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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, July 31, 2005

Comforts of camping

By Zenaida Serrano
Advertiser Staff Writer

Alric Ladao relaxes with his 'ukulele at Bellows Field Beach Park.

Photos by Andrew Shimabuku | The Honolulu Advertise


  • Stove or hibachi and fuel
  • Food and cooking equipment
  • Cooler and coolant (ice)
  • Insect repellent (if sensitive to bites)
  • Rainproof tent and rain gear
  • Sleeping gear
  • Lanterns and flashlights
  • Other personal items

    Source: Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation

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    Luana Natividad enjoys her inflatable mattress at the Bellows Field campground.
    Luana Natividad hangs an electric lantern in her tent at Bellows Field Beach Park. The lantern uses a fluorescent element, safer to use in a tent than a hotter bulb or gas lantern.

    Andrew Shimabuku | The Honolulu Advertiser

    Lylia Aana dozed peacefully on a hammock, shaded by a forest of towering ironwood trees. A light breeze wafted the dense aroma of sizzling burgers her way as the sound of ocean waves resonated in the distance.

    This is what roughing it in the great outdoors is all about for Aana, who spent a recent weekend camping at Bellows Field Beach Park in Waimanalo. Only it wasn't so rough for Aana and her friends, who collectively packed with them all the comforts of home, including a soft futon mattress, single-burner stove and portable electric lights.

    "It's just about being laid back," said the relaxed Pearl City woman, 28.

    Aana is among hundreds of Island residents who take advantage of the agreeable summer weather to be at one with nature. The busiest season for camping typically lasts from Memorial Day in May through Labor Day in September, said Lester Chang, director of the city Department of Parks and Recreation, which oversees more than a dozen campsites islandwide.

    During peak months, it's best to get the required permits as early as possible (see box); reservations may be made no earlier than two Fridays before the camping period requested for city campsites, 30 days for state campsites on O'ahu.

    "In the summertime, the weekends are booked (fast)," said Dan Quinn, state parks administrator. "For holiday weekends, if you're not here on the first day of (permit) issuance, that's pretty much it."

    The strong appeal of camping is a no-brainer, Chang said.

    "It's the beach, the opportunity to be outdoors and really appreciate what Hawai'i is about," he said. " ... and then to have friends and family with you, it's wonderful."

    Aana is also among those who have taken the adventure to another level, foregoing the basic pitched tent and sleeping bag of just a few generations ago for more comfy gear and a "home away from home" feel.

    At Sports Authority in Honolulu, items like double- and queen-size air mattresses with battery-powered pumps, full folding loungers with extra padding, and portable magnetic tent lights are constant best-sellers, said Chris Heller, a manager at the sporting goods retailer.

    Bringing along such items "is not quite roughing it," Heller said. "But If you've got the space to carry it, then why not?"

    Nicety or necessity?

    For Nathan Chan, 29, there are just a few requirements for an ideal camping getaway: friends, food, fun and comfort.

    "In the past, I really liked roughing it," said the Kaka'ako resident. "You know, 'travel light, freeze at night.' "

    But these days, with a group of up to a dozen friends (some of whom aren't outdoor enthusiasts), camping has turned into a different kind of adventure.

    Chan, a technical writer, recently purchased a 10-by-10-foot tent, which nicely accommodates a queen-size air mattress for him and his girlfriend.

    "The sleeping bag, yes, that's traditional camping, but it's really uncomfortable to sleep when you have a (tree) root digging into your back," Chan said.

    He and his friends, who have gone camping together for at least four years, at least twice each summer, have got their standard campsite set-up down to a science: a circle of tents, two picnic tables placed together for all the food, coolers with lots of ice for drinks, a portable gas stove and grill and two charcoal grills, an array of folding chairs, and a canopy to shield them from wind, rain or the high-noon sun.

    How does Chan respond to rough and gruff purists who say Chan's outings aren't truly camp outings?

    "I'd probably agree with them," Chan said, laughing. "I call it 'glorified picnicking.' "

    Julie Haruki, Chan's friend and a camp buddy, also has some personal "must-have" items that she and her boyfriend need to bring along with them — most importantly, a full-size air mattress.

    "I have a hard enough time sleeping on the air mattress," joked Haruki, 28, of Honolulu.

    There's also the battery-powered tent fan "to circulate the air," and her fluorescent-light lantern "that's really nice and bright," she said.

    "It's almost not like a luxury for us, it's like a necessity," said Haruki, who's self-employed. "You want to be comfortable."

    The problem is trying to lug all the equipment and gear, especially if they park their cars far away from the site.

    "Sometimes it gets ridiculous, we'll have so much stuff," Haruki said, laughing.

    But don't get Haruki wrong. Despite her needs, she loves the outdoor experience.

    "I like when it rains really hard," Haruki said. " ... The air just smells so nice and fresh."


    While traditional campers may pass the time by telling ghost stories around a campfire, many of today's campers incorporate some high-tech fun in the sun.

    When Chan, Haruki and gang went camping during the Fourth of July weekend, some of the guys hooked up an iPod to a portable speaker. The result — crisp, clear tunes that catered to everyone's tastes.

    At other outings, Haruki's boyfriend — quite the gadget guy — brought his pocket personal computer to play games, and once even a portable DVD player to watch movies.

    "We all tried to watch (movies), but the screen's so small," Haruki said, laughing. "It was funny seeing 10 people huddling around this thing."

    The group also mixes techie diversions with typical camp-related pastimes: swimming at the beach and playing cards, dominoes or board games, like Scrabble.

    Aana and her friends, the group that recently camped at Bellows, spent their time lounging on portable hammocks, swimming at the beach and playing volleyball — no electronic gizmos for this bunch.

    While the group of nearly a dozen adults and children relaxed on folding chairs in a semi-circle, Aana's friend, Alric Ladao, 27, picked up an 'ukulele and began to strum some tunes as the party chatted and ate snacks.

    "Camping is da bomb," exclaimed another of Aana's friends, Luana Natividad, 28, of Wahiawa.

    For Chan, Haruki and friends, camping is synonymous with eating. The group loves to cook, grilling around the clock. Meals are a bounty of 'ono grinds: eggs, rice, bacon, Portuguese sausage, hash browns and fruit for breakfast; steak, barbecue chicken, kal-bi, potatoes and other grilled veggies for lunch and dinner; and, of course, s'mores for dessert.

    But with or without the fancy fare, the latest gear and the creative pastimes, the best thing about camping is simple, Haruki said. It's the company.

    "I just like to hang out with friends in a nice, outdoor kind of atmosphere," she said.

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