Kerr Lake SRA has over 100 camping sites like this one. Check the reservations website for details or call 252-438-7791 with questions. PHOTO BY LUIS J. SUAU
Luis J. Suau
Thinking about going camping? Think no more… Just go!
There are many ways to spend your weekends in North Carolina, but to me, nothing beats a well-planned camping trip.
Whether you are a first timer, novice or a seasoned camper, North Carolina and the Triangle area offers a variety of camping opportunities for all. Camping comes in all forms and settings, from primitive, camping with electricity, RV accommodations and cabin rentals; the Triangle offers plenty of opportunities for single, family or groups camping. If this is your first time, getting started on the right foot will increase the chances your experience is unforgettable for the right reasons.
For a first time camper, the idea of going camping with a group can set high expectations that the trip will be very exciting. The assurance that experienced campers will be in the group might eliminate most of the new camper’s concerns. For an individual planning to go camping for the first time by himself or with his family, the concerns about the experience can be greatly increased. So, to assist those who are contemplating, but worried, about adventuring into a camping experience, worry no more!
The key to a successful camping experience is preparation. While many factors (like weather) can have a negative impact on the camping experience, a good plan of action will insure a positive experience.
Here are the basic things you will need to consider before going camping: In my experience, the first thing I decide on is when (time of year) will the camping happen? First time campers should select a date not too warm or cold for their first experience. My ideal months to go are from late February to mid-May and from late September to early December.
Second, the location: campgrounds in the Triangle are always in high demand and all require reservations online or by phone.
You need to do a bit of a research on what type of area you are looking for (lakefront, woods, mountains, etc.), check park websites, find availability and reserve a spot as soon as possible. Avoid holiday weekends unless you like big crowds.
Around the Triangle, there are many public and private recreational areas that provide excellent camping opportunities. Here are some nearby public options:
NC State Fairgrounds Campground, Raleigh Eno River State Park, Durham
William Umstead State Park, Raleigh
Raven Rock State Park, Lillington
Falls Lake State Rec Area, Durham/Wake Forest
Jordan Lake State Rec Area, Apex/New Hill Kerr Lake State Rec Area, Henderson
Most of the camping sites are very close to restrooms and parking lots with a few exceptions like those who want a more secluded primitive type of camping and most allow pets.
The final thing to plan for is equipment. While most first-timers tend to over pack, there is no harm in being extra prepared. However, there are a few items that are a must when it comes to camping: Tent, rent or borrow one (if you are buying, read the reviews and keep in mind they are a bit smaller than their occupancy rate. I have a 5-person tent and it is just right for 3), tarp (for under and above the tent), hammer, stakes, trash bags, sleeping bags, air mattresses, skive, rope, flashlights and lanterns, insect repellent, extra blankets, chairs, firewood, charcoal or stoves (most areas have grills to cook), aluminum foil, extra clothing, shovel and a first aid kit. Also, depending of your stay and group size, you must bring food and water accordingly.
Finally have a set of activities prepared to enjoy your time in the great outdoors. Activities like fishing, photography, hiking, sightseeing, star gazing are popular. So the only thing you need to ask yourself is: What I am waiting for?
Editor’s Note: Suau lives in Durham, is an associate professor and Recreation Management Program Coordinator at Shaw University. He has a Masters in Forestry and a Ph.D. in Natural Resource Recreation and is passionate about his family, camping, fishing and wildlife photography.