Camping on the beach is a rite of passage for any surfer, regardless of age. Nothing compares to the relaxing sensation of falling asleep next to the ocean. Waking up at first light comes naturally, with the anticipation of catching early-morning glass with just a few people in the water. Surfing becomes your mission, with your biggest decision hopefully being nothing more than which wet suit (if any) to use. I call it getting back to basics: surfing, eating, surfing, napping, surfing, eating, reading, and surfing again until dark. Life can be pretty simple on a bluff overlooking a nice point break.
Camping doesn’t have to be uncomfortable or dirty. In fact, it can be quite liberating and a lot cleaner than many of the accommodations available in places like Baja.
Make sure you have a good sun shelter. This is your most important investment; so get something large, sturdy and reliable with four detachable walls. Find a pop-up style that goes up and down easily. This is critical if you are planning to call your campground home for your entire stay, as it will protect you from the heat, wind and rain.
Away from population centers, the stars at night are spectacular. Forgo the stuffiness of a tent and sleep outside on a cot. Spend the extra money and purchase a comfortable one with plenty of room. A good night’s sleep makes a huge difference in the quality of your camping experience. Make sure your sleeping bag is water-resistant, as nighttime moisture can leave everything a bit damp. Always roll up your bag in the morning as little critters, some not so gentle, love to search for dark locations to hang out in during the day. For the same reason, always shake out your shoes before putting them on.
Although I don’t sleep in a tent, I still bring one. It’s a great place to store food, a nice place to get a break from the elements, a functional changing room and in really foul weather, a blessing.
Invest in a large square of AstroTurf. This can be purchased at any home improvement store, generally on a giant roll so you can pick the size. This is lovely to have on the ground inside your campsite and can transform your area from a plot of dirt to something more akin to an outdoor room. Keep your area clean by using a bucket of water for rinsing your feet before entering and a quick sweep with a broom in the evenings.
Aside from the typical camping gear like beach chairs, I like to bring two fold-up tables, one with attached chairs for dining, the other to use as work space. It helps to have dinner finished and cleaned up before dark to avoid unnecessary use of lanterns, which attract bugs. Mosquito coils are somewhat useful, but in areas of high infestation, the use of repellant or Deet may be necessary. Never leave food lying around. Not only can it attract wild animals, but the flies will be relentless.
While you can generally count on purchasing food, water and ice along the way to your destination, I prefer to leave nothing to chance. Bring the largest ice chest you can fit in your vehicle (a four-wheel-drive truck is a good idea in Baja). Freeze all liquids and perishable food ahead of time so they can double as ice blocks. Think carefully and realistically about how much water you will need to drink. Begin with the 64oz rule per person, per day, and then double it. Water is one essential you shouldn’t count on always finding. If you get stuck on the road or in your campsite, it’s one less thing to stress about. Also include an extra 5-gallon water jug for washing dishes.
Your food doesn’t have to be all Ramen noodles, mac n’ cheese and canned stew. Certainly these items are great back-ups, but with a decent propane stove and basic pots and pans, dinner can be much more satisfying. Consider easy meals like pre-cooked chicken, pasta noodles and a pack of pre-cut veggies. Toss in a carton of chicken stock and you have a quick, nutritious, tasty soup. Pack extra spices and olive oil as well, in case you’re able to purchase fresh fish from the locals. Leave citrus fruits at home, however, if you plan to travel into Baja Sur. They are not allowed across that border.
A few essentials to always include in your camping gear are extra flashlights and batteries, clothespins, rope, first-aid kit, a spare tire, shovel, lighters and duct tape.
Finally, remember Mexican law prohibits the possession of firearms and ammunition and carries severe penalties if ignored.