Car camping shakedown

We’re about a month away from our Southwest trip, which will include car camping expeditions in Zion and Arches National Parks, and possibly one night in Joshua Tree. As with all outdoor activities, we must first amass great quantities of new matériel from REI. This included a new, larger tent and a Coleman stove.  We took these things out for a shakedown trip to Butano State Park, and I can report that all of the camp systems performed admirably, and only one or two additional items are needed to complete our gear list.

The new tent is the REI Base Camp 4, and is plenty roomy for our needs. We’re thinking we might get cots; our backpacking therma-a-rest pads were comfortable enough, but with all the extra headroom in this tent we might as well be up off the ground. The Coleman stove is their basic 2-burner propane model, and it is very easy to set up and light. The burner controls are going to require some investigation though; it’s not easy to set them to a very low ‘simmer’ level. Maybe due to the pressure in the propane tank, but if you set it low, the dial turns slightly higher on its own. This is where having some tape on hand would be useful, to hold the dial at the right position – but maybe some other campers have figured out how to fix this the right way. Searching will commence shortly. We also tried out an old fashioned coffee percolator, and that worked just fine.

We had a decent fire going in the evening to grill some sausages, but next time I’d bring extra wood. It really needed one or two more good-sized pieces to make a statement. And it looked like people were also starting wood fires in the morning, which would have been welcome at our camp. It was quite cold last night along the coast – down around the mid-30’s – and it was a slow warm-up.

The camp kitchen worked well – I don’t think we’ll need any more equipment beyond what we used last night and this morning. We picked up a small set of camp cookware before the trip, and it handled last night’s side dishes (jambalaya, cuban black beans) and this morning’s bacon and scrambled eggs, no problem. It’s lightweight and teflon coated, so it fits well on the Coleman and cleans up quick.

I have to give the folks at Coleman due respect for the engineering that goes into their lanterns. We have one that’s at least 25 years old, and was carelessly stored in a box in the rafters of the garage for the last decade, with a propane bottle attached to it! Not recommended, obviously. I was almost afraid to try it, but did so. Amazingly, the two mantles were still intact, and the thing started right up.  We used it at the camp last night. As a sign of respect, I will adhere to the recommended storage practices for Coleman products going forward.

The camp at Butano State Park was very nice. It’s a small campground; about 20 walk-in tent sites, and 20 drive-in sites that can accommodate a small camper as well as tents. But it was all tents last night, except for one RoadTrek camper, and only about half full, so it was very mellow and quiet. I was surprised that you could hear the ocean from there; Butano must be at least a few miles inland from the coast, but maybe because of the higher elevation you can hear the breakers off in the distance. And it’s very quiet at night, so you could probably hear the moon as it passed overhead. There’s good hiking in the park, and since you’re so close you can also spend the day at the beach and then camp here in the redwoods at night. It’s less than an hour from home, so it might end up being our go-to place for spur of the moment campouts.

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