Are you thinking about taking a camping vacation in the Caribbean? Have you thought about all the things that you might need to bring in order to ensure yourself some comfort while you are roughing it on the beach? Let me give you some tips about what to bring with you, things that you can pack in your checked baggage, that will help make camping on a tropical beach as fun and relaxing as possible. I collected this wisdom the hard way while camping in the BVI!
Things to Make Room For No Matter What (even if it means leaving that third pair of flip flops behind)
INSECT REPELLENT (and lots of it, don’t skip)
Mosquitoes are everywhere in the Caribbean, even on your windy beach, and they can transmit Dengue or hemorrhagic fever. I have used Off-brand unscented pump spray (you can pack this in your check-in baggage since it is not an aerosol). I find it works very well on the beach to repel mosquitoes and sand flies.
Sandflies are nasty pests that show up wherever there is sand. At the beach, they can be much more of a nuisance than mosquitoes. Although I have found some herbal repellents that worked well enough for mosquitoes they didn’t repel the sand flies. Once you are bitten by a sandfly and start scratching the bite you will end up with a large red welt on your skin that stays for days and is uncomfortable and rather ugly.
Once you do get a sandfly bite, and you will know it is a sandfly bite because it will be bothering you long after you would have forgotten about a mosquito bite, you should use fresh aloe vera from a freshly cut aloe spear on the bite and it will heal almost magically. Make sure you use that bitter smelling, syrupy yellow liquid that seeps out of the freshly cut aloe leaf along with the aloe itself because the yellow stuff has strong healing properties.
Bring some aloe in a tube in case you can’t find any fresh aloe growing near your beach or campground. You may have to ask somebody local if perhaps they might have some in their garden and could you maybe have a leaf. If not, try the packaged aloe. It may help a little. Also, it can be used for sunburn, of course! Aloe vera is the best remedy for all types of skin problems.
Bring plenty of high SPF sunblock. Get waterproof, not water-resistant sunblock if you are a swimmer.
No matter what people say, don’t drink the water unless you are prepared to get sick while you are camping. That’s no fun! When filtering water to drink use only water that is provided by the local water authority i.e. water that is piped in from a water treatment facility; or, fresh, moving water from a clean stream or lake. Don’t attempt to filter drinking water from a cistern unless you have proof that the cistern is very clean.
Many houses in the tropics, and possibly the bathroom or shower facility at your campground, have a cistern underneath that collects water from the roof, eaves, and gutters. This water can collect for days and become quite filthy if the cistern is not properly maintained. It should only be used for showering with your mouth closed, or washing clothes and dishes. Even if you have to buy bottled water or boil all of your drinking water, it will be worth it to stay healthy.
PROPANE CAMPING STOVE
You may be thinking that because you will be on the beach that campfires will be the best way to go. You can’t assume that you will be able to build a fire to cook over. On the beach with other campers around, wood can become scarce. Plus, too many campfires burning at once in the campground can create air pollution. If it rains, unless you are good at building fires, you won’t be able to get one going if all of the wood is wet. Make sure your stove uses common, easy to find size propane bottles. You can’t bring propane with you on the plane!
Bring as many heavy sheets of plastic (or better yet, poly tarps with grommets) as you can fit in your bags. Don’t forget a roll or two of med weight cord as well. Tarps are worth their weight in gold when the wind and rain start blowing. You should anticipate and be prepared for rain even if is the dry season, and feel very lucky if you manage to avoid the rain. Use tarps under your tent, as extra raincoats for your tent, and tied up between trees as windbreaks or cover for your cooking area or campfire.
WIND BLOCKING JACKET AND PANTS
If you get a prolonged (try 3-4 days!) windstorm you will be miserable without some wind gear. Many rain suits are both water and windproof. Even a tropical beach can feel cold and exposed. Bring all of these items on your tropical beach camping vacation and you will be warmer, dryer, happier, and more relaxed no matter what the weather!