Shelter on the Napali Coast

Summer

A tent or tarp is not needed in the summertime. The shooting stars alone are worth it. However, a tent can be handy for a little privacy or if you intend on camping under the trees which may be full of mosquitoes depending on recent rainfall. Kalalau is on the dry side of Kauai, so the beach in front of the campground is ideal for spending the night. Now I'm not saying I never had to make a wild soggy dash for cover in the middle of the night, but night rains in summer are typically light.

The Wet Caves
Around the corner from the waterfall, the Wet Caves offer a dry place to sleep, however you can expect neighbors most of the summer. Make sure you pick your sleeping spot during daylight to avoid the numerous drips which will keep you up all night. The wet caves are a favorite of the kayak crowd, so consequently in the summer these caves are party central.

Puff's Cave
The middle cave usually has a lake in it and is known as Puff's Cave... from the Peter, Paul & Mary song. The cave goes back about 60 yards or so depending on how much sand has built up. There are two interesting features about this cave. Because of the unique topography of the cliffs, the strong trade-winds create a mound of swirling sand, erasing any footprints within seconds. The other neat feature is a small side lava tube that cuts back towards the waterfall for 60 to 70 yards. This tube is only 8 to 12 feet in diameter and has a tiny beach at the end. (bring a flashlight)

If you have no tent and it's raining and you want some quiet or privacy, there are a couple of dry caves against the cliffs, in back of the campground... but watch out for falling rocks and centipedes. In the winter, the wet caves are under water.

Winter

In winter, a tent AND a tarp are highly recommended. The rain flys that come with tents either do not work well in tropical storms, or they limit air flow so they become hot and stuffy. A 12'x12' tarp works great and gives you a little more spacious dry area for a fireplace and just hanging out during a rainstorm. With a tent and tarp you have the ability to camp pretty much anywhere. If you want to go even lighter, you can replace the tent with a mosquito net, you will have the same deal a couple of pounds lighter in trade for a little less privacy.

Jungle Hammock

I am a minimalist. With regards to camping, I don't like to carry a lot of weight while hiking and don't like to deal with a lot of stuff around the campsite. With that in mind, my personal recomendation for a single person camping on the Na Pali is to get a jungle hammock.

I have used Hennessy Hammock's EXPLORER ULTRALITE A-SYM CLASSIC and heartily recommend it. The asymetrical design is key to allowing your back to keep a healthy curvature, avoiding the back stress of regular hammocks. With no-see-um screening and an integral tarp, all you really need is 2 trees about 10 to 15 feet apart.

This hammock comes in at only 2lb 9oz (1100g) and costs $219.95. For those under 6 feet tall and 200lbs, they have a really light model for $229.95, the HYPERLITE BACKPACKER A-SYM which only weighs 1lb 10oz (730g)!  These hammocks can be set up in 5 or 10 minutes and taken down in just a couple.

The one downside, during the cool winter months in particular, is that you may become cold because your backside is swinging in the air instead of being insulated on the ground. In the summer, however, this can be a major plus. In winter months, I usually bring a light sleeping bag (2.2lbs rated @ 45F). when rolled up it's about as big as a small loaf of bread.