Car Camping in Big Basin

I haven’t been camping a ton, just barely often enough over the years to not be completely clueless. I’ve never gone camping with kids though, and the idea seemed pretty daunting to me. It turns out I think a lot of my anxiety stemmed from the fact that I’m the most familiar with backpacking/backcountry camping, where if you forget something or something goes wrong you’re kinda out of luck.

So anyway, we signed on to a group of 7 other local families that were planning a weekend getaway in Big Basin, the oldest state park in California and about an hour drive from our house. It was fun sharing a campsite with some very experienced car camping families. The kids from about age 4 to age 8 mostly ran around like a pack and occasionally came back to gobble down a bunch of food. (And one or two performed some pretty epic meltdowns, not gonna lie.) Dakota and a few other toddlers hung out with the adults who collectively helped make sure they didn’t get too close to the fire or eat too much dirt.

Dirt face

Most of our camping gear is in good condition, but clearly bought with an eye toward backpacking. We got teased for our itty bitty 2-person tent, especially because we set it up next to one of the other family’s super palatial tent.

small tent, big tent

I was very envious of some of the cooking setups I saw on the trip, nice fold-out tables with various hooks and shelves, and some briefcase-sized camp-stoves with attachment points for mini propane tanks. We’ll probably pick up one of thos even before we look to upgrade our tent.

Dave was adamant that we shouldn’t bring stuff that would require refrigeration all weekend, though we did bring a cooler with burger patties for Friday, the first night. We’re comfortable keeping eggs at room temperature so we brought a dozen and had eggs cooked in a cast iron skillet both mornings. For lunch on Saturday we had canned tuna mixed with mayo and relish. I’m comfortable leaving mayo at room temperature too, but this particular mayo didn’t actually have eggs in it so it was double okay by me to not refrigerate it. For Saturday dinner we had a Mexican themed potluck. We brought all the supplies for guacamole, and it wasn’t bad at all cutting up avocados and juicing limes on the picnic table. Next time I think I may bring a bag for food scraps though and bring them home with us, I felt bad tossing all that compostable stuff in the trash.


Big Basin has awesome redwoods and no bears! There are some pretty tenacious raccoons though, so each campsite had a big metal food locker, as well as a big picnic table and metal fire pit. Every few campsites shared a spigot with potable water, as well as heavy duty trash dumpsters and restrooms with flush toilets and coin-op showers. Our car was parked right by the campsite so it was easy to just toss our duffel in the trunk each night. There was a camp store a few miles away that we personally didn’t end up needing, though we probably would have gone for firewood and insect repellent if the families we were with hadn’t been so well provisioned.


On Saturday we did a very slow-paced hike with some of the other families. Dakota walked a little but was mostly content to observe from the carrier. Other than that we just hung out at the campsite and chatted with the other adults, ate various snacks that everyone had bought, and tossed things on the fire because that’s always fun. 🙂

Family photo

On the ride home Dave and I were already setting lofty goals to try and do weekend camping trips every few months. California has so much amazing park land that we really don’t even need to travel that far to enjoy tons of natural beauty. We did agree that camping with other families was part or what made the experience so awesome. So our plan is to book places way in advance, and then hope we can convince people to go with us as the date approaches.


Posted on July 12, 2014, in travel and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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