With the Los Padres National Forest to the east and Channel Islands National Park just a handful of miles of offshore, Santa Barbara has no shortage of camping and backpacking options, from inland retreats like Red Rocks to oceanfront hangouts like Carpinteria Beach. Add to this a smattering of state parks and private campgrounds throughout the nearby Gaviota Coast region, including Gaviota State Park, and the hardest part of about sleeping outside in Santa Barbara becomes picking where to do it.
That being said, it is also important to remember that the Santa Barbara area is a mecca for tourists in the summer months, so reservations become a must for would-be campers. Remote and home to some of the most famous hamburgers in the state, Jalama County Park along the north coast of Santa Barbara always has a few first-come, first-served spots each morning, even during the high season, and the Paradise Road entrance to the Los Padres National Forest also has been known to have a few open sites when all else fails.
Campgrounds: http://www.fs.usda.gov/lpnf/www.parks.ca.govOcean Mesa
Retailers: Mountain Air SportsREI