There is no air conditioning. The facilities are communal (if at all). There may be running water — nearby. Dinner is do-it-your-self, over a fire, caveman style. Oh, and there are bugs.

That’s a quick snapshot of camping, which may cause the non-campers among you to scratch your heads and wonder, “Why on Earth … ?”

Why? In part, because of those very reasons: the direct connection to the outside world, the basic elements of survival (shelter, food), the simplicity.

If you didn’t grow up in a camping environment — where mom and dad would load the crew into the Country Squire for a week of tent camping in the West — the fine points of the sport may elude you. When you’re young, the perceived inconveniences of living outdoors are easy to overlook, especially when you’ve got free reign to explore the woods, play in a creek, climb a mountain. A little dirt in your morning oatmeal? It’s part of the adventure.

On the surface, camping may seem like the last way you’d want to spend the weekend, let alone a week of precious vacation. Yet, when you hear your camping friends talk about their overnight escapes around the water cooler on Monday morning, you find yourself … intrigued.

So much about conquering the fear of the unknown is about making it no longer unknown. Here’s an overview of camping prep, in the hopes of making the unknown a little less so and prompting you to get out there.


All that camping equipment — Isn’t it expensive?
Camping is one of those rare sports that you can ease into without buying a lot of equipment, mainly because you can improvise with what you may already have. True, you will need a tent — shelter is key, and while you could string up the tarp you use to collect leaves, you’ll be happier with four “walls” to provide a modicum of privacy. Blankets and quilts can temporarily substitute for sleeping bags and pads, your older pots and pans work well for camp cooking, those plastic plates and “silver” you sprung for right out of school make for dandy placesettings. Odds are you have camp chairs on hand (for neighborhood potlucks) and a collection of other gear you didn’t realize was for camping.

No air conditioning!? How barbaric
Granted, you don’t want to camp at the coast or the Piedmont during the heat of summer, but head to the mountains above 3,000 feet or so and you’ll find evening temperatures in the low 60s and lower, and often a mountain breeze, making for ideal sleeping conditions. Plus, there’s no better bedtime lullaby than a nearby stream to lull you to sleep.
In the daytime? Even if it gets into the 80s, waterplay is likely high on your agenda.  Plus, your wardrobe will consist of a t-shirt, shorts and not much more.

I’ll starve in the woods

Quick story. Growing up, I wasn’t a picky eater, but one thing I couldn’t tolerate were Brussel sprouts; the smell alone made me swoony. Flash forward 30 years to a camping trip where my friend Greg was assembling skewers roast over an open fire, every third morsel of which was a Brussel sprout. I whined a little (old habits), then tried one. It remains to this day one of my Top Five Taste Sensations.
The point?
This ain’t the Donner expedition. The occasional speck of dirt and gnat carcass be danged, there are no limits to your outdoor culinary adventures.


I must have my morning coffee
And you shall, in a simple French press mug that makes coffee as good as any “barrista,” and that tastes even better from a camp chair as you contemplate the world waking around you.

I wouldn’t know where to go
North Carolina is graced with dozens of truly great campgrounds. So great, in fact, that at many you need a reservation weeks in advance. A prime example: Davidson River Campground near Brevard. It’s 144 sites are split among several loops and sheltered by mature forest. Davidson River (tubing, trout fishing) borders the campground on one side, the 31-mile Art Loeb Trail another. Sliding Rock is just up the road, as are hundreds of miles of trail in the Pisgah National Forest. And if you forget a vital piece of camping equipment there’s a full-service outfitter (The Hub) and a WalMart a mile from the campground.

What about my kids?
There’s a certain ‘50s sensibility that prevails at most campgrounds: kids get up early, grab a Pop Tart, then disappear, only to return when their tank is empty. Kids make friends in an instant at a campground, quickly forming BFF bonds that endure the entire stay. If you’re nervous, at least initially, about losing sight of your younguns, head to the Black Mountain Campground, where most of the campsites ring a meadow where Frisbees fly and hours-long kickball and volleyball games flourish.


What do I do when I’m there?
Perhaps the most popular campsite activity: nothing.
Not to be flip, but once you set up camp, your only obligation is eating. Between feedings, it’s remarkably easy to let a couple hours pass as you melt into a camp chair and swap tales with the neighbors, much like your grandparents once did on their front porch.
That’s one approach.
The other is to cram as much activity into your day as possible. Again, using the Davidson River Campground as an example, that might involve hiking the network of trails spidering throughout the Pisgah, mountain biking a select offering of those trails, fly fishing the Davidson River, getting an adrenaline rush on the natural slip-n-slide that is Sliding Rock, sightseeing Looking Glass Falls and the abundance of other waterfalls in the region, rock climbing, paddling, canyoneering … . You’ve got options.

With a camping escape you get all the adventure or all the relaxation you’ll get with a conventional, hotel-based escape — at a fraction the cost. In fact, with what you’ll save over a one-week hotel vacation, you’ll be able to completely outfit your own campsite.

A campsite that will offer economic escapes for years to come.

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