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Thrive Outside! Camping 101

by Ryan Martinez
For many, our first real experience with the outdoors begins with a simple family camping trip. As adults, we continue to pass on the joys of camping to newer generations, knowing the benefits it brings mentally, physically, and emotionally.

For me, a simple two-day fishing trip fueled a lifetime of adventure-seeking and mountain climbing. Connecting to the primordial and instinctive nature of humankind is as simple as starting a fire, cooking on an open flame, or even staring into the vast expanse of an open night sky. These things remind us of our evolution in technology, survival, and even consciousness. If it fails at any of that, well…it’s just a plain old good time.

The benefits are innumerable: a quiet respite from the stresses of daily life, connecting with the family in a wholesome way free from gadgets, reconnecting with nature, and even resetting your natural sleep cycles are just a few gifts camping has to offer.

Yet getting outside doesn’t always mean getting outside your comfort zone. With advances in technology, boutique lodging, and the explosion of the van life innovations, your next trip out can be just as comfy as a movie night on the sofa.

Luckily, we did the legwork for you and searched for the best local glamping spots, tracked down some tips and tricks for the RV-curious, and ideas to make your next adventure out worthy of a (hopefully frequent) repeat.

Local Camping + Glamping Spots

For those who want to camp with a taste of luxury, our beautiful backyard is home to many spots that offer cabins, camping, and glamping so you can set up a comfy home base and explore in style.

The American River Resort is just one example of a great escape destination. Located just minutes from where gold was first discovered, the resort is quietly settled along the banks of the South Fork of the American River, setting the stage for both epic adventures and a serene escape.

American River Resort


Their traditional tent camping spots include private fire pits and picnic tables with two settings to choose from: mountain view—situated within the oak forest near the RV hookup area (perfect if you’re with a group that has both tent campers and RVers) and featuring views of Mt. Murphy and the resort’s scenic pond—and riverside, which, you guessed it, are right on the shores of the American River (some overlook the South Fork’s most notorious rapid: “The Troublemaker”). Enjoy watching as people tackle the most exciting part of the river during the day and soothe yourself to sleep at night with the sound of running water. And if swimming in rivers isn’t your thing, the in-ground pool just a short walk away will surely suffice.

American River Resort


For those who want to avoid the troubles of packing up all their cumbersome camping gear, glamping will be your new favorite word, and the American River Resort might be your new favorite spot. With large, sturdy canvas tents set on raised platforms overlooking the river, all you need to bring is your sleeping bag, jammies, and favorite pillows.

Unlike many common RV sites, those at the American River Resort are quietly nestled into the oak meadows—away from other sites—offering a serene landscape to soak in the wonders of the outdoors with ample room to roam. For RVers, the resort has full hookups to power, water, and sewer.

6019 New River Road, Coloma, 530-622-6700,

If you’re seeking something a little more private, cozy, and fitted with fun games, then Camp Nauvoo checks all the boxes. Located on the outskirts of Placerville, the camp was originally founded in the 1960s as a girls’ camp, later to become a Boy Scout camp, until finally being transformed into the family-friendly camp destination it is today.

Camp Nauvoo


The off-the-beaten path getaway boasts over 86 acres of tranquil scenery, with traditional tent camping and a choice of beautiful safari tents, mini glamping tents, or a teepee glamping experience.
The secluded nature of Camp Nauvoo makes it an excellent kid-friendly choice, with tons of activities like ping pong, pickleball, corn hole, basketball, and volleyball. The fun doesn’t stop there though. The camp also has swing sets, seesaws, and tractor play. With large group sites on the premises, you can even plan a getaway with several families for some added fun.

The glamping safari tents themselves are definitely “Instagram worthy” and bring cozy getaway vibes, while the teepees are a seriously fun option for kiddos.

The camp also offers multiple sites to pitch a tent and unwind, too, and feature propane fire pits and picnic tables. Take note that open fires are not allowed, and the camp offers propane barbecues for cooking.

Camp Nauvoo


Regardless of how you choose to stay, you still have access to the on-site amenities like covered dining, bathrooms with flushing toilets, hot showers, electricity for charging your (hopefully unused) gadgets, and even a compressor to blow up those comfy air mattresses. They also have a small selection of rental gear and a store to pick up forgotten amenities.

Being close to home yet far from city life, you can easily access many fun outdoor activities, including rafting, horseback riding, hiking, swimming, and all the other outdoor escapes our backyard is known for.

2200 Camp Nauvoo Road, Placerville, 916-207-9441,

If you want something even comfier, Coloma Resort offers incredible cabins right along the edge of the American River (adjacent to the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park). The cabins vary, but offer all the comfort needed—queen-sized beds, lofts, and a family room with a pull-out sofa. The full kitchens include a coffee maker, microwave, stove, oven, fridge, pots, pans, and even dishes so you can make your favorites after a day of alfresco adventures. They have multiple offerings, so check to see which cabin is right for you.

Coloma Resort


The leveled tent and RV sites have a private fire pit (open fires allowed), picnic tables, and private water and electricity hookups with a choice of riverfront sites or off-river ones. There are also clean bathrooms with running water and hot showers.

Morning river walks call for coffee—and for the best cup in town (alongside a menu full of fresh, healthy food made using locally sourced ingredients), it’s only a short stroll to The Argonaut. On summer weekends, you can listen to live music, too, while enjoying gelato, sandwiches, and a pint on their picturesque patio.

Coloma Resort


Note: There’s a two-night minimum stay for cabins, tent sites, and RV sites, and a maximum of two pets are allowed (additional fee of $5 per night, per pet).

6921 Mount Murphy Road, Coloma, 530-621-2267,

If you want to get to the north side of the Tahoe National Forest, Inn Town Campground is a wonderful option. Founded in 2016, the 15-acre property is just minutes from Nevada City and boasts fun activities like open-air movies, holiday events, a swimming pool, Wi-Fi, and a fully stocked camp store for your convenience. 

Inn Town Campground


Built from a passion for the outdoors and a love of our community, owners Dan and Erin Thiem have created a fun, family-friendly spot amid the lofty pines. Their love of the outdoors can be felt in the details, like the open-air showers and indoor and outdoor spaces for families and friends (both new and old!) to gather.

Options to camp include 20 charming glamping tents with electricity, heated mattress pads, and private balconies or porches that bring the best of glamping to Nevada City. Each one has a slightly different aesthetic but the same cozy mountain vibe.

Inn Town Campground


The campground also has 30 tent sites with propane-only fire pits (due to the high fire danger in the area), so be aware that wood-burning fires aren’t allowed.

9 Kidder Court, Nevada City, 530-265-9900,

The Great Indoors

by Megan Wiskus

Basecamp Hotel


If you’re seeking a place to snooze that’s a step up from glamping with a hip, outdoorsy vibe, then check out Basecamp Hotel ( The boutique property (locations in South Lake Tahoe and Tahoe City) is perfect for adventure-seekers who crave creature comforts (Wi-Fi, a walk-in shower, luxurious bedding). Guests are encouraged to come together in cozy communal areas to share stories and exchange tips before heading out for some fresh air fun. The “Great Indoors” room—which comes inclusive of a faux log fire, picnic table, indoor tent, camping chairs, and more—is especially enticing for families who want the camping experience without the bugs, shared bathrooms, and uncomfortable elements that often come with it. Rates are reasonable and include some appealing amenities, too, like fire pits, s’mores, and craft beer.

RV Revolution

by Ryan Martinez

Dreaming of RV life?  We reached out to local expert and RV consultant Jim Pelley about what you need to consider before getting your first RV.

The main consideration is how you will use it. You need to work backwards and consider whether you’ll be living full-time in it or going the weekend warrior route. This will help narrow down the options. As Pelley says, the wrong decision can cost a fortune to remediate.

You have two essential options: motorhome or trailer. A motorhome is comfortable and can tow a car but is hard to drive in certain areas; a trailer allows you to unhook and have your truck ready to explore.

RV Revolution


Here are some more quick tips for RV newbies:
How long will you be staying inside? Remember, you’ll have at least one trip where you don’t go outside the RV.

Is it insulated? Many first-time buyers don’t consider this and think their two-season RV is ready for a winter in Tahoe…not the case, and this is often not advertised.

Floor plan. Is the bed big enough? Is the shower tall enough? Is there enough counter space? 

Holding tanks. Will your RV hold enough water? Will the “black water” or sewage tanks last long enough? This will largely depend if you plan on hooking up at campsites or going off grid.

Electricity. Do you need to buy a generator to power your electronics or is there an on-board generator? You don’t want to park the RV only to realize you can’t use your electronics because the dealer forgot to mention the outlets don’t work without a generator!

Cargo carrying capacity. How much weight do you plan on bringing? Consider the amount of people, your equipment, tools, toys, dishes, etc. You may find you need a heftier RV.

Know your gear. Most RVs don’t have a pressure regulator.  You may need to add an extra in-line filter if you plan on hooking up at campsites. Electric? Wi-Fi? Storage?

All about the extras. Do you need to budget for a generator? How about a floor mat, awning, chairs, etc.?

Where are you going? There are two types of campgrounds: Full hookups (water, sewer, electricity) and no hookups.  Where you plan on going will dictate the rig you need.

“Play house.” Pelley recommends spending an hour at the dealership “playing house” to really imagine living in the RV. Someone he met once bought a trailer and didn’t realize you couldn’t use the toilet and shut the door at the same time…oops! According to Pelley, “It’s amazing how many people will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and not even try the bed!”

The Bambi Airstream


An American icon since hitting the highways in the ’30s, Airstream ( is undoubtably one of the most recognized, respected names in the RV world and in a league of its own. Easy on the eyes and always “in style,” thanks to sturdy, modern, aerodynamic aluminum exteriors and interiors brimming with comfort, convenience, and attention to detail, an Airstream investment will stand the test of time and bring a lifetime of memories.

The Bambi (pictured above), Airstream's smallest single-axle, lightweight travel trailer, comes inclusive of a dedicated sleeping space, convertible dinette space, a kitchen, and on-board restroom. Sleeps up to four; 16'-22' in length; four floor plan options.


by Ryan Martinez

If you haven’t heard of #vanlife, well…that’s a little strange. The Instagram craze has become symbol of the dream life, a luxurious overland experience bridging the gap between epic adventures and the comforts of home. While the lifestyle has been idealized by digital nomads and influencer travel couples across the globe, the comforts of van life can now be experienced, thanks to Scenic Vanlife ( in Rocklin.



The couple behind the company—Emily and Kevin Fannan—has a selection of camper vans available to rent that will take you on your next adventure—whether it’s a weekend, week, month, or longer—in style and comfort. Forget the headache of packing the tent, setting up camp, finding bathrooms and showers, worrying about electricity; each van comes fully equipped to bring life in the home to the great outdoors. The best part? They offer free trip planning and don’t charge for mileage, so customers are always encouraged to take the scenic route. 



Campervans, like the ones you can rent from Scenic Vanlife, are a cross between a utility van and an RV, with an easy-to-drive home fully furnished with a bed, kitchen, and even a bathroom—so you can go off the grid with a portable home. Sleeping between two to five people, the vans are fully equipped with propane stoves for cooking, dining areas that convert to either a queen bed or two twins, hot showers, sinks, and RV toilets. These adventure mobiles could be your transporation (and accommodation) for your family’s next trip to one of our great national parks or even just a trip to the woods or along the coast.



I personally have dreamed of the #vanlife. The freedom to roam without the sacrifice of comfort is just so appealing. And not having to learn how to drive a massive RV that can only be parked in certain places is a huge plus—simply start the car and move camp; it’s that simple. Your house on wheels moving from one beautiful spot to another…what more could you ask for?

Camping With Kids

by Ryan Martinez

Planning on getting out with the kiddos?  Here are some helpful hacks to make some (good) lifetime memories.

Camping with kids


  • Plan ahead. Reserve your spot, plan your meals, and create your gear checklist before you head out. When traveling, especially camping, with young ones, it’s best to avoid unwanted surprises so everything runs smoothly.
  • Know how to use your gear. Whether setting up a tent or converting your van’s dining room table into a bed, it’s best to know how to set up beforehand. Do a test run the weekend before to make sure you know how to set up—and to ensure you have everything you need.
  • Arrive with plenty of light. You’ll want to set up before dark, so you aren’t scrambling in obscurity. Bring a headlamp anyway.
  • Pack the right gear. Make sure you have your tent, stove, propane, sleeping bags/sleeping pads, pillows, headlamp, first aid kit (plus any medicine that might be needed), and everything else you need to bring to make it a great (and comfortable) trip for the kids.
  • Pack for all weather. Make sure you have layers and a windbreaker/rain jacket. I always have my puffy packed in there for when night falls.
  • Stick to your normal schedule. Young kids appreciate a schedule, so try to follow your normal routine as much as possible. Wake-up rituals, breakfast, naps, before bed activities (yes, bring their go-to bedtime books!)…all the things you normally do.
  • Break the norm. OK—we know we just told you to follow all the rituals (and you should), but this is a time to do something new and fun. Make it an adventure! Go rafting, hiking, horseback riding, play hide and seek…be a kid with your kids.

Looking for a fun meal to make? Why not try campfire nachos! This is a fun way to share a meal while you sip your favorite beverage (maybe a SR16 Double IPA from Crooked Lane?).

Camping with kids


Here’s how to cook some epic nachos in the outdoors. While we recommend a Dutch oven, you can also use a cast iron skillet with a lid. Don’t have a lid for your skillet? No problem! Cover the top using a piece of aluminum foil.


by Ryan Martinez

Spray a fine layer of oil into the pan. We love avocado oil because it withstands higher temps, but anything will do. Tip: Use a piece of parchment paper on the bottom instead of oil for easier cleanup.

  • Add a layer of tortilla chips.
  • Sprinkle your favorite blend of cheeses.
  • Add a layer of black beans.
  • Add an optional layer of cooked ground beef, chicken, or choice of meat.
  • Cube an avocado and add about a handful evenly over the nachos.
  • Add a bit of salsa or roasted green chilies (Hatch is always the best).
  • Top with finely chopped green onions and cilantro.
  • Repeat for layers two and three.
  • Cover and cook for about 10 minutes until cheese is melted.
  • Serve with a wedge of lime.

Wake Up & Smell The Coffee

by Ryan Martinez

When it comes to my camping gear essentials list, it wouldn’t be complete without the AeroPress Go—a simple coffee maker optimized for the outdoors because everything packs up into the included mug for easy carrying. Essentially a hybrid between espresso and a French press, the result is a delicious cup of coffee that you may want to enjoy even when you’re not camping (believe me, I’ve done it at home).

AeroPress Go


Here’s how to make a delicious morning cup o’ joe:
  • Put included filter into bottom of the AeroPress Go.
  • Add about two tablespoons of your favorite roast (a good local blend is Chocolate Fish Coffee Roasters’ Finca San Luis with cherry sweetness, dark berry acidity, and a milk chocolate finish).
  • Place over your coffee mug. I like the insulated ones from Yeti, but anything will work.
  • Pour hot (not boiling) water over the coffee.
  • Stir grounds until fully submerged and air is removed.
  • Let steep for about one minute.
  • Use included plunger to press the coffee out of the AeroPress Go.
  • Add optional cream and sugar—or Irish cream liqueur.

Outdoor Libations

by Ryan Martinez

Personally, no spirit screams the outdoors as much as a good bourbon. If that’s your thing too, an Old Fashioned will fit the mood perfectly. Here’s what you need.

Bulleit old fashioned cocktail


Old Fashioned:
  • Aromatic bitters, like Angostura.
  • Simple syrup. Buy one in a squeeze bottle or buy a separate squeeze bottle for ease-of-use outdoors.
  • Cherries. We love the ones made by Woodford Reserve or Fabbri Amarena.
  • Your favorite bourbon: Woodford Reserve, Bulleit, Maker’s Mark, Basil Hayden…choose a good one.
  • Oranges.
  • Ice.

To prepare:
  • Add a couple dashes of bitters to your cup of choice.
  • Add 1-1.5 tablespoons simple syrup (more if you like ‘em sweet), plus an optional teaspoon of cherry juice (it’s delicious, trust me).
  • Add two shots of bourbon.
  • Stir with ice until chilled. Strain over fresh ice, if possible.
  • Cut orange peel and spritz the oils over the top of the drink. Add to drink.
  • Pop in a cherry garnish.
  • Enjoy peacefully!

Wise Villa Winery


If you can’t be bothered playing bartender while camping, then check out the canned vino offerings from Wise Villa Winery or the Bulleit Old Fashioned Cocktail that comes pre-made and can be served up or over ice. Easy peasy!

Photo by TNatalia Kurzova American River Resort photos by Marcella Miramontez. Camp Nauvoo photo by Nic Castellanos. Camp Nauvoo photos by Nic Castellanos. Dirt path photo by Christie Rebolcaba, Snowline Photography. Photo courtesy of Basecamp Hotel. Photos courtesy of Emily and Kevin Fannon. Photo courtesy of AeroPress. Camping With Kids photos by Megan Wiskus. Campfire Cooking illustration © Photos courtesy of their respective companies or organizations.