DIY - Do It Yourself - Camping in Israel
Camping in Israel is a great way to experience the land first hand. There are many national parks around the country with great facilities that are easily accessed and many unofficial places without facilities camping can be spur of the moment.
This post will cover an overview of site selection, transportation, equipment, menu and budgeting an overnight trip.
The first thing to consider when planning a trip is where you want to go and what season your trip will take place. Summer in Israel is HOT and selecting sites with shade and water is a great way to beat the heat.
If you are planning a winter trip, the day time temperature might be great, but the overnight lows need to be factored and if the temperature will drop below 15 Celsius or 50 Fahrenheit, a heated tent is recommended. In the narrow spring and fall months, it is too cold to swim and forests provide an engaging alternative to water sites. Master Campers recommend you contact the sites before arriving to ensure they have space and to know how much site fees run.
Once you have selected your site, transportation is the next step. How many people are in your group? Do you have a car? Great! Problem solved! If you don’t drive, can you arrange a carpool? Otherwise there are many site that can be reached using public transportation.
Equipment, there is the stuff you need and the stuff you don’t. Like 3 changes of clothes per day is excessive. Keep the weight down, especially if you are carpooling in a tiny full car, there will be no room left for the passengers! Without going through the whole list, a couple items not to be overlooked: Sunscreen – even if you don’t think you burn, you will burn. Save your skin. Another Master Campers equipment recommendation is a full size inflatable mattress. It will give you the comfort of sleeping at home and the best personal flotation device.
Shared equipment, ask your friends what they have. Do you need a cooler? Some sites have refrigeration, and if they don’t, a cooler is critical and usually 1 per car is sufficient. Hammocks, speakers and ground mats are also something that are easily shared and enhance the camping experience.
Menu, this tricks up lot of people. Who wants to end up in the field with humus, pita, deli meat & Pickles for 36 hours & 5 people? Organize a potluck. Food is critical for a trip, no one will be happy if you are hungry, spend the time and money to have a proper menu, even though you are camping. You will not save money if you stop at a gas station and load up on junk food instead of planning to have lunch on site.
For a 36 hour trip, plan 5 meals. Lunch, Dinner, Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner again. A combination of well packed cooked food and easily purchased food makes a delightful experience. Master Campers recommends BBQ lunch (everyone will be hungry after the ride), potluck Shabbat dinner, yogurt + cereal & coffee for breakfast, wine, cheese & cans for Kiddush followed by dairy lunch and sandwiches before leaving site to tide everyone over before heading home. Word of warning, watch the alcohol consumption, don’t get too drunk too far from help. Hangovers in nature are worse than hangovers in bed.
When you arrive on site, first things first, set up your tents, preferably under shade and pay special attention to the East where the sun rises, tents heat up very quickly in the morning. Secure tables, they will be claimed quickly and if they are not set into the ground can be placed together for larger groups. Organize the food next, nosh a bit at the same time, no one wants a hangry camper, play music, take pictures, help your friends get set up and explore the site and go swimming.
Cost, this is a source of a lot of tension, even between groups of friends and it helps to be real about what a weekend will cost and how to split expenses.
Transportation, if someone is renting a car, it adds hundreds of shekels – some companies will not charge you for Shabbat if you agree not to drive on Shabbat, others will have you pay for the whole time. Make sure carpoolers know what to expect. On top of car rental fee is gas, for a site far to the north or south, it will be hundreds more shekels. Rental might be as low as 350 and gas, another 350. If you can fit 5 people in the car, it might crowded, but cost as low as 140 shekels per person.
Food for 5 meals, if you are careful, cook, prepare carefully and avoid expensive junk food stops, 100 shekels per person can go a long way. If you stop for lunch on the way down and buy junk food on the way back, that number quickly increases.
Site fee, national parks around Israel are in the most beautiful locations and offer comfortable amenities like showers and bathroom. They also charge for them. Sometimes sites charge per car and sometimes per person. This adds another 50 – 75 shekels per person generally and should not come as a last minute surprise.
For Do-It-Yourself camping, with good planning and a full car to a furnished site for a 5 meal, 36 hour trip, Master Campers recommends a budget of 300 shekels per person. If you think of that per meal, it is 60 shekels per meal. Not too bad considering you will have to eat no matter where you are. If you can do without a furnished site, don’t need a toilet, already have a car or can bus and don’t mind starving a little, a trip can costs as low as 150 shekels per person.
Hope you organize many adventures with friends. Master Campers wants to encourage you to explore the great land we live in and share places and tips to help facilitate a greater connection to your fellow and the land. Stay tuned for more entries on site selection, Equipment, transportation tips, and menu ideas.