Camping while diving is a different experience than camping while backpacking. Generally the amount of gear that we take diving prohibits travel too far from vehicles to hike into a wilderness, hence the need to stay close to a vehicle affords us the opportunity to use camping gear that is somewhat more cumbersome than that which we traditionally think of for camping, however, does afford a higher degree of comfort.
Over the years we have tried out many different configurations of camping gear. Necessary components are tent and sleeping bag, however, additional gear brings with it a much higher degree of comfort and a better nights sleep leading to more enjoyable dives and a better overall experience.
Below are a list of camping gear that we have found to be great value, holds up to what the dive season throws at us while staying on "Hamden Hill" at Dutch Springs and elsewhere that we pitch out tent and hoist a dive flag.
Tent: The go to tent in our experience has been the Coleman 6 Person 10x10 Instant Tent. This tent is strong, waterproof, has large windows for the warm nights, has the ability to hold 4 full size divers or 2 full size divers utilizing cots. The tent takes a single person a minute or so to assemble and a little longer to break down. This is not a light tent, it is listed as 26 lbs. Remember to pick up the optional extra rain-fly for the added protection it offers and some solid Stakes and Mallet that will lock the tent in place on Hamden Hill.
Sleeping Bag: Camping within the dive season is a factor of temperature. In general we do not camp in April or November at Dutch Springs. there are of course exceptions, but in general we have found that the Sleepcell Coolvent sleeping bag has been very effective. For cooler nights and extra blanket may help too. This bag is a mummy style with integrated pillow. This sleeping bag is a great value, but can be difficult to source from time to time. Many times it is available at Costco, but of late they have not had it in stock at that outlet.
Folding Cot and Mattress: Stepping up the comfort of staying in a tent, the folding cot brings some of the comforts of home to the dive site. sleeping on a cot is a significant
upgrade to sleeping on either an inflatable mattress or on the ground. To accommodate a folding cot, a taller tent is required such as the Coleman Instant tent mentioned above. An optional extra for even more comfort is the self inflating mattress to place on top of the folding cot. A Self Inflating mattress may also be used on the ground and is a much better solution than the air mattress that needs to be pumped up.
Accessories: There are no end to the accessories that are available for camping. Coleman seems to have a very imaginative group of engineers that each year amaze us with ingenuity. We recommend
having a light source that is battery operated. Rechargeable lights such
as the Coleman Quad LED Lantern are even better rather than having to carry extra batteries. Other considerations - a tarp is a good idea to place under your tent - keeps your tent nice and clean. Another overlooked accessory is a drybag. Many times we will be either setting up or breaking camp in the rain - no big deal for us SCUBA divers except for bedding or clothing we wish to keep dry on the way to the tent or even from any moisture that may make its way in on your gear. A Drybag make a great addition to your SCUBA/Camping accessories.
We look forward to diving with you soon - and seeing you pitch your tent on "Hamden Hill" at Dutch Springs. At the end of the day, the diving is the important thing, but there is no shame in being comfortable at the dive site.