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As the weather warms up, many of us begin to crave new adventures. From planning the ultimate summer road trip, to traversing the best hiking trails in the state, to discovering the best campgrounds, there’s so much to explore in the Golden State. But if you’re looking for fun summertime activities to enjoy at home during this time, indoor camping may help satisfy your need for adventure until your next getaway.
When you camp at home, you can relive the most awe-inspiring outdoor experiences without leaving the house. Whether you are setting up the perfect living room camping trip or are venturing out for some epic backyard camping, here’s how to create a Shelter–in–Place (S.I.P.) summer camp the whole family will remember for years to come.
From pitching a tent to assembling the best s’mores in the Golden State, here are some of the best backyard camping ideas that will help you take advantage of the summertime vibes in California.
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You’ll need the right outdoor gear to create the proper environment for your indoor or backyard campground. Nab yourself a tent from The North Face, a California-based company offering more than a dozen different tents—you can always use it on future camping trips in the California wilderness. (If traditional camping isn’t normally your thing, try crafting a makeshift living room tent using sheets and twinkling lights instead.)
Once you’ve pitched the tent, fill it with pillows, luxurious blankets from the state’s top home decor boutiques, and, of course, sleeping bags to turn your new campsite into a cozy oasis. Grab a lantern and some cooking utensils, too, before making the journey outside.
Then, fill your reusable water bottle or hydration pack to make it feel like you’re about to climb mountains, explore the desert landscape of Joshua Tree National Park, or trek the Tahoe Rim Trail.
Once you’re set up with all the basics for camping in your backyard, it’s time to complete the experience with clothing, decorations, entertainment, and delicious camp food.
Half of the preparations for camping involve figuring out what to wear and which items to bring with you, so for an authentic indoor camping experience, you’ll want to pack a bag with all the essentials. Throw on your favorite Patagonia fleece and hiking shorts; slip into your trusty hiking shoes from your favorite California brand (or set them outside your tent for a cute photo op); and haul your toothbrush, hand sanitizer, mineral sunscreen, and healthy snacks into your campsite. (Grab the camera, too, because you’ll want to capture every moment of this unique trip.)
Now that your tent is set up and you’ve dressed the part, it’s time to focus on the details that will help you forget you’re camping at home. Hang up posters of your favorite national parks, gather some firewood, and throw down a picnic blanket to recreate your favorite fall memories. Then, make your space smell like the great outdoors by lighting the Parks Project’s Big Sur Coastal Redwood candle you were gifted during the holiday season or by burning the Juniper Ridge incense you got at San Francisco’s West Coast Craft fair.
Finally, fill your campgrounds with foliage from California’s best plant shops to truly set the scene. Opt for a few ferns if you’re going for a Northern California vibe; plant some redwoods to be transported to the Central Coast; surround yourself with pine trees for a South Lake Tahoe scene; or choose some succulents for a Southern California desert landscape.
For a more laid-back time, pick up a few adventure books from our favorite Golden State authors so you can vicariously hike the Pacific Crest Trail, trek along the John Muir Trail, and climb Mount Whitney with Muir himself. Then, watch virtual tours of California’s landscapes and live streams of the state’s underrated parks to feel like you’re there.
When hunger strikes, break out the recipes from last year’s end-of-summer party, and get to cookin’ on your camp stove or your dad’s new favorite grill. Half the fun of camping is getting to eat outside, so take full advantage of the summer weather while indulging in local California cuisine.
Play a card game as the sun goes down, then take turns telling ghost stories, recalling your best California vacations, and singing the feel-good songs that always make it onto your road trip playlists. Then, set up a sheet and project these California-made movies and shows, and you’ll wonder why you’ve never camped at home before.
No camping trip is complete without a gooey and delicious dessert, so before bedtime, s’mores are a must. When you combine marshmallows from Sonoma’s Smash Mallows, graham crackers from Berkeley-based Annie’s Homegrown, and gourmet chocolate from San Francisco’s Dandelion Chocolate, some serious magic happens.
If you’re snuggled up inside, opt for oven-roasted s’mores, but if you’re hosting a backyard campout, safely roast the marshmallows over an open fire. (Pro tip: Build a backyard campfire by covering the inside of a terra-cotta pot with tinfoil and filling it with charcoal.) No matter how you decide to create these tasty treats, they’re sure to remind you of your best beach bonfires and summer camp adventures.
Let us know how your at-home campout goes in the comments below.
Rachael Medina is the staff writer and content manager for California.com. She was born and raised just outside the Mojave Desert in Southern California and moved to the redwood forests of Humboldt C…
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