been known to break into cars in search of food.

There is no electrical hook up at the campsite so with no lights its bedtime at sunset. No way! I had to think of a way to have light in the tent and also a way to charge all of my devices and to run my other devices. I thought about getting a generator. I soon changed my mind about a generator. Most of them run on gasoline and I didn't want the hassle of lugging some gasoline along with the butane canisters for the burner. Too much potential for an accidental explosion on the way to the campsite. Another reason why I didn't buy the gas generator is because one of the rules of the campsite is no running of generators after 8 PM.

I started researching solar generators. After doing research. I found the Goal 0 Scout 150 solar battery and solar panels. They provide 150 watts power after charging.The Scout 150 can be charged by house, car or solar panels. It has 3 different outlets for power, a 12 volt, house power and a USB outlet. According to the research, I could use my laptop, charge my cell phone, charge my mobile wi-fi hot spot, run my portable 12 volt shower that I was using to wash dishes and lighting the tent. I thought that this was wonderful so I bought it.The Luna light has ten LED lights which I thought would provide enough light for me to read or bead so I bought 2. They plug in to the USB port on the battery. I found out that the Luna light also works well with a laptop with a USB connection. Because the Goal 0 Scout, is solar powered and doesn't make any noise I could run it after 8PM.

There are a few miscellaneous items that I brought, a 12 volt extension cord and a 12 volt splitter so that I could plug in more 12 volt items, garbage bags and food staorage bags. Also brought towels, sponges and Brillo pads. For additional light I brought two portable battery powered latnterns. Last but not least, a box of strike anywhere matches, just in case. I took folding tables, to eat on, prepare food and wash dishes and a portable chair.

This is a delicate subject for most people, the bathroom. My campsite is near the bathrooms but who wants to get up a 3AM, out of a warm sleeping bag to go ot in the cold to the bathroom? No one. My solution to the problem was to get the Tri-to-go made by Reliable. This is a portable toilet which folds up into a bag. Reliable makes a bag that goes into the toilet called a double duty plus which has powder in it to solidify the liquid waste. Well that is good but what about the smell? No one wants to be in a stinky tent. The solution is Arm and Hammer kitty litter deodorant. If it can make a cat's litter box smell good then it can do the same thing for human waste. The double duty bag is doubled which helps with the smell and the disposal. For cleaning after using the toilet, I found that the adult bath wipes are better than the toilet paper. They did a better job of cleaning and are disposable.

Bathing well, when camping sometimes you can't get the hot shower that you're used to when at home or staying in a hotel. Refugio Beach offers hot showers for a fee. Since I was only staying for a couple of days, I thought that I would pass on the walk from the hot shower through the cold air back to the tent. I used the bath wipes instead. After staying at the beach for a couple of days, I reserved a unit at my timeshare in Solvang where I knew that hot showers were included and didn't have to walk in the cold once I finished with my shower.

What's On the Menu?

Now that I have all of the gear. What is on the menu? As stated earlier, food storage can be a challenge and so can figuring out what is on the menu. You have many choices for what to eat while you are on your camping trip. Most people think that camping is eating a whole lot of canned foods or hamburgers and hot dogs roasted over an open fire. Camping experts say that the menu should be thought out well in advance of going on your trip with most of the food prep done at home.

Well that didn't work out for me. I couldn't decide what I wanted to eat until two weeks before my trip. Yes I even researched the meal possibilities. I found that there were a variety of foods that were marketed to the camper. There is a lot of dehydrated and freeze dried foods that are on the market. Dehydrated and freeze dried foods don't take up much room and just add water and you have a meal. I bought some dehydrated food from Harmony House foods on the internet. I bought from them, split peas, spinach, cabbage, ham like bites( vegetable protein made to taste like ham), green beans, diced peppers and tomatoes and my favorite tomato powder.I like the tomato powder because it can be used as a seasoning or reconstituted to any consistency from juice to paste. I made soup from the split pea and ham like bites and it was very good, better than what I thought it would be. The soup took about twenty minutes to make. Another dish I made with the freeze dried food was spaghetti. The spaghetti with tomato sauce, also took about twenty minutes and was very good. Another freeze dried product that I found on Amazon is the Ova Easy. These are eggs which are freeze dried both yolk and white. They taste like real egg and makes a good omelet with the ham bits and spinach.

I didn't get the rest of my food until I was on my way. I stopped at a specialtymarket in Woodland Hills called Jerry's Fallbrook market. I picked up a couple of lamb chops. I stopped again at Von's in Oxnard and picked some salmon, bread, a couple of red potatoes and small beef tenderloin steak. I was going to have my lamb chops, green beans and potatoes for dinner that night. In the morning for breakfast, I was going to have eggs, steak tenderloin and toast and for dinner I would have the salmon and potatoes and cabbage.

Trial Run

When I started this hub, I said that when going camping the most important part is to be prepared. Part of the preparation for this trip was doing a dry run. Two weeks before I went on the camping trip I did a dry run in the backyard. The tent set up was easy just like on the video. After setting up the tent, I put all of the gear I was going to use inside and then I decided to stay in the tent. I was in the tent for a couple of hours when the automatic sprinklers came on. This wouldn't be a problem if I hadn't set the tent on top of a sprinkler. The water went up the inside of the rainfly and I got rained on. Fortunately, I got to the control for the sprinkler and the inside of the tent didn't get real soaked but the sleeping bag and the cot got a little wet. By the next afternoon the cot, sleeping bag and tent were all dry. I waited for a few days and then I went back to the tent and spent the night.

The cot was comfortable with the sleeping bag on top. One of the best features about this cot is that you can put in a sitting position making it easy to read. The sleeping bag kept me a little too warm. It was rated to keep you warm up to 20o.F At this time in the Los Angeles area, the temperatures were still in the high 80's to the low 90's during the day and in the mid 70's to the high 60's at night. I thought about what kind of sleepwear would I take. Sleeping in a house is different than in a tent. The temperature may be 60 degrees at night and feel more like 50 when the wind is blowing so make sure that you have a good warm sleeping bag. I was sleeping in a tee-shirt when I was camping in the backyard and that and the sleeping bag was good enough. At the beach I'd only have a tent for a shelter. I went to check the nighttime lows for the area and the average was between 50- 49oF. I knew that my sleeping bag would keep me warm. Just to be on the safe side I went to Walmart and bought some knit long leg pajamas which would keep me even warmer and some short pajamas in case I got too warm.

Everything worked well. The solar panels charged the Goal 0 to a full charge by nightfall. I plugged in the the Luna light. The light was bright enough to do beadwork with and if the Luna light was plugged into a USB port on a computer, it makes an excellent work light.

Next day I set up my kitchen and plugged the Goal 0 into the solar panels. My kitchen consisted of 3 fold up tables; one to prepare the food, one to put the butane burner on and last one to wash dishes. I cooked eggs, bacon and toast all on the griddle using the butane burner. The butane burner was easy to set up. The butane canister just slid into the compartment and it lit after 2 tries. The wind was gusting through the backyard. This didn't effect the flame or the control of the flame and everything cooked nicely.

I was going to use one of my folding tables to sit next to the cot but this was too high. I changed to a bed tray. This was the perfect height for sitting on the cot and doing beadwork or working on the computer.

After spending the night in the tent, I felt comfortable enough to take a two day trip camping trip at the beach..

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