When in California

So, I’m going camping.

No, I’ve never even slept outside before and yes, I have a quasi-complex about peeing in public (woods are public, ok?) but camping seems to be the thing to do in California and I am a Californian! I must adapt to my surroundings, even if that means putting aside my sense of comfort and reliance on such things as air conditioning, hair dryers, laptops and tea kettles.
And truthfully? I feel deep down in my soul that I was meant to live outside. Or at least try sleeping outside. Why else would I feel trapped in the wrong era, day after day?
But….bears live outside. And this sort of freaks me out. I don’t know if I can handle it.
So do any seasoned campers have advice for me before I zip myself into a sleeping bag and strap a canteen to my side? I really like the idea of camping but the whole peeing thing continues to press on my heart.

(I’m not going camping today…or even tomorrow…but sometimes things just bear me down and I feel the need to express my thoughts and concerns publicly. Someone help me)

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  • Katherine
    June 23, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    Camping is so much fun! I haven’t been in years but I love being in the fresh air. Just have some wine and find a really secluded spot to take care of business. Also, make sure that all the food is locked up tight so the bears will stay away. Just like Yogi Bear, they care more about food than about you.

  • Jennifer
    June 23, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    ALWAYS LEAVE YOUR TENT ZIPPED! Are you going to have a tent? If so, always leave it zipped. Snakes like to go in them because they are so warm. That is all I’ve got for you. lol.

  • Alyssa
    June 23, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    As silly as it sounds, I am an “expert” at peeing outdoors. I spent 6 weeks living and working on a fruit farm in the STICKS of Hawaii and the bathroom was usually just way too far away to always be traipsing down there in the middle of the night or during work. So I do have some advice for you!
    when you squat down to pee here are some things to remember:
    -be aware of whether or not the ground is level. If you’re on an incline and one foot is higher than the other the pee could run downhill and onto your other foot.
    -when you squat down REALLY make sure that your pants are far away from your….well, you know. I swear, men have it so easy. Just don’t pee on yourself or you pants. Skirts are wonderful.

    Another important thing to remember is that a LOT of camp grounds have normal, albeit cement floored, flushing toilets. Most even have bathrooms with mirrors and electricity outlets so you can even blow dry your hair and put on make-up and stuff.
    Good Luck!

    • Becky
      June 23, 2010 at 4:11 pm

      Ha, love this advice! Just FYI, it’s hard NOT to get some spray on your pant legs the first time but it’s not a big deal! Pee is sterile, and you’ll be filthy from camping anyways. So fun! I love camping- spent most of last summer living in a tent in the highlands of southern Africa- no shower, no toilet, but a fabulous time. Just give into the dirt and have a great time.

  • Robyn @ Frugal 'n' Fit!
    June 23, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    I love camping except for the peeing issue. And the shower issue. But the eating fun campfire food makes up for this! (Kind of).

  • Calantha
    June 23, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    You could get a SheWee…:

  • Rebecca
    June 23, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    As a native Californian, I have learned the tricks associated with bear country camping. After a bear tore through our screen tent, we learned a few important lessons. First off, always store your food in a bear box (they are usually at the campgrounds) or in the trunk of a car. Bears are super smart and know how to break into cars, so a box is the safest place to store the food. Even if a cooler is empty, it still smells of food, so make sure to put it away as if it were filled with yummy food. Also, my dad usually goes to the bulk bin at the grocery store and buys a bunch of cayenne pepper. With this, he creates a circle around our tents. When bears wander into the campsite, noses to the ground smelling for food… they sniff the pepper. Needless to say, bears don’t like cayenne in the nose. Usually they steer clear of the campsite. 🙂 I hope this helps you! Have fun!

    • Stephanie
      June 23, 2010 at 2:12 pm

      Wow.. this is the best piece of advice ever! I’ve gone camping for many years and haven’t had problems with bears so far, but I am definitely going to be trying your dad’s trick form now on.

    • Nicole @ Geek Turned Athlete
      June 23, 2010 at 2:20 pm

      Oh my gosh, I have never heard this, but this definitely makes me feel better about camping with bears! The first time the hubs (then boyfriend) took me camping, we had to hike 7 miles to the campsite since it wasn’t accessible by car. I was so scared to venture out into the woods b/c of the bears (and serial killers since you know they all hang out in wooded areas, heh ) that I had to pee in the hub’s presence. We had been dating for about 2 years at this point, and i guess it was time. I made him turn around, but the whole time he was teasing me about how he could hear me peeing. Lovely. haha. Why did I marry him again?

    • Taysa
      June 23, 2010 at 3:39 pm

      Ditto to all this advice, and remember: toiletries like lotion, shampoo, deoderant, etc have sent too, so keep them in the bear box.

      • MLT
        June 24, 2010 at 8:34 am

        I second the bear advice! Bear boxes are there for a reason- use them! Anything with a scent- lotion, sunscreen, GUM, obviously any sort of food, should go in your box. Do NOT leave it in your car- the bears can easily rip the roof of the car to get at a little pack of gum, and then you will be very sad. Other than that, camping is really fun!

  • MMiller
    June 23, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    I agree food AND TRASH locked up! You will be using a tent won’t you? Personally, I won’t camp in the summer because of the heat! The fall is the perfect time! I love to be outside hiking and walking the trails! We used to go a few times every fall when we lived in PA; but now living in Florida, we only usually go once in November! We bring a heater in case it is too cold for me to get out of the tent in the morning and have recently purchased a tent fan in case it is too hot to sleep comfortably! We plan our meals and eat very, very well! We also use DRY Ice in the cooler to prevent all of the melting ice! Being that you love going to see the redwoods, I think you will love camping! I am already looking forward to hearing about your experience camping!

  • Madison Mayberry
    June 23, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    Jenna –

    I just went camping for the first time a couple weeks ago and it was not nearly as bad as I had anticipated. I love spending time outdoors, but only in small doses when I can go home and shower at the end of the day. Living in Iowa, camping seems to be something everyone does as well, though I can’t imagine it’s as exciting as camping in California. Best of luck!


  • Coco @ Opera Girl Cooks
    June 23, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    There are lots of options in California for quasi-camping, where you get access to beautiful hiking trails and recreation without all of the actual work of setting up a tent . . . Costanoa is really beautiful, one of my favorite vacations I’ve ever been on. Check it out — might be a good compromise for you to ease into camping!

  • VeggieGirl
    June 23, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    I’ve been camping a total of 25 times in my lifetime – WAY more than I even want to admit to, haha. If you have any questions or want to hear some funny stories, you know where to find me.

  • Andrea
    June 23, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    You will love sleeping outside. There’s nothing more peaceful. As for bears, be sure to keep all food and toiletries that have a scent (lotion, toothpaste, etc.) out of and away from your sleeping tent. If you’re super freaked out about it, you might want to get some bear-spray for peace of mind.

  • Claire
    June 23, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    Rebecca’s tips about being weary about bears is great…exactly what my boyfriend told me about camping…bear boxes and not having any food smellable! Scary but true..

    Peeing outdoors isn’t too difficult if you are on even ground…I had to do it a lot during XCountry since I hate porta potties so much…

    have fun though!

  • Shelly
    June 23, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    Jenna, would you consider making a post summarizing all the advice you get? My fiance keeps wanting me to go camping and I’m just completely freaked out by the idea of not having walls between me and nature at night! I love day hikes, but I can’t shake my fear of sleeping in a tent. I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one who finds the idea of camping daunting.

  • CW
    June 23, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    Well, where are you going camping? If you’re doing a standard campground thingie, most of them have actual toilets and dorm-style showers. If you’re doing backwoods camping, well, the peeing thing you’ll probably have to figure out for yourself. As for bears, just keep your stuff locked up in a bear box–and by “stuff,” I mean food and anything that has the slightest hint of scent: toothpaste, lip balm, lotion, anything that has any sort of fragrance. If you do that, you’ll be okay. I can’t believe you’ve never been camping before! It’s a lot of fun!

  • Nichole
    June 23, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    I promise you will sleep so hard outside when you camp. Follow the rules of the campground, don’t be silly with food and you’ll be fine. It is SO much fun! From the good food (s’mores) to the amazing views, it’s good to be rustic. You can do it!

  • Jess
    June 23, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    You are going to love camping! First off, Robyn is right- no food tastes as good as food while you’re camping. Something about the fresh air I think makes everything taste better! Second, Calantha is right that something like a shewee (which basically makes it so you can pee like a man) is nice to have. I have a freshette ( which I use for skiing/snowboarding and I love it. As for wildlife… just don’t have any food in your tent and campsites where bears are problems will have bear boxes as others have mentioned before. It’s just too pretty out there to not go out and enjoy it!!

  • Suzanne
    June 23, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    A lot of campgrounds do have bathrooms, sometimes even with running water. So, it really just depends on where you go. I know Big Basin Redwoods State Park (which is gorgeous) has bathrooms with running water and showers. You could always try going there for your first time. You don’t have to worry about bears there, but there are raccoons (and maybe bobcats), so you do have to lock up your food. It’s a lot of fun, you’ll love it!

  • Heather (Heather's Dish)
    June 23, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    you’re going to have a blast! cooking and camping outside are the BEST 🙂

  • Melanie
    June 23, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    I absolutely heart camping, but I can’t for the life of me pee outdoors!! We always choose places that have toilets of some sort and showers…I like to rinse the dirt off from the day before bed! The state parks up in the Tahoe area are really nice, and most of them are equipped with full bathrooms. But I agree with everyone else: make sure you lock up all your food AND toiletries in the bear boxes or in your car. Anything that smells lovely, the bears will want!

  • Jessica @ How Sweet
    June 23, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    I am not a camper. I like to stay in my cold air conditioning where I can see my shoes and computer.

  • Michelle
    June 23, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    Most of the state parks we go to have toilets and pay showers (it’s the only way this girl will camp). Check the weather of the location your camping at, places like Tahoe can be warm during the day and be really cold at night. Make a list of all the stuff you need to bring (I always forget something major, but I’m packing for three). And I would reiterate what all the other commenters said about bear lockers, which have only really been an issue for us in Lake Tahoe. You can also get fined ALOT of money of the rangers find out you’ve left food out.
    Last year we went camping at Avenue of the Giants and it was awesome!! I highly recommend it.
    Happy Camping

  • Kelly
    June 23, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    I’m a seasoned camper but my question for you is, how rustic are we talking here? My fiance and I do hike-in camping where we hike 8-10 miles then sleep in a 2-person tent. You have to take everything with you and everything back. If bears are an issue, I suggest putting all food and anything food-like (i.e. toothpaste) in a bag and tying it up high in a tree so you don’t attract wildlife. You can also put it in your car if it’s close by. Check the weather for the middle of the night b/c it will probably get much colder. If there is a chance of rain, take extra clothes. Wet clothes and shoes are no bueno. Don’t forget your pillow and maybe an air mattress(?). You can buy an inflatable lounging pool float as a cheap substitute.

  • Daisy
    June 23, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    squat in a clean area. bring a roll of TP always. if you are camping there is probably a lake nearby, yes? pee in the lake and forget the TP alltogether.

  • Helen
    June 23, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    I have a fear of peeing in woods too…….and camping in general! I hope it goes well and you survive the night.

  • kalli@fitandfortysomething
    June 23, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    oh you are gonna love it! enjoy….breathe in the fresh air……and yes enjoy peeing in the woods!

  • Sarah for Real
    June 23, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    I’m totally with you on the peeing in the woods thing. It’s mostly because I’m worried about things jumping up at my lady parts. I hate out-houses and porta-potties too for that reason.

    I have no advice other than be sure to go pee before bed so you don’t have to go out in the dark.

  • Emily
    June 23, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    You may find this totally weird, but I actually find peeing in the woods to be TOTALLY freeing. Think about it – no grimy counters, no sketchy toilet seats, just you and nature. You may find that you like it. Hehe. 🙂

  • Jessica @ The Process of Healing
    June 23, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    Oh girl, good luck with that. No advice here, as I’m not the camping type. And the whole using the bathroom outside kind of freaks me out as well. Good luck with that!

  • Lauren
    June 23, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    You will sleep so peacefully outside you will never hear the bears.

  • Heather
    June 23, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    Yay, Jenna! Fun times. Tip: Face wipes will make the experience infinitely more enjoyable. Oh, and keep some flippy floppies right outside your tent. Always.

  • Whitney
    June 23, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    I just finished an outdoor camp where I practically lived outside. Don’t worry about the wild animals. Truthfully, I think bears are really hard to come by in California these days, and also most critters make serious efforts to avoid humans at all costs.
    As for advice: bring bug repellent, an air mattress, and a really amazing book. And some alcohol. And fill your days with some hikes! Embrace the experience…

  • Jess @ MTL Veggie
    June 23, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    Are you going leisure camping (park yourselves on one site the entire time) or are you going to be moving around to different sites? If your answer is the latter- make sure you pack only the bare essentials in a good quality back-pack, it gets heavy real fast if you need to walk hours at a time with all your stuff.
    Otherwise, light layers, sturdy shoes, and a waterproof jacket 🙂 If it’s going to be colder at night wear a hat to bed so the heat doesn’t escape your body 🙂

  • BethT
    June 23, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    I’m now a Californian and I don’t camp.

    Homegirl doesn’t sleep on the ground.

  • Carrie H
    June 23, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    I’m a born and raised Wyoming girl through and through, and I LOVE camping in the beautiful Rocky Mountains.

    That means peeing outside, which isn’t so bad. What is waaaaaaaaaaay worse is pooping outside. This may be more advice than you need, especially if you’re in a campground with porta potties, but if you’re backcountry camping (I could get slammed for this, but that’s the only way I really consider it camping — showers + toilets + parking lots + campers + running water (not from a stream!) + really anyone other than you and the people you’re camping with does NOT = camping in my book) you are going to have to figure out how to poo outside. My advice: Find a fallen tree or log that is about toilet level as far as is safe away from your campsite (and from water. You don’t want any seepage infecting the area’s water). Dig a hole behind it, sit down, slide your butt waaay back and go. Bury all evidence.

    Good luck! Camping is soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo worth any of the trouble it might otherwise seem to be.

    • Marie
      June 23, 2010 at 2:50 pm

      Agreed! Backcountry is real camping. My BF always points out rocks that are good “pooping rocks” along the hike in… hahaha. Adorable, right?

      Jenna, my advice to you is: bear bag in a tree with all things smelly, do NOT leave any type of food in the car — they will smell it, whether in a cooler or not, and I think someone already said this, but wipes! Both for your face/body and also a different type for your lady parts. And baggies (labeled!) for the used wipes.

  • Lisa
    June 23, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    Lots of sunscreen, bug spray, alcohol and flashlights! 🙂

  • Lindsay @ Summit Sandwiches
    June 23, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    Oh my gosh…I love camping!
    Some tips:
    1) When going #1, remember to watch where your feet are while doing your thang. I’ve let my concentration stay for a moment, and disaster generally ensues.
    2) Know that you will sleep like crap. Camping does not make for a good night’s sleep, but that’s not why people do it.
    3) Be sure to bring some wood for a fire….
    4) Once fire has been properly kindled, enjoy a beer and roast ‘mallows. Chat with your friends around the fire…I have had several of the best conversations of my life while huddled around a fire in the wee hours of the night. Remember to look up at the sky and enjoy the multitude of stars above you. You will feel so small and humbled, and the feeling will stick with you for years to come.

  • Ellie
    June 23, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    trush me when you gotta go- you gotta go 🙂 You’ll be fine! Can’t wait to read about your adventure

  • Rebecca @ How the Cookies Crumble
    June 23, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    I love camping! I’m sure you’ll find the joy of sleeping outdoors and hanging out around a campfire cancels out the peeing outdoors place. Plus, most campgrounds have bathrooms and you should only be camping at a place without a campground if you have a permit!

  • Anna @ Newlywed, Newly Veg
    June 23, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    Jenna, camping is SO much fun!!! But, my best advice is to only go for a few days. Any longer than that, and everyone starts to smell.

  • Sarah (Running to Slow Things Down)
    June 23, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    Just have FUN! You’ll get used to the ins and outs of all things camping very quickly. It only takes a day or so to be a real pro. 😉

  • Stacey
    June 23, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    If you go camping it has to be at a campground and the bathroom cleanliness is top priority. I’m actually going camping this weekend. You can check out my trip on my blog for camping tips and to help build your courage. 🙂

  • Hillary [Nutrition Nut on the Run]
    June 23, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    Wow, I can’t believe this is your first time camping. It’s so much fun and I think you’ll really enjoy it. No fear no fear. So… the campground doesn’t have toilets? I have to say, I don’t think I’ve had to deal with that before.

  • Heather
    June 23, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    I went camping for the first time a few weeks ago, HATED it! I could feel every single rock tree limb, pebble, etc that was under me, even with layers of padding and a sleeping bag. Not to mention the camp ground had 3 showers for over 30 people to share. Give me a spa any day over camping! But have fun 🙂

  • jamie
    June 23, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    i’ve been camping since i was little, and i think i’ve mastered the peeing outside thing. i always look for a log to pee over. pull them pants down, and sit on the log. your legs should dangle on one side, while your bum is on the opposite. this way your pee will never hit anything you have on, or your legs. works like a charm. i also like to bring baby wipes. it just helps to keep you feeling a bit more clean after going to the bathroom. i like to bring a bag to put that trash in so that way i’m not leaving tp in the woods. another must is a fold-up chair. i think target sells a good one for 10-20 bucks.

  • Stephanie
    June 23, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    Are you LITERALLY sleeping outside or are you in a tent? I’ve always gone camping in a tent and never had problems.
    I’ve also never had issues with bears. As long as you don’t keep food in your car, or tent and you keep it in the lock box that most camp sites provide, you shouldn’t need to worry about anything. Oh and make sure you tie your trash high/get rid of it right away. The people you go with should know all the tricks to make you feel okay.. but it’s really not that scary at all! Some camp sites even have hot showers.
    Personally, I wouldn’t go to any campsite that wasn’t near a body of water, whether its a small stream, a river, or the beach.
    You’re gunna have so much fun, though! Don’t stress 🙂
    .. oh and you can also find a battery powered or Cigarette lighter thingamajig that can blow up an aerobed mattress. I have only tried this once, but it feels pretty awesome compared to sleeping on rocks.
    Oh.. and bring a mini broom so get the crap out of your tent, if you are in fact sleeping in a tent.

  • Michelle @ NewLeafEats
    June 23, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    My family took me camping ALL THE TIME growing up, and I hated it then. Now I WANT to go camping. Funny how that works, heh? 🙂

    I’ve never reeeally roughed it. My family started out in tent but they bought a pop-up trailer when I was 11 years old. I’m more of a log cabin or hunting lodge kinda person. I’m a weenie about humidity.

  • Kristin (Salty Tooth)
    June 23, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    I love camping! My only advice, make sure that you don’t pee downhill! 🙂

  • Jessica @ Jessica Balances
    June 23, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    You are so brave to go camping!!! I only went once, and it was a DISASTER. Of course, I was 18 at the time, with several other 18 year olds – and we had no clue what we were doing. Still, it scared me away and to this day I REFUSE to go camping… So, I have no advice to offer :/ except to be careful and embrace the whole peeing outside thing… LOL!

  • jenn
    June 23, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    bears are scary. but they are scared.
    i have been camping all of my life and only twice has a bear come through our campsite in the middle of the night and even then, as long as you do not scare them, you will have no problems. however, (this is a personal thing) i would not go camping while on my period. 🙂

  • Beth
    June 23, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    That is fun that you are going to try camping! I am not a fan of camping at all – I have been a good amount, but actually my favorite camping experience was in CA at Big Sur – that was fun! But I would much rather stay in a hotel room 🙂

  • Dynamics
    June 23, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    Order the Go-Girl ( and practice. You can pee standing up with minimal lowering of the clothes. Most local California campgrounds have bathrooms with toliets of sorts. Only the back country camping per se will not. The Go-Girl you can buy in a store close to you, or order online. I think MizFit uses one.

  • R @
    June 23, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    If it gets cold, sleep in one layer of thermal top and bottom. Don’t layer while sleeping and don’t wear a hat. Made that mistake before – you wind up freezing

    • Becky
      June 24, 2010 at 12:56 am

      NB- while this is good advice if you have a fancy sleeping bag, it’s not so relevant if you have a normal one. I’m assuming since this will be your first time camping, you are not decked out with Mountain Hardwear gear and a Blue Kazoo bag. In that case, if it’s cold, you really should wear a hat to keep warm. If you’re camping in the summer in Cali, though, cold shouldn’t be a big issue.

  • Dorry
    June 23, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    You will have a blast! My fiance and I camped in Big Sur this past May and it was amazing!

  • Alyssa
    June 23, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    I too was going to give you advice on woods peeing! I used to hate peeing in the woods, because I could never do it right! It took being forced to do it to get it right. Like the other Alyssa said, squat very low, never pee UP on an incline, always downhill and be uphill from your “target”, keep your pants far up on the knees and you’ve gotta pee down!!! Kind of explicit, but these are the rules of an expert “public” urinator 🙂


  • Alexa
    June 23, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    The most important piece of camping equipment is the GoGirl. It’s basically a funnel that allows women to pee while standing. They’re small, cheap and reusable – check it out!

  • Lisa (bakebikeblog)
    June 23, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    Serioulsy – you will love it! Camping is so fun – and so relaxing 🙂

  • Samia
    June 23, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    Find a nice tree off the beaten path, do a “wall squat” with the tree at your back and pee away. It’s like sitting and you can keep your pants far enough away no to pee on them.

  • Suzanne de Cornelia
    June 23, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    If I hadn’t had my son, I would have spent the rest of my life reclined on a sofa, eating bon-bons and reading Vogue. But I did, and so when he was 8, I put away my girlish things and bought a white VW Pop Top Camper. I wrote a short piece about it that haven’t looked at in years. Hell’s Angels, bubonic plague, and hurled Screaming Yellow Zonkers, were involved:

    Mainly check everything for spiders–because I got a brown recluse spider bite–which wasn’t pretty, and can be dangerous.

  • Cara
    June 23, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    You will not like the camping thing…..mosquitos,bears, outdoor bathroom facilities, little creatures of a sorts,heat and humidity…..I can go on and on…..

  • simplegal19
    June 23, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    read the book backwoods betty. it is super cute. its a small book that tells you how to be a betty out in the woods!

  • Kasey
    June 23, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    Love that pic of your peeking through the rocks! I’ve never been “real” camping. By “real” I mean sleep in a tent and/or sleeping bag.

  • Sarah
    June 23, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    LOL! If you go to a campground they have restrooms and even showers sometimes. 🙂

  • Amy
    June 23, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    I hadn’t been camping, either, until about 9 months ago. It’s awesome! Like you, the thing that freaked me out the most was peeing in the woods. It’s really not that bad. I think what helped me was being a little tipsy the first time I had to go, plus it was dark. Maybe you should try that the first time. It’ll get easier after that! Have fun!

  • elaine!
    June 23, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    I’ve never really had bear issues. We always had raccoons breaking in to steal our food. They’re a lot cuter than bears but waaaaay sneakier!

    But yeah, as other commenters have said, California camping is pretty tame. The majority of campgrounds have running water and electricity — no peeing in the woods required! You might need to bring your own toilet paper, but I’m sure they stay pretty well-stocked during prime summer camping season.

    You should probably do a quick one- or two-night stay for your inaugural trip, with friends who have camped before if you can. People at campgrounds are usually pretty nice, so you could also go for a walk and scope out what other campers are doing, and ask them for tips and tricks too. If you’re shy, there’s normally a “ranger” person in each campground who basically lives there for the season; they would be the ideal person to ask for tips and advice, about camping in general and the spot you’re staying in particular.

    I love camping. But then again, I’m pretty low maintenance. 🙂

  • Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman
    June 23, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    I really want to like camping, but I’m just not that kind of girl. I can handle the being outdoors and hiking and all, but when it comes to sleeping I like a bed. Without bugs. And I like to be able to go to the bathroom and take a shower and do all of that from the comfort of my own room.

  • Lori Lynn
    June 23, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    I’ve only been camping once about 15 years ago. It wasn’t quite the best experience for me, b/c it rained almost every day, and one of the days I woke up soaking wet! I think if I went camping again, I probably would have to have public restrooms too!

  • kaila
    June 23, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    OHH I love camping so much! I have been going ever since I was two. You will love it: waking up to the birds singing in the morning, the fresh outdoor air, hiking, biking, rafting, or whatever fun activties your campground offers. Alittle advice: when you go into your sleeping bag at night make sure you dont bundle up, no matter how cold you are, wear as little as possible otherwise you’ll be FREEZING when you wake up. Believe me its happened to me lol! so theres alittle camping 101!
    check out my blog!

  • Suzanne de Cornelia
    June 23, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    BTW–worse that camping potty (although we had a camper potty) are the ‘Turkish’ toilets–that’s what they’re called in Paris.

    We were up in Pere La Chaise when nature sounded the gong. The only place could find required you purchased something first. I drank a quick Orangina—then in skins tight jeans and heels confronted it: A hole in the ground. That’s it. I had absolutely no idea what to do and was now ready to burst. So tried going into the bottle to pour that into the hole, as no way the jeans were coming off. Didn’t work so well. 🙁

  • alison
    June 23, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    I’m a displaced Californian and I have not, nor will I ever camp! Bears, snakes, various other critters, sleeping outside, peeing outside….none for me, please. Perhaps I’m missing out on something fabulous, but I’m not sure I’ll ever be willing to find out.
    Obviously, I haven’t any advice for you, but I hope that when you do go camping, you’ll have a great time. 🙂

  • Caroline
    June 23, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    I sympathize with the peeing thing, actually… but I’ve managed to avoid camping thus far. Sorry!

  • Samantha @ Foodedu
    June 23, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    How fun! I personally have never had bear issues, but know many who have.To echo those above you must lock your food and trash–the bears do come out at night, but generally wont bother you unless you have something they want (food). Also, if you go out on trails, go with a partner and make noise–to let the wild things know you’re there. And embrace camping for what its worth and it is more fun–lack of showers and appropriate bathrooms is just how it is. =)

  • Rasa
    June 23, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    Camping is a lot of fun. I think everyone’s covered the basic questions you had. The campground rules will tell you whether you need to worry about bears & food storage (trust that they’re right). Your backcountry camping permit will also tell you whether you need to worry about bears. As for the rest of the critters, it’s not worth worrying about. You could get the same spider bite on a hike or sitting in your back yard. No critter, large or small, is going to come through your tent if you don’t have any food or smelly toiletries in it. They’re not interested in you, they’re interested in your granola bar and toothpaste. It really helps if you go with friends who’ve camped before (and who enjoy camping!). They can show you the ropes and you can be sure that all the bases will have been covered! As for peeing in the woods, listen to the advice above, and you’ll find a comfortable way to do it. It’s not “public” if there’s nobody around 🙂

  • Lora
    June 23, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    Bears are a concern but so are other animals. We were camping last month and another family had apparently packed every snack food known to man and then left it all at a table in front of their tent – raccoons then visited, in broad daylight, and tore through everything. I have a picture of one sitting on a tree stump eating a bag of Doritos! I’ll just reiterate what others said: lock up the food in a bear box, don’t use deodorant/perfume/scented lotions anywhere near your campsite, and brush your teeth away from your site as well. My other recommendation is to buy a space blanket. They fold up small but they are a lifesaver under your sleeping bag. They’ll block the cold that will come up from the ground and make you miserable when you’re trying to sleep. Also, bring a beanie for sleeping. Just trust me on this!

  • Cat
    June 23, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    My advice? Just enjoy it! I’ve gone camping my whole life and it’s just…awesome. And unless you’re going somewhere particularly desolate, most California campgrounds are pretty busy and full of people and really not so scary. Also, they tend to have bathrooms (even lots of the most remote ones).

    On another note, I can’t believe how many people have never been camping! That was like our staple vacation when I was a kid!

  • kaitlin
    June 23, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    Good luck! There are lots of scary things about camping, but in the end, I think there are more good things than bad. Just look up at the sky before you fall asleep and take a deep, deep breath of all the fresh air!!

  • Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin
    June 23, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    I love camping! Swimming all day and eating marshmellows by a fire at night is my idea of a perfect way to spend a weekend. My tip? Pita pizzas are a BOMB dinner to make while camping.

  • Amanda
    June 23, 2010 at 8:06 pm

    Haha! My camping stipulations are: indoor plumbing. I know, I’m really rustic.

  • Morgan @ Life After Bagels
    June 23, 2010 at 8:18 pm

    I am sooooo not into camping. Last time I went I brought eye cream (and other toiletries of course) much to my friends’ dismay. I saw no reason to get wrinkles just because I was surrounded by dirt. I also apply sunscreen every hour too, but that’s for safety kids!

  • Becki @ HikeBikeEat
    June 23, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    If you want to avoid bears, you should camp on Santa Cruz Island down south off the coast of Ventura! That’s my absolute favorite camping place – no bears, plenty of hiking, kayaking, great snorkeling and miniature foxes that run through the campgrounds in the middle of the day. PLUS there are pit bathrooms there – they smell, but you’re not squatting on the ground!

  • Jenn (Jenn's Menu and Lifestyle Blog)
    June 23, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    I’ve never been camping, I don’t think I’d enjoy it overnight, LOL. I’m too spoiled by civilization. A hike, yes. A campfire with S’mores, yes. Overnight, no no, lol.


  • Jordan
    June 24, 2010 at 5:58 am

    Find a tree away from the campsite to do your “business” at. Wrap your hands around the tree and squat back almost like you are sitting. Make sure your pants are out of the way and be conscious of where the flow is going! I’ve found holding on to the tree helps me balance better. Good luck!

  • Whit
    June 24, 2010 at 6:21 am

    HAHAHA I love you so much.

    And yes, peeing in the woods IS PUBLIC. But desperate times call for desperate measures, and you will be fine!

  • Christin
    June 24, 2010 at 7:43 am

    Jenna, you are a smart girl and you love the outdoors. You’ll be ok. Go with someone who knows what they are doing and use common sense. Start off with one night at first. And just ENJOY YOURSELF! You’re such an in-the-moment type of girl – I know you will love it. Make a fire, huddle around it and just enjoy the experience – it is so worth the temporary inconveniences of camping. Plus, a hot shower and cup of tea will be that much sweeter when you get back.

  • Anne
    June 24, 2010 at 8:39 am

    RE: peeing (or anything else) outside….its all about the view! just find a pretty view and realized that nobody INSIDE has a view even close to yours:) have fun! camping is my absolute favorite!

  • Allison K
    June 24, 2010 at 10:18 am

    I didn’t read all of the advice, but I’m sure I don’t have anything to add other than…even toothpaste tastes better when your camping. Seriously.
    Love me some northern california camping. I spent every summer in college working at a GS camp in N.California, in a tent…every night.
    I’m jealous.

  • Amanda
    June 24, 2010 at 10:51 am

    HEY! Don’t be fooled! Camping does NOT equal NO tea kettles. I have brought my trusty tea kettle on many a camping trip. Plopped it down on my equally trusty one burner Coleman stove and made many a cup of tea/cup of coffee/bowl of instant oatmeal/cup o’ soup (etc. etc. etc.). It’s the little things, y’know?!