Explore SC: If You’re Not a Happy Camper, It’s Time to Take a Hike!

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The weather is cooling (at least in early mornings) and the leaves are beginning to change colors and fall. Autumn is upon us and if you’re anything like me, she blows in an air of hopefulness in what has otherwise felt like a stifling, hot tube-sock of season.

If you have been feeling a bit campy, this is the perfect time and season to disconnect from the stress and static of the world. Escape to a quiet and peaceful place to get away from it all, perhaps, a secluded enough place to scream at the top of your lungs, “what’s going on!?”

Let Mother Nature Be Your Therapist 

There is so much joy and comfort sitting by a warm campfire, roasting gooey, marsh-mellows to perfection. Imagine no electronics? Isn’t hard to do. Nothing to yell or fight for. And no cellphones, too. Imagine sitting by loved ones underneath a dark starry sky, while listening to the beautiful soundtrack of a crackling fire, crickets, birds, cicadas.

Take to the mountains and enjoy some camping, the original social distancing activity.

Tis the season with the least flesh biting bugs. Take advantage of the cooler weather and our beautiful state. We picked up a free South Carolina State Parks official guide book and paid for a park passport (free entry to the parks) while visiting Charlestowne Landing.

*Kid Bonus: The kids can play park ranger and get their guide book stamped at each park they visit, which is a cool hobby and game for them. Nature is the best classroom.

Choose Your Adventure

If you are a virgin camper, I recommend starting out with a state park, where you are guaranteed all the basic amenities. You can start by looking at the map in the South Carolina State Parks book and seeing how far you wish to drive, as well as what environment you would prefer. There are over 3,000 campsites and 47 State Parks to choose from. Standard campsites offer water hookups and electrical for RV and tent camping. Campsites range from boat-in camping, trailside camping, primitive sites, cabins, and good ole’ fashion car camping (park, unload a bunch of stuff, set-up, and campout).

The Parks website is pretty user friendly. You book online or can call for assistance. On the website, you can also see what parks have WiFi, if that is essential on your trip.

The Mountains are calling and I must go!

If you are jonesing for some mountains, go upstate to Jones Gap State Park or Table Rock State Park. For more of a beach experience along the coast, Edisto Beach State Park, Huntington Beach State Park, and Hunting Island State Park are great.

I’m a little on the obsessive side and like to research and inquire about the best campsite locations at each park before booking. You can look at maps, if possible, call the park and speak to someone directly, or read other campers’ reviews.

From my experience, campsites are spaced out enough for privacy. If you do get a doozy of a site, you are still going to reap the benefits at night of sleeping outdoors and stargazing. Unless your kids can sit still for hours on ends watching ants, during the day, you will be out and about, hiking on-premise or at nearby parks, swimming, sight-seeing, etc.

Virgin Camper or Yogi Bearscout? 

If you are new to camping, find a campsite where you are guaranteed basic accommodations such as water, electricity, and accessible bathrooms and showers. There are also privately owned campsites and cabins you could reserve on people’s private properties via hipcamp.

We tried this style of camping and had a great time lounging by the river at Natural Gathering Grounds in Ridgeville. It had a warm, hippie feel and the owners were super welcoming, offering golf-cart rides to the river (a short walk away) and allowing the camper kids and parents to feed their goats. The Grounds is also close to Givhans Ferry State Park.

Confident Camper

If you are more seasoned, you can explore camping in the National Parks and National Forests, which tend to be a bit more primitive. Think, outhouse toilet, squat-toilet, or no toilet and no running-water, (BYO everything). We did this once before having a kid. We haven’t tried Congaree yet, but plan to sometime.

It’s hard work, but so rewarding! 

Camping is a lot of work with setup, take-down, cooking, and cleaning. It’s also so much more challenging with small kids and all their stuff! Therefore, come prepared to stay awhile to enjoy. I recommend a minimum of at least two nights. Also, camping with your favorite quarantine family friends is another fun way to share some of the cleaning and childcare tasks.

For me, camping is not nearly as relaxing as it was before my son, but it is so worth seeing him come to life in the great outdoors. The dangers of the city are far away, as long as he’s not deliriously stumbling around the fire or near poison ivy, he’s safe to roam a bit (and I’m also more at ease).

Camping is a considerably less expensive vacation option, which is more reason to be a happy camper.

Camping Checklist: Essentials For All

Bugs are no joke and can make or break a trip. Bug spray is a must! A good non-chemical option is Avon Skin So Soft, which I spray on along with whatever herbal, non-deet spray my son has. I like Babyganics. If you’re into supporting local women-owned businesses, I’ve been enjoying Charleston’s very own, Bug Free Forever bug sprays.

Other obvious must-haves:

  • Sunscreen
  • Basic first-aid kit
  • Extra toilet paper
  • Wipes
  • Hand sanitizer
  • S’mores, duh!

Camping Gear:

  • TentWe have a Coleman tent for us and opted to get our son his own tent, to keep his sleep schedule as consistent as possible. We got one big enough to fit his Pack-N-Play. But now he just uses his own sleeping bag. If two tents sound excessive for a small family, get a big family size tent and cozy on up together!
  • Sleeping bagsYou can definitely get one well under $100. Just make sure it will be warm enough (in South Carolina that will not be a problem). And a Thermarest (or blowup mattress underneath the sleeping bag will be much more comfortable, trust me!)
  • Pillows
  • Lantern (and mantles and fuel/batteries if needed)
  • Flashlights (extra batteries)
  • Camp Chairs
  • Cooler – If bringing perishable food
  • Firewood (come prepared for at least one night’s worth of wood. Usually the parks sell it onsite, but good to have, in case).
  • Newspaper for fire (and reading)
  • Matches, lighter

Eating/cooking-ware:

  • Plastic/glass plates, bowls, utensils, cups, pots/pans
  • Bring a sponge and dish soap for washing plates and eating utensils (use a large plastic bowl or bin for washing) Don’t be that person that brings paper products!
  • Picnic table -Confirm if the campsite will have a table). Most all do, if not, you might want a foldable camp table.
  • Small broom with dustpan
  • Paper towels, rags, dish towel
  • Garbage bags (pack it in and pack it out, leaving no trace).
  • Water bottles (can be refilled)
  • Tarp (for underneath tent and around the campsite, so you are not tracking in too much dirt). This can also be used as a source of shade if you rig it with a rope around nearby trees.
  • Axe, hatchet, or pocket knife for cutting up kindle

Here’s an even more in-depth camping checklist if you want to check it out!

Clothing:

Think layers. Quick-dry wear, fleece, moisture-wicking, warm socks. Sneakers or boots for warmth at night.

Camping Activities:

  • Plan hikes, activities, and things to sight-see nearby (It’s good to have activities mid-morning and afternoon to beat the heat). Bring a hiking backpack, if you have a toddler.
  • Ball
  • Frisbee
  • Cards
  • Shovel, bucket, and bug jar.
  • Camping scavenger hunts
  • Nature bingo
  • Star constellation searching

Check out this great list for even more camping activities!

Your kids will thank you. The best memories are made camping, truly!

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Jill Lederman is licensed clinical social worker in South Carolina, meditation teacher, and freelance writer from New York City. She and her husband moved to Charleston three years ago with their cat for a better quality of life—and living it. Jill currently works as a social work case manager. She is also a certified Koru Mindfulness instructor and teaches meditation classes and workshops throughout Charleston. As a former journalist, she has published articles in Edible Charleston, New York Magazine, Time Out New York and various Scholastic News publications, among others. Jill is two years into mama-hood with a fiery toddler, who keeps her on her toes. Jill garners inspiration from the life stories of her resilient clients. Like them, this personal journey into parenthood has encouraged her to share her own experience; one of joy, sorrow, frustration, and empowerment. As a Mlogger, Jill would like think she is putting her practice to the test, which she hopes many can relate to.