Here are a few basic preparations unique to Florida that will help make your camping trip successful.
How big is your tent?
The cardinal rule for Florida camping is a tent at least double the capacity you need. If there are two of you camping, get a four-person tent. Four of you? You want a tent that can sleep eight. Seems extreme, but you’ll be thankful for a extra circulating air. Be sure you have cross-ventilation. Your tent should have one screened door or window on each of four sides with extra-fine screens to keep out those pesky no-seeums.
Find a shady site
Near water if you can, so you get a breeze all night long. If no shade is available, create your own shade with a canopy. The canopy also helps disperse water if there’s a sudden storm during the night. Use tie-downs so it doesn’t blow away. During the day, move the canopy away from the tent so you can use it for refuge from sun and rain.
You never really know where you will be able to pitch your tent — sand or hard ground — so be prepared for both. Metal spikes are fine for hard ground (bring a hammer), but they pull out of sand easily. Buy an inexpensive set of plastic stakes with ridges as a backup for sand.
Breathable, lightweight rain jacket
Gore-Tex or similar water-resistant fabric serves as both a rain jacket and a windbreaker but won’t smother you in your own sweat. Mine is from LL Bean, weighs 12 ounces, and it’s yellow so it can be seen clearly in the woods, on a highway or in the water. Don’t camp in Florida without it.
Bring plenty of water
Camping dehydrates me quicker than anything I do, and more so in Florida than anywhere else. When camping in remote areas, I freeze two gallon jugs of water for my cooler, and I suggest bringing a couple of BPA-free 6 gallon water containers for refilling water bottles, washing dishes and bathing. Instead of plastic water bottles, consider reusable water bottles for each camper. On a hot day, you’ll be thankful you have extra water.
When you are outside in the Florida sun, those UV rays sneak up fast, even on a cloudy day. You should pack SPF 50 for the best protection, certainly no less than SPF 30. If you are camping in the Florida Keys or anywhere on coastal Florida, you must use a reef-safe, climate-friendly sunscreen, such as BLUE LIZARD Sport Mineral-Based Sunscreen Lotion – SPF 50+, Cream, Unscented, 8.75 Fl Oz.
When the sun starts setting, swarms of mosquitoes and no-see-ums can be frightful. My favorite repellent is Avon Skin-So-Soft. YES, it works! I strongly recommend you also bring along this Thermacell Portable Mosquito Repeller, which repels mosquitos for a 15-foot radius around the unit. I have two of these, one for our patio and the other for camping. It really does work.
Sleeping cots, if you can
If your tent is big enough, and you’ve got room in the car, folding camping cots are a really good idea. Cots allow air to circulate under your body and deliver a significant cooling effect. My brother swears by the Coleman ComfortSmart Cot. A hammock tent is a good alternative if you’re backpacking.
This is not intended to be a complete tent-camping checklist, just highlights unique for Florida. You also need food, cooking gear, sleeping bags, etc. All of the gear you “need” can get out of hand. For a more complete checklist, I suggest you see my Tent Camping Checklist for Florida
If you are adventurous and want to try kayak camping, you have a special set of needs (and not much room). Warren Richey, author of “Without A Paddle,” offers these tips: Kayak Camping: Sharkchow’s Checklist, .
If you have a suggestion unique to Florida tent camping, let us know in the comments below.
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Bob Rountree is a beach bum, angler and camper who has explored Florida for decades. No adventure is complete without a scenic paddle trail or unpaved road to nowhere. Bob co-founded FloridaRambler.com with fellow journalist Bonnie Gross 12 years ago.