PINNACLES NATIONAL PARK, Calif. - 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 an adventure.
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 or similarly equipped hotels.
This year I decided to break that 15-year-long drought. I joined my stepmother, sister, aunt, uncle and Danish father 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.
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.
Make sure to have a self-inflating mattress or an air mattress you can inflate with a pump. Slip it under your sleeping bag. Another option is a collapsible camp cot.
Camping in spring and summer means using lighter rectangular sleeping bags stuffed with synthetic material. I also found 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.
I brought 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.
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.
Never leave trash, toiletries, dirty dishes, food or drinks unattended. Don't leave trash and open containers in your car or around the campsite. Look for metal lockers to store trash and food. Keep your tent zipped up.
As for ticks and mosquitoes, insect repellent works.
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.
Get a decently sized cooler that can keep your food cold for a few days before the ice needs to be changed out, and a small basin to wash dishes. Bring a propane gas-powered camp stove with one or two burners. You can fire-roast anything from portobello mushrooms to zucchini. At night we made gooey s'mores.
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