(credit: Thinkstock)

(credit: Thinkstock)

After an unusually dry winter, many Bay Area residents are already making plans for their next camping trip. With an excellent collection of camping spots scattered all over the Peninsula, locals don’t necessarily have to drive hours to spend a few nights under the stars. Experienced campers typically know what gear to bring, but those with little or no experience should make a packing list to ensure the best possible camping experience. Kirstin Tanaka, Fun Director at the Sports Basement in Sunnyvale, offers five tips for a camping list.

Kirstin Tanaka 
Sports Basement
1177 Kern Ave.
Sunnyvale, CA  94085
(408) 732-0300

Kirstin is a lifelong resident of the Bay Area. Employed with the Sports Basement since 2007, she has has been the Fun Director at the Sunnyvale store for the past two years. She has been an integral part of Sports Basement’s marketing program and recently helped open a new store in the South Bay. A graduate of San Jose University with a BS in Kinesiology, she celebrated her 30th birthday last year by running 30 half marathons.

Sleeping Bag/Padding

A sleeping bag is essential for most any camper and prices can range from inexpensive to several hundred dollars. Sleeping bags are categorized by temperature rating, although most fall into a range that can be used for most any season. When camping, sleeping on a hard or rocky surface can make for an uncomfortable night, particularly for newbies. Kirstin recommends also bringing along a sleeping pad that’s comfortable and lightweight. For those who need maximum comfort, inflatable mattresses work best but tend to be bulky, while others bring along compact pillows.

(Photo Credit: Thinkstock)

(Photo Credit: Thinkstock)


Although tents aren’t always a necessity, they do help protect campers from the elements and larger ones can accommodate a good-sized party. Like sleeping bags, there is a wide selection of tents of all sizes and prices. Some family-sized tents can accommodate a group of 12 people and may have separate rooms. For smaller groups, a four-person tent can be large enough to give everyone inside adequate room to move about. In order to assemble a tent, certain tools and materials should be brought on the trip, such as an ax, extra rope, tarps and a small whisk broom.


While a campfire provides a source of warmth and light, lanterns should also be brought along as additional light sources, and can be used for each tent in the party. Lanterns are powered by propane, kerosene, batteries, LED or even solar. Well-established name brands in camping goods tend to sell the best selection of lanterns, and some have multi-directional lighting or come equipped with four LED panels that can be separated into four individual lanterns. Kirstin says a good choice for one or more lanterns is a battery-powered LED model that‘s also water and impact resistant. Also a must for a camping trip are a good supply of flashlights and extra batteries, in case of an emergency. 

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Food and Water

Everyone will have a preference of their own regarding what food to bring, but the important thing to remember is to have a supply that will last the entire trip. An ample supply of liquids is especially important, particularly during the summer if there is no other water source nearby. Experienced campers or those on a backcountry trip may choose to use water from a river or lake by adding purification tablets. Good choices for camping food include fruit, trail mix, canned goods and freeze-dried foods. If fishing is allowed at the camping facility, cooking fresh fish can be an excellent meal for many campers. In addition to food, related items such as utensils, pots and pans, dishes, coolers, water bottles, towels, a stove and camp furniture should all be considered for the packing list.

First Aid Kit 

A first aid kit should be mandatory for any camping trip. The size of the kit is dependent upon the number of people for the excursion. A good first aid kit should include a first aid manual, aspirin, antibiotic ointments, antiseptic wipes, bandages, first aid tape, hand sanitizers, scissors, tweezers, knife, disposable gloves and a cold compress. Any pharmacy store carries a good selection of first aid kits but it’s also helpful to bring along seasonal items such as insect repellent, poison oak and poison ivy treatments and sunscreen. Other items to consider bringing along are an emergency blanket, allergy and anti-diarrhea over-the-counter medications, pain relievers and anti-inflammatories.

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Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. His work can be found on Examiner.com.