Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Into the Woods: A Local Guide to Tent Camping

Think camping might be fun, but not really sure where to begin? When I posted a guide to gearing up for a day outing, a number of folks told me they'd find an overnight packing list handy, too.

As our family prepares to embark on a handful of camping trips over the next few weeks, packing is top of mind for me. It's been a good excuse to dust off my lists and spend some time putting together a comprehensive guide to the basic necessities (as well as some nice-to-have accessories) for tent camping excursions.


Here's what I came up with. Of course, this checklist can (and should) be personalized according to your needs and preferences, but I think it's a solid place to start for both novices and seasoned-but-it's-been-a-while campers alike. 


If you're just dipping your toes into the experience, renting gear (REI is a good place to start) or borrowing it from a friend might be the way to go. Or, I commend to you Goat Gear XCHG (824 Lamar Ave, Charlotte, NC 28204), an outdoor gear consignment shop where you can get the basics for a fraction of new purchase costs (bonus: upcycling helps save money and the planet!)

Another tip: We pack everything — from food to clothes — in stackable, clear plastic containers. Makes it easy to keep things organized, clean and dry. I also recommend taking a large cloth or mesh drawstring bag for storing dirty laundry (Walmart has a great selection) throughout the trip. 


Now, where to camp. If you'd feel more comfortable sticking close to home, McDowell Nature Preserve (15222 York Rd., Charlotte, NC, 28278), a Mecklenburg County park about 30 minutes southwest of uptown Charlotte, might be just the right destination for you. 

A little farther out, we like Lake Norman State Park (759 State Park Rd., Troutman, NC, 28166), about 45 minutes north of town, and Cane Creek Park (5213 Harkey Rd., Waxhaw, NC, 28173), an hour or so south.

Our favorite excursions take us to Western North Carolina. High on our list of favorites are:
If the coast is more your thing, you might enjoy:
You can find lots of other wonderful options at North Carolina State Parks and


While some campgrounds offer first come/first-serve sites, it's generally best to secure a reservation. As we emerge from the pandemic, this can be challenging, but not impossible! 

I recommend spending some time familiarizing yourself with the campground map before you search for dates and sites. On loops, we find that the outside sites tend to be preferable to inside (more privacy) and, while it's nice to have the restroom nearby, a site adjacent to the bathhouse can be high-traffic. Think about what you want out of a space before you decide when and where to go.

Happy campers
As with day outings, getting started can be the biggest hurdle. Planning, preparation and packing takes time and energy. But I always find it's well worth the effort. A night or two in the woods with very few distractions can do wonders for your mental and physical health -- a restorative boost that can last well after you've returned to modern living. 

If you've been considering a wilderness getaway, consider this an invitation to give it a try. Got questions? Message me; I'd love to help. 

Happy camping! 

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