Few places on earth offer the type of varied landscape and amazing climate found in the great state of California. From the Mexican border in the south to the Redwoods in the north, California has such a wide range of options for summer camping it’s hard to know where to start.
Here are 10 great places to camp in California:
Sequoia National Park
In the southern most reaches of the Sierra Nevada mountain range just 250 miles north of Los Angeles, Sequoia National Park is known for its giant sequoia trees. In an area known as the giant forest, there exist five out of 10 of the largest trees in the world. Among them is the General Sherman tree, regarded as the largest tree on earth.
Photo credit: Pixabay
Yosemite National Park
A list of camping spots in California would not be complete without mentioning Yosemite National Park. This iconic camping destination offers some of the most spectacular scenery on the planet, let alone the state. Explore Yosemite Valley in the shadow of Half Dome. Maybe scale its face if you’re the daring type. But be warned, the place can get crowded, so reserve a campsite early.
Photo credit: Wikimedia
Looking for a camping destination near Yosemite but with less of the crowds? Consider planning a camping trip around Mammoth Lakes. The area offers an endless number of adventures among these majestic high mountain lakes with easy access to the Pacific Crest Trail and the John Muir Trail.
Photo credit: Wikimedia
Redwood National and State Parks
There is no question that standing among towering Redwood trees is an amazing experience. No where on earth are redwoods in such abundance and thriving as at Redwood National and State Parks. Located on the northern California coast above Arcata, there’s just something about that salt air that grows giant redwoods.
Photo credit: Wikimedia
Angeles National Forest
Just outside Los Angeles, the Angeles National Forest offers lots of peaks that you can bag just within a few hours. Travel along the Pacific Crest Trail has it traverses the park from Mount Baden Powell to Mount Islip. Angeles National Forest possess lots of camping options including the Crystal Lake area where you can even fly fish for trout. Pretty hard to believe just 35 miles from Los Angeles.
Photo credit: Youtube
A classic camping destination to cool off from the summer heat for decades has been northern California’s Lake Shasta. With water recovering after a decade-long drought, Lake Shasta is once again thriving with visitors who come to camp along its banks, swim in its watesr and fish along its shores.
Photo credit: Flickr CC
Princeton Tec Helix Backcountry
The Princeton Tec Helix Backcountry is a great camp light for several reasons. Its design allowed the light to compress into a tight package. There were no buttons to accidently turn on and drain the battery. It could hang or be raised off the ground very easily. And the honey comb feature easily dispersed the light. Overall, this light is a winner. MRSP $109
YETI Rambler Colster
There are beer koozies and then there are super beer koozies. The engineers at YETI Coolers have taken the koozie to the next level with its spece-engineered Rambler Colster. Using a thermolock gasket and double walled vacuum-insulation this device takes keeping your beer cold to extreme levels. Never again will your hand be cool and your beer warm. Never again! MSRP $30
The LifeStraw utilizes a hollow fiber membrane, a technology found in kidney dialysis machines and other medical equipment. The LifeStraw filters out bacteria and protozoa. Just stick the straw right into a water bottle or straight into a stream. New this year is the LifeStraw Go attached to a water bottle so all you have to do is tilt and drink. No boiling required. MSRP $35
Yet another company offering portable power, EnerPlex provides a range of solar panels and battery packs. One that caught our eye is a backpack with integrated solar panels called the Packr. While most providers suggest simply hanging the panels over a pack, EnerPlex has device a back with built-in panels Packr. At just 3 watts, these panels won’t power anything huge, but they can certainly keep your camera, GPS or radio in operation. MSRP $100
Evernew Appalachia Set
For a camp stove that builds off an old-fashion design and light-weight construction we especially like the Evernew Appalachia Set. It combines a traditional Swiss Army alcohol stove with a titanium design that’s completely self-contained within a coffee mug. This super-light camp stove and a small amount of fuel is all you need for comfortable camping. MSRP $150
Goal Zero Sherpa 50
Goal Zero has been a leader in portable power since 2006. Offering a full range of portable solar panels and battery packs, we found the Sherpa 50 to be the lightest and most practical for an actual backpacking trip. If you need a device to recharge video cameras and laptops this device is lightweight and efficient. Partner it with the Nomad 13 and you’re in business. MSRP $429 including panels
Celestron Elements Thermocharge
One of the coolest products out there is the Celestron Elements ThermoCharge. This handheld device serves as a flashlight, hand warmer and a charging device all-in-one. Stick it in your pocket and have a renewable hand warmer. New on the market is a redesigned look that’s more sleek and efficient than its predecessor. Coming soon from Celestron is a hand-warming flashlight, which also charges electronic devices. One grip on this and the heat just courses through your body. MSRP $30
Brunton Hydrogen Reactor
Along with a range of highly efficient solar panels and portable battery packs, the most compelling offering from Brunton remains its portable Hydrogen Reactor. That’s right, a portable hydrogen reactor. But don’t worry about it blowing up like the Hindenberg. The compact Hydrogen Reactor is coupled with two Hydrogen Core cells. These cores, similar to batteries, can be filled with distilled water and charged before leaving the house. What you receive is much greater power than you would otherwise with the same charge. MSRP $150
Merkwares EmberLit FireAnt
Here’s a camp stove that takes minimalism to a new level. The Merkwares EmberLit FireAnt takes hobo stove to a new level. Using custom engineered titanium, this tiny wood stove focuses the heat and provides ample draw so that you can cook on the smallest fires. This stove also packs up into the size of a few playing cards. $70
Light My Fire Swedish Fire Steel
The Swedish company Light My Fire centers all their products around the campfire. That includes unique sets of camping utensils, containers and fire starters. One of their most unique devise is the Swedish Fire Steel. This easy-to-use fire steel produces a spark that can light a tinder bundle. Great for survival kits or as a general backup, and embedded in the steel is a whistle, so it saves space in your kit. MSRP $25
Gerber Freeskate Camp Kitchen
Known for strong durable knives and quality craftsmanship, Gerber unveiled a set of camping specific knife-ware and gadgets under the Freeskate brand. Chief among them is a convenient Camp Kitchen cutting board and knife set. The board comes with two cutting knives, one for slicing and the other pairing, which fit conveniently into an insert. MSRP $88
LED Lensor SEO 7R
There are lots of headlamps on the market to choose from, and we don’t blame you for being hesitant. One that stands out for its sheer power and versatility is the LED Lensor XEO. But it weighs a full pound with the battery so it might not be for everybody. We found it’s SEO 7R to be more than sufficient for most needs. MSRP $100
Kopateli Nirvana Packraft
If there ever was a product that spelled adventure it’s the pack rafts by Kopatelli Packraft. Packing up into the size of a sleeping back, these lightweight rafts can be brought to life with an inflation sack. Its entry-level Nirvana model at 6 pounds 10 ounces, can handle up to class III rapids. An exceptional way to open adventures up to new terrain, these packrafts have the power to revolutionize your next backpacking trip. MSRP $725
Known for tactical military and law enforcement knives for more than 30 years, SOG has been expanding its general hunting and camping knives in recent years. One utilitarian tool is the Switchplier 2.0. With pliers ready to go at a flip of a spring-assisted switch, you’ll never be without a free hand. The tool also wire cutters, pocket clip, and a knife blade.
Miles Maiden had a background in solar technology when he invented the Steripen. Working with solar ultra-violet rays, Maiden understand that a certain spectrum of UV light known as UVC had the power to scramble the DNA of viruses, bacteria and protozoa. And the Steripen was born. Hold the device in suspect water 40 second for a half liter and 90 seconds for a full liter, with a built-in timer to keep track. The Steripen comes in several sizes and strengths, including two that contain rechargeable lithium batteries. MSRP $50
The Voto Charger is a clever device that turns your camp stove or BBQ into a power source, and features a fire-activated fuel cell. Just place it under the charcoal in your cook stove and it converts the carbon and hydrogen into electricity. The Voto generates enough power to charge a combination power pack for your devices. It also has an LED light unit that when fully charged provides about 30 hours of illumination. Photo courtesy PointSourcePower.com
LED lights and flashlights are common, but Gorilla Torch is special, with knobby flexible legs that grip around a variety of objects from branches and tent poles to your head. With magnetic rubber-coated feet, the possibilities of where it can be mounted are endless, and the lamp can be dimmed. At only $30 it provides between 20-80 hours of light on three AA batteries. Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons
You never know what you'll need on a canoe trip or long hike, but JakPak is a three-in-one that starts out as a jacket with hood and collar, transforms into a sleeping bag, and can evolve again into a bug-proof swag style tent. Made from urethane-coated ripstop nylon polyester, it may not replace the traditional tent or sleeping bag but it's light enough to tuck and take when you head out from home base. Retails at $249.99. Photo courtesy JakPak
The revolutionary BioLite Stove uses things like twigs and pinecones you find on the trail for fuel, so you won't have to pack in fuel canisters, and it makes a lighter and cleaner way to cook. A big bonus is the heat generated from cooking is converted into electricity to charge up your gadgets and lights. The retail price is about $130. Photo credit: Joshua Gillem
A true multi-tasker, the Eton Scorpion has a solar powered and hand-crank equipped AM/FM/NOAA weather band digital radio and LED flashlight combo that is also a charger for your phone. It's splash-proof and small enough to clip to your backpack with a caribiner. The clip also acts as a bottle opener. Priced at $59.99. Photo courtesy Eton Corp
Roughing it still requires a large sized pot for doing dishes and bathing yourself. The collapsible waterproof Kitchen Sink container is light and folds up small into a little carrying case. It comes in sizes to hold from 5 to 20 liters of hot, soapy water. The 20 liter size costs $25. Photo courtesy REI
Cook and charge with the Power Pot - a lightweight thermoelectric generator that converts heat into DC electrical power. Simply fill it with water and place on a heat source to charge your devices. It has a standard USB port and three feet of flame-resistant heavy-duty wire. Power Pot can also run your speakers, lights, fans, and most other low-power USB appliances. About $149. Photo courtesy PowerPractical.com
Snow Lizard SLXTREME Smartphone Case
Waterproof up to 6 feet, the Snow Lizard lets you wade through creeks without worry about damage to your phone. It's made from a thick, dirt-resistant polycarbonate with rubber grips and has a built-in battery that is rechargeable using the solar panel on the back. You can go a little farther off the grid and still have spare battery time! Retail $129.99. Photo courtesy Snow Lizard Products
Tent LEDs provide Cool lights to attach to tent lines and provide ambient light. Just snap them on to the lines and never trip in the darkness again. Flickr Creative Commons
Maybe this isn't exactly a gadget, but it's too much fun to leave off the list. Pat's Backcountry offering of concentrated beer is a specially fermented powder beer that's supposed to be as tasty and as alcoholic as a micro brew. When your camp dinner is done and it's time to kick back and do some star-gazing, this could be quite the treat. Flickr Creative Commons
D.L. Bliss State Park
In the southern reaches of Lake Tahoe, the beautiful D.L. Bliss State Park beacons campers like the allure of a tropical paradise. The turquoise waters of the Lake Tahoe snow melt combines with gorgeous mountain vistas makes this California State Park a camping destination to remember.
Photo credit: Flickr CC
East of Los Angeles in the San Bernardino mountains, many people turn toward Big Bear or Lake Arrowhead for outdoor adventures. But for a less traveled option consider nearby Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area, the largest reservoir in San Bernardino County. Here again you can hike along the Pacific Crest Trail or just lounge at the water’s edge for camping and fishing.
Photo credit: Flickr CC
Switching gears now toward the southern end of the state near San Diego, Pismo Beach State Park presents 17 miles of oceanfront parkland just as nature intended. Sand dunes pervade the landscape offering an otherworldly view in some parts. Here you can camp on the beach, swim and surf. If its off-roading you’re after, visit nearby Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area.
Photo credit: Wikimedia
Los Padres National Forest
East of Santa Barbara lies the Los Padres National Forest. Often forgotten, but some of the most rugged California landscape so close to the ocean, Los Padres offers a less traveled option for camping enthusiasts. Most of the camping opportunities here border on the more primitive variety, so don’t be afraid to get out there and experience what the park has to offer. Currently wildfires were threatening the park so be aware during the summer.
Photo credit: Wikimedia