San Rafael: My First Experience Tent Camping

In July 2017, I had my first real experience with tent camping. I have been once before when I was really young, but I honestly don’t remember it. I honestly wasn’t sure what exactly to expect, but it just so happened to be a pleasant surprise.

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Preparation

We were originally supposed to be taking this trip in May 2016, but one of my dogs ended up pregnant, so I got puppies instead.

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Due to the fact that we planned this trip for the first time last year, we already had most of our supplies.

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bags
  • Tent pad
  • Bug spray
  • Knives
  • Lanterns
  • Air mattress
  • Cooking supplies
  • Chairs
  • Ice chest
  • Etc, Etc, Etc.

We ended up bringing way more than this. Unfortunately, we way over packed for our three-day stay.

If you are concerned about the quality of your sleep while camping, or you just aren’t sure what kind of air mattress you should get, I highly suggest you check out this article from Reviews.com regarding the best air mattresses out there.ย They have done extensive research on the topic, and I am sure that you will find it useful in your preparations!

Honestly, we probably used around half of what we packed. Since it was our first time camping, I guess it’s kind of understandable that we over packed. After all, you don’t want to be sleeping outside and not have everything that you need. In reality, you don’t need all that much.

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Our camping spot was $35 a night at China Camp State Park in San Rafael, California. It is around 45 minutes to an hour from San Francisco, depending on traffic.

Setting Up

When we first arrived, we checked in and then walked up to our camping spot. They had clean trash bins that they supplied for campers to haul their luggage to their camping spots, which turned out to be a huge time saver.

Our spot was towards one end of the campground. We had the woods directly behind us and two other spots to either side of us diagonally. No one was super close, so it wasn’t like we were on top of each other which was nice.

As we were trying to set up the tent, it was extremely windy. We seriously had the hardest time getting our tent up due to theย wind.ย It took like 45 minutes, or 35 minutes longer than it usually would have. It almost blew away a couple of times before we finally got it stabilized.

Due to this difficulty, this caused an initial bad taste in our mouths. It was like we weren’t meant to camp. We got the rest of our stuff set up and settled in for the night. It turned out that the rest of the time that we were there was not windy at all, we just had bad luck setting up.

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Weather

The weather during our time was pretty amazing to my standards. The highs were in the low 70’s and the lows were in the low 50’s. Our sleeping bags were rated at 50 degrees Fahrenheit, so we lucked out there.

It was sunny in the days, and clear at night. We were fortunate enough to not have any rain during our first camping trip.

During one night in particular, it got into the 40’s. Our sleeping bags held out fine. It was noticeably colder than the other nights, but we still slept well and were warm enough.

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Facilities

Even though we were camping, I still wanted access to a daily shower. Luckily China Camp has showers for a small fee. It was 50 cents for 5 minutes. The water didn’t have a temperature adjustment, but it was warm and good enough for me.

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There were three areas total with toilets, none of which were super close. We probably walked around five three minutes to get to them. This may seem like a lot in the middle of the night, but I will still definitely take it over nothing.

If the bathroom and shower doors were not closed at night, the neighborhood raccoons decided to go inside and have their version of a party.

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Wildlife

Speaking of raccoons, there was one in particular that we saw a lot. We were sitting at our picnic table cooking s’mores one night and he just popped right up by our food locker. He was a little wary, but he definitely wasn’t terrified of us by any means. He got a little too close a couple of times, so we made some loud noise and he backed off.

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During our time we also saw rabbits and deer.

A sign at the park also warns that you could encounter other various wildlife, such as bobcats and mountain lions.

Cooking

Even though we brought cooking supplies, we ended up only eating snacks at the campsite and eating all of our meals out. Since we were near San Francisco, we usually left for a while during the day to explore other areas.

 

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View from the tent

 

The camp had firewood for sale there for $10, so we took advantage of that one night. We built a fire for the sole purpose of cooking s’mores.

Final Thoughts

Overall, after this experience, I know that I would most definitely tent camp again. There was something that was peaceful about sleeping in the total dark and silence outside. It was actually some of the best sleep that I have had in a while. I’m sure that every campsite in every city or town is different, but I will definitely be giving this another try one day.

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What are your thoughts on camping? Have you had any really great or really bad experiences with it?

-Haley

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