3 min read

first camping trip with the family

We went on our first camping trip as a family last weekend. Purposefully designed as a low risk experience. Location: Malibu Creek State Park. Literally a five-minute drive from the house so, if things went south, we could always drive home and return the next morning to have coffee by the fire pit and pick up the tent.

Fortunately we didn’t have to do that (although in the name of transparency, after setting up the tent, I made everyone come back to the house for 20 minutes so I could take a shower and change shirts).


Of course, I didn’t need any new gear for a basic car camping one-nighter. We already owned a bunch of stuff and we weren’t about to set on an expedition of the Eurasian steppes with Kublai Khan.

Of course, none of that matters. What a perfect opportunity to go shopping. We owned camping gear for backpacking but not for car camping. Moreover, I grew up camping at the beach pretty much every weekend of every summer from ages 1 to 14 so, how beautiful would it be to recreate those experiences with my son.

I buy most of my outdoor stuff from Backcountry.com and I’ve added so many items to my cart this year that they’ve assigned me a personal gearhead.

For this camping trip, I purchased:

  • Nemo Wagontop 6P Tent: I went for a big one because I wanted enough space to be able to stand up and walk inside the tent. This ended up being a good decision.
  • Nemo Meldr Hammer: a convenience item
  • A few Sea to Summit dry sacks
  • A bunch of “outdoor kitchen” items from Hydroflask (bowls, plates, cutting board, utensils, etc.)
  • Eureka Ignite Stove: can’t be a true weekend warrior without a nice eggs-and-bacon breakfast and a hot cup of joe
  • Propane gas for the stove


The worst heat wave in Southern California of the last 70 years ended on a Friday afternoon with 24 hours of rain. The same Friday we went camping.

This gave us the opportunity to adapt a little and test the tent. The ebbing heat and the rain made for very humid conditions.

Glad I went with the 6-person Wagontop. It felt overkill to buy so much space, but when it’s pouring out there and you don’t have a canopy, you will spend more time inside your shelter. The Wagontop has a vestibule with enough room to set a couple of chairs and a small table, and watch the rain beverage in hand.

In terms of rain protection, the tent is single walled and (this, I hope, is operator error) some water accumulated on the roof. Every few minutes, the pooled water streamed to the sides of the tent but, by the morning, there were droplets on the inside of the roof. Maybe it was condensation, maybe it was not. Note to self: have a plan B next time we go camping in the rain.

worth it?

Yes. Sandwiched in between logistics, the skies cleared up for a brief moment after sunset and we went for a quiet walk around the campsite. And before sunrise, it cleared up again and this time we went for a hike.

Seeing the mountain ridgeline fading into view as the night turns into day, with no other humans around. Yes. worth it.


Well, I embraced my lesson learned from a prior post and took my time observing myself and enjoying going through the logistics. I made camping and camp cook checklists (that will be continually updated), I packed everything, transported stuff, etc.

At home, a couple of days prior to the trip, I had done a test run of the tent and the stove. This was invaluable, as I had to be quick assembling the tent in the rain and also cooking dinner.

Post camping, things are really messy, especially if it’s been raining. Back home, I took my time cleaning things up, reassembling the tent in the backyard and waiting for it to dry completely.

Lots of packing, unpacking, and packing, and unpacking, but in general there were no shortcuts taken.

It’s the only way to keep things functional and clean, and the only way for that is to embrace logistics.

missing items

There’s an entire industry ready to help tinker, upgrade, iterate, complement, expand our existing gear, so this will never end.

Items I don’t have that could have made a difference:

  • A canopy
  • A decent sleeping pad made not for backpacking (something like this or this)