How to Destination Camp Like a Pro
Whether you have kids or not, destination camping can sound intimidating. But it’s amazing how much money you can save by not staying in a hotel or vacation rental, and camping provides the opportunity to have a sleepover in some of the most scenic spots on the planet! How does a traveling camper pack all the essentials he or she needs in the wilderness without overdoing it? If hiking in, packing as minimalist as possible is especially the key to a fun trip.
I spoke with my good friend, Allysa Lapine, who owns Hawai‘i Camp Life (HCL) on the Big Island to find some answers. HCL provides visitors and locals with camping gear and acts as a “camping concierge” for those who aren’t familiar with the terrain.
Katie Soltas: How did you end up in Hawaii from Oklahoma?
Allysa Lapine: I came to Hawaiʻi in 2010 to earn my M.A. in Global Leadership and Sustainable Development at Hawaiʻi Pacific University. I had finished my undergraduate degree, Natural Resource and Ecology Management, at Oklahoma State University in 2009.
It was the recession and jobs were near impossible to find so I went to Hawaiʻi to wait out the recession while enjoying myself. I ended up loving the active lifestyle and decided to stay. I landed a job in my field at the Wind Farms on the North Shore of Hawaiʻi, solidifying my stay.
KS: Have you always been an outdoor and camping enthusiast?
AL: I have always been an outdoor enthusiast but didn’t camp much as a kid. I spent my days outdoors with animals, whether it was our own pets or wildlife. I started camping in college during ultimate frisbee tournaments, and I usually just jumped in a friend’s tent and brought my own sleeping bag and pad.
It wasn’t until I got a job working in northern Nevada that I really got into camping. For the job, we were out in the middle of nowhere in rural Nevada with no running water, stores, electricity, and or cell service. Due to these isolated circumstances, I had to learn to pack very carefully while keeping my items to a minimum because there were three other people in my group and we all shared the same truck.
There was a guy on our team that was a gear enthusiast. Before we started the job, he took me to Sierra Trading Post where I bought my first Marmot tent (my first tent actually!), a Brunton pocket stove, a backpack, cookware and other camping supplies. All of which I still have.
That summer was incredible. While at times it can be trying being with the same three people for long stretches with no distractions, something very wonderful also happens. You learn how to accept challenging situations and become stronger. I spent my days hiking through beautiful areas and my nights reading and reflecting. Each trip out, I got better at packing and preparing for the next trip. I’ve always been a planner and perfectionist. Planning camping trips hits the sweet spot of getting to plan, prepare and perfect while also having an incredible payoff of getting to sleep under the stars in gorgeous areas where it’s just you and your friends. Now I get to help others do that too!
KS: Tell me about your camping business...why you started it, how it serves visitors, etc.
AL: I started HCL because first of all I was getting frustrated at the instability of contract work and the limitations of not being your own boss. Secondly, I knew there was huge lack of places to buy or rent camping gear on any of the Hawaiian Islands. The idea made sense for locals to have a place that they could rent gear as needed instead of investing in gear that would sit a good portion of the year and take up space, which is valuable living in Hawai‘i.
For visitors, HCL provides a way for guests to stay in the most stunning places on the island without the hassle and expense of lugging around camping gear. Not to mention the gear rented from us was specifically picked to best suit camping in Hawaiʻi.
HCL also provides an invaluable information to those who have never been to Hawaiʻi, i.e., where to camp, how to book, and what activities to do and how to plan for them. When you book with us, you automatically speak with a knowledgeable local expert who can answer any questions or concerns about planning a trip. On the website the gear is categorized by either car camping or backpacking, making it easier for those planning their trip to quickly pick out the gear they need.
KS: How can destination campers pack light for tropical climates?
AL: I actually just created a packing list for those visiting Hawaiʻi, which can be applied to most other tropical climates. The list on my HCL blog is a great start for what men and women should pack from clothes, to toiletries, to gear as well as what they should leave at home. The biggest advice I can give anyone is to pack light, just pick a few good outfits and rotate them!
KS: Any equipment campers should avoid bringing when traveling?
AL: You cannot travel with fuel, so consider your destination’s fuel access once you arrive. Some airlines let you travel with a pocket stove as long as it is cleaned and contains no fuel, but Hawaiian Airlines does not. You cannot bring pocket knives unless they are in your checked bags.
I encourage my customers to bring smaller items such as headlamps, cookware, water filters, and cutlery if their gear is lightweight because it will save them money. I also encourage people to bring their own fitted backpacks if they have them and use the backpacks as their luggage. Tents, sleeping bags and pads will be easier to rent due to the space they take up in your luggage. Our prices start around $70 for two people over 4 nights for a tent, pad, bag set-up ($9/per person per night). Even with the camping permit fees added, this is a price you can’t beat at any lodging facility in Hawai‘i.
KS: What is your essential item when camping?
AL: Camping is a bit like a test of survival. You need shelter, food and water. I couldn’t choose one essential gear item because for me a tent, pad, sleeping bag, food, and water are all essential. I have a few items that I like to bring that make me feel like I’m camping like a pro even though they are very simple and add little weight to my set-up. Check my blog for an article on this soon.
KS: Any good camping stories you’d like to share?
AL: I just had so many camping experiences run through my mind and they all were memorable in their own way. The experiences that really stick out to me as incredible were when we camped during meteor showers, a red moon or fireworks. There is something so magical about laying out with a group of your friends while looking up in awe at the sky.