5 Tips for Primitive Camping on the Crystal Coast

Go Camping the primitive way on the Crystal Coast of NC

It’s camping season here on the Crystal Coast! The weather is warm enough to be comfortable and not too hot to melt the ice in your cooler as soon as you walk out the door! We just love getting outside around this time of year, especially when it means camping at some of our favorite campsites! You can check out our previous post about the great places that you can camp along the Crystal Coast on our blog

Camping on the Cape Lookout National Seashore and on Bear Island at Hammocks Beach State Park are a little different from camping somewhere with cabins or at an RV Park. These campgrounds are known as "primitive campgrounds.” 

Primitive camping generally means a few things: 1) you have to hike in a little ways to find a good spot, 2) there won’t be running water, 3) no electricity, 4) no restrooms. These can be a lot of fun for a family adventure, but it does require a little planning, so here are our 5 tips for primitive camping this spring! 

1.Know the RulesKnow the Rules

Make sure that you are aware of the rules of the campsite you will be visiting. Each site has different requirements about where and when you can camp, and what you are allowed to do at each place. 
Knowing the rules of certain campsites is important in protecting the environment of the campground, keeping you safe, and ensuring that the campsite is kept pristine for all future visitors. You can look up the requirements for each campsite on their websites. Check out the Cape Lookout National Seashore website, and Hammocks Beach State Park website for more information on the rules for primitive camping at these sites. 

2.Pack the Right EquipmentPack the Right Equipment

Because primitive camping means that you will be on your own for a lot of things, you’ll want to make sure you plan for a few essentials. Make sure you bring plenty of fresh drinking water. One of the best ways that you can do this is by carrying jugs of water that you can buy for only a couple bucks at any local convenience or grocery store. Make sure you also pack any cooking equipment and food supplies that you will need. This may include things like bowls, utensils, pots and pans, a can opener, a kettle, cooking oil, ice, any food that you will be cooking (keep in plastic bags to prevent sand from getting inside), and plastic bags for garbage. 

You’ll also be on your own for toiletries as well, but never fear! It’s really not as bad as you would think, so don’t let the idea deter you! Just make sure that you find a secluded place far enough away from camp and pack some toiletries and soap with you. 

Beach camping is so much fun, but can be pretty different from forest camping. One thing you’ll need to make sure and remember is that you will be on the sand and the beach is generally windy. Because of this, the rules for setting up camp change! You’ll need to make sure to pack extra-long stakes (and a hammer!)  for your tent to ensure that it will not blow away. You will also want to bring something such as a brush or small broom to sweep the sand out of your tent. No one wants to have their stuff covered in sand! A tent that has a dome shape is ideal for beach camping because the wind rolls right off the top! 

Luckily, sand is more comfortable to sleep on than the forest floor covered in twigs and leaves, so you probably won’t have to bring an air mattress or mat, but don’t forget those sleeping bags!
Some other things you’ll want to consider are: a tarp to set up for some shade outside of the tent, sunscreen, bucket and shovel, lamps, batteries, flashlights, towels, chairs, a camera, sand toys, and first aid kit. You may need to bring your own firewood if your campsite allows a fire, and don’t forget the matches! 

3.Pack the Right ClothesFamily Camping Fun

As much as we’d like to believe that camping on the beach means that we can just wear our bathing suits the whole time and soak up some rays—this isn’t always the case. Because you’ll be out all day and night for your camping excursion, you’ll want to bring something other than just your bathing suit (though, you don’t want to forget that either!). 

Packing a T-shirt and pants is a good idea for when you are out of the water so that you can give your skin a break from those UV rays. Sunscreen is essential, but when you’re out all day, it’s important to protect your skin. Lightweight clothes and a hat will get you through the warm sunlight, but also keep you protected. 

You’ll also want to be sure to bring some comfy clothes to sleep in! Keep in mind that though the air is gorgeous and warm during the day, it does cool off to a comfortable temperature at night. Check the weather before you go, and pack your sleeping clothes appropriately. 

Bringing a pair of flip flops is a must, but you may also want to consider some comfy tennis shoes as well if you plan on going for a long beach hike. If you plan on kayaking or other water sports, you may also want to grab some water shoes to keep you safe and comfortable. 

Again, you’ll want to check the weather before you go, but if a light shower is in the forecast, don’t forget to bring a raincoat or poncho. 

4.Pick the Best SpotPick the Best Spot

After you have gathered all your information, all your gear, and all your kids, it’s finally time to head over to the beach! Now it’s time to set up camp, but where to go? 

There are a lot of great options for campsites at Cape Lookout and Hammocks Beach. After you are aware of the rules (see above) for each site, it’s even easier. You’ll want to set up your tent far enough away from the water so that you aren’t getting washed away with the tide, but you won’t want your tent up in the dunes either. Set up camp just above the high tide line and you should be good to go. Clear away any beach detritus or shells to make sure that you have a comfortable place to sleep at night. 

Keep in mind that you’ll want somewhere that can provide a little bit of privacy as well. You will be primitive camping after all and when you "gotta go”…well, you "gotta go” and you want to make sure you have a good spot. 

You may even choose to take a hike down the beach to find your perfect spot. This can be a really fun adventure in itself, but regardless of where you end up along the beach—nothing beats our sunrises and sunsets, so make sure you get a good view! It’s definitely worth it! 

5.Have Fun!Have Fun!

The most important tip that we can give for your primitive camping adventure is that you have fun! This adventure along the Crystal Coast is sure to be an amazing one for the whole family, so don’t miss a moment! 

Watch the sunrise, go shelling, build a sandcastle, wade in the warm water, soak up some rays, play games, tell stories, and create fond memories. This is a vacation you won’t soon forget, and when it’s all over you can pack up your gear, and return to your Emerald Isle vacation rental to look through all your photos! 

We hope that these tips help get you ready for your camping trip this spring! Being outside is one of the best ways to spend spring here on the Crystal Coast, so don’t miss a moment!

If you want to be sure to remember all this info for later, why not pin it now? 

Check out all the tricks and Tips for Primitive Beach Camping on the Crystal Coast!

Share with us: Have you ever been primitive beach camping? What are some of your best tips? 

Comment on this post!