July 6, 2020

Bay Area backyard camping? Here’s how to maximize the fun

The Golden State is reopening and summer sprawls luxuriously ahead with all its promise of European jaunts, tropical island treks —

OK, we’re camping in our backyard. Or building a pillow fort in the living room. Either way, there will be s’mores, sleeping bags, ghost stories and hikes. And indoor plumbing.

There’s no doubt that camping, whether it’s in an REI pop-up or a shiny Airstream, has become  increasingly popular in recent years. Some 7 million American households went camping in 2019, according to the North American Camping Report published by Kampgrounds of America (you know them as KOA). That’s a 22 percent surge in five years. And the number of frequent campers — families who camp three or more times a year — grew by 72 percent during the same period.

Expect those numbers to soar this summer, as families head for state parks and private campgrounds, where campsites have always been socially distanced, outdoor recreation bubbles.

But given the surreal state of the world right now, we’re thinking there has never been a better time to go camping at home. It’s free. The showers are hot, and the loo is private. And as long as you have marshmallows, it doesn’t matter where you pitch your tent (or that your tent is actually a blanket slung over chairs). It’s camping.

Here’s how to maximize the fun.

The gear

A tent is key. There’s something magical about gazing up at that peaked or domed fabric roof and knowing the stars are just beyond. You can certainly DIY that tent if you don’t have one — make an easy, A-frame play tent for the kids, say, or do the blanket thing. But if you’re in the market for a new tent for actual camping, you’ll find them everywhere from REI to Target and, of course, online.

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Our extremely well-used tent was in tatters after 30 years of enthusiastic use, so last week we sprang for a sproingy one, a bright blue Deerfamy Instant Tent (Amazon, $81) that takes two seconds to set up. (And depending on your skill level, five minutes — or 20 minutes of swearing — to take down. It’s well designed, but there’s a learning curve.)

Backcountry camping may call for lightweight, inflatable sleeping pads to tuck under your sleeping bag and cushion your hips. Camping at home? We’re dragging out the futon and a memory-foam mattress pad, soft blankets and the good pillows. The inflatable, solar-powered Luci lanterns ($20 and up) that got us through last fall’s power outages are just the thing for bedtime reading — and to light the way to the loo.

Hikes, games and coffee-can ice cream

Day hikes, bird watching, card games and classic lanyard projects are all great activities for at-home campouts. Pick up a copy of “Birds of Northern California” by David Fix and Andy Bezener (Lone Pine Press) to help you identify those hummers, finches and mourning doves. Check out “50 Hikes With Kids” by Wendy Gorton (Timber Press) or find hiking inspiration on the San Francisco Bay …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Lifestyle


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