With the spread of the pandemic within the capital city forcing schools to go online and events to be canceled, we are all left wondering how best to safely spend the upcoming May holiday. Lucky for us, we still have one thing in our favor and that is the weather. With the lovely springtime flowers in bloom and beautiful weather to enjoy it (*fingers crossed), why not take the opportunity to head outdoors and camp in some of Beijing’s natural surroundings?
My family recently had the privilege to camp in the Longyun mountains in the Miyun district. This was our second camping trip in Beijing and first one in spring time, which I must say is an improvement over our last camping trip in near-winter when we woke to frost covering our tent. Right now is the perfect time to enjoy the milder weather that Beijing offers for the precious few months every year.
We’ve rounded up a list of camp grounds that are within Beijing for your convenience!
If camping overnight sounds too daunting for you, you could always head to the neighborhood parks and outdoor spaces that allow tents, and just set up shop there for the day. It will still let your family take a break from the concrete jungle to enjoy the day together in the fresh air. Alternatively, there’s always glamping.
If you’ve decided you’re up for the challenge of camping out in the Beijing “wilderness”, brava!
Here’s a list of our top ten tried and tested camping equipment that have done the job on our local camping trips.
1. North Face VE25 Expedition Tent With Fly Cover: Secondhand from Xianyu 闲鱼 2. Ground sheet for tent: From TaoBao store HIKEMAN 户外 3. Steel stakes: From Taobao store campingmoon 户外旗舰店 4. Petzl Quark ice tools: Secondhand from Xianyu 闲鱼 5. Air Mattress + pump + bedsheet 6. Expandable sleeping bag 7. Folding chairs: Sanfo Outdoor Store 三夫户外 8. Ice chest (a rolling one is usable for most camp grounds in Beijing) 9. Headlamps 10. Water bladder: Sanfo Outdoor Store 三夫户外
Most of this equipment is available at the local Sanfo Outdoor 三夫户外 store right at the entrance of Chaoyang Park, though we opted to buy most of our equipment online or secondhand.
Whether you’re a seasoned camper or a first-timer, here are some things we’ve learned about camping in Beijing which make it a rather different experience from other countries and places we’ve camped in before.
The terrain is mostly rock, sand, and dirt
Let us not forget that Beijing lies less than 300 kilometers south of the Gobi Desert, the world’s 6th largest desert. This explains why we are so often hit with those sand and dust storms that darken out the sky. When camping, this means you really need a cover (such as a rain fly) over your tent to help keep the dirt from blowing in. Also, in both the places we have camped, we have found ourselves needing to use steel tent stakes ( to hammer into the ground, which is often ridden with rocks or just a rock bed itself. Aluminum ones simply will not do the job, nor will they hold against Beijing’s tenacious winds.
These super lightweight Petzl Quark ice tools came in super useful as a hammer (the black knobby part of the one on the right). We bought them secondhand on Xianyu through searching “Petzl Quark”.
Also related to the point about the rocky terrain, we have discovered that where possible, carrying an air mattress can eradicate the usual pains and aches of sleeping on the hard ground. After much debate, my husband and I conclude that it weighs about the same as three sleeping bags, and is way more comfortable.
The temperatures vary quite a lot, even in spring
I spent almost 3 decades living in a tropical climate, so I’m still unused to the idea of how a standard spring day in Beijing can see temperatures as high as 30 degrees celsius at midday and then drop to below 10 degrees at night. This is especially true in the mountains, so remember to give some leeway when checking the weather based on your location within the city and prepare for it to get cold at night, no matter how hot it gets in the day.
Don’t forget the repellent: We used sprays as well as patches all over ourselves and our tent.
At the end of the day, camping favors the prepared, and only experience will tell you what essentials you truly need for your family’s comfort level. However you choose to do it, spending time outdoors in spring is a quintessential Beijing experience, especially while we still can.
Images: Vivienne Tseng-Rush, Giphy
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