Boozing Beneath the Great Outdoors


I have been lucky enough to have spent many of the past months’ weekends camping with friends. As more of an experienced tippler than trailblazer, my form of camping includes tent, air mattress, camp stoves, and foldable chairs that have a built-in insulator to keep my cold cans cold. My more adventurous camp-mates were much more sensible with their super-tech sleeping bags, single change of clothes, and sunscreen. These are the friends who have hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, figured out how to farm their own vegetables, and are the first ones I’ll be running to when and if the zombie apocalypse ever happens. 

The one thing our two camping styles has in common is, when you’re just car camping for the weekend at China Camp, the need for a well-stocked cooler. 

Their cooler and my cooler were stocked virtually identically: a bit of ice, a bit of food, and, down at the bottom, a delicious layer of pilsners and IPAs. It was, for a San Franciscan, blistering hot during our camping weekend (82F in the sun!) so we didn’t want to weigh ourselves down with heavy porters or untested stouts. We were searching for a break from the maddening crowd, we wanted simple pleasures, the sound of nature, some good conversation, and the light taste of malted hops  on our tongues. After we finished setting up camp and had our first mid-afternoon towards late-afternoon cans, we rose up, dusted off our hands, pitched our empties in the recycling (because caring about the environment is a part of the camping experience), and hiked out towards the bay. 

If you have not yet had the beautiful experience of meandering along a shaded trail towards the majestic ocean while bantering with good friends on a bright summer’s day, I hope you will find the time to do so very, very soon. We joked, we pointed out pretty clouds, we all hoped to see an otter (didn’t), and we all got slightly footsore.

Bay View from China Camp Park

Bay View from China Camp Park

Returning to camp, the sun was dipping below the tree line and it was time to get serious. We lit the fire, created a refreshing dinner of charred meats and corn, tuned the guitar, and pulled our next cans from the ice. As the darkness descended and the orange light flickered over our faces, we passed around a flask of sweet rye bourbon. The whisky had spent the day in the cooler and was just as lovingly iced as the beer. There is something unique about drinking from a flask. The metal tang on your tongue as a wisp of honeyed burning passes your lips, the camaraderie as you pass it round the fire, it makes the booze more magical, more pleasant, more… more. The night faded with the fire as we slept near the darkening embers and all was right with the world. 

Booze in the wild is a special thing. A thing to be appreciated and enjoyed. And, unlike in your day to day life, you don’t need as much as you might think. Wild booze is a delicious counterpart to the beautiful time you’re already having, it shouldn’t be the star attraction.

Recipe for Wild Camping Booze

  • One flask of sweet bourbon, irish whisky, or spiced rum
  • A few cans of light beer for yourself
  • A few cans of light beer to share with your friends
  • A cooler full of ice
  • A campfire and enough wood to fill it

Ice down the flask and beer well before your trip. Build up the fire, sit back, and sip slowly. Share with good friends.


Jeff Scattini is Booze League's Bay Area correspondent. He has been writing since he was a child, but back then they just called it lying. He lives, and drinks, in San Francisco with his wife and apartment-sized pets. Contact him at or on Twitter @jefreyscattini