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January 30, 2009

The Beginners Guide to Setting Up a Campsite

Filed under: Camping — Tags: , , — writer @ 8:34 am

Tent Camping
Photo by: K Rayker (Stock Exchange)

Once upon a time the most important advice a camper could adhere to was don’t pitch your tent facing into the wind, and dig a trench to avoid flooding. While it is still a good idea not to pitch your tent into the wind, digging holes or trenches could get you thrown out of some campgrounds today. So what can you do to ensure a safe and comfortable campsite?

Choosing a Spot to Set Up Your Tent

1.  Make sure you arrive at the site before dark. You want to be able to check the area before you set up your tent.
2.  Look for a flat area that is not at the bottom of a slope. What’s wrong with a slope? If it rains the water may run down the slope and flood your tent.
3.  Avoid setting up to close to a stream or river, or even a lake if there is a chance of flash flooding.
4.  Look for animal tracks. A large number of wild animal tracks in one area probably mean the animals use it frequently as a pathway. You don’t want any critters traipsing through your tent in the middle of the night.
5.  Look for broken glass and trash as well as rocks and sharp branches. Unfortunately not all campers clean up after themselves.
6.  Check for anthills and wasps nests.
7.  Try to find a spot that is in the shade, but not directly under a tree.
Setting Up Your Tent
  1. Lay down a tarp or plastic sheeting where you will be setting up your tent. This will help keep the floor of the tent dry if it rains. Turn the edges of the tarp or plastic under, and don’t let it extend further then the edge of the bottom of the tent.
  2. Set up the tent so that the door faces South or South East. This way wind and rain won’t blow in if there is bad weather.
  3. Start by stacking the corners of the tent first, then set up the poles.
  4. Put sleeping bags and personal gear into the tent. Be sure to avoid putting anything up against the walls of the tent since moisture often condenses on tent walls.

Setting Up the Cooking Area

  1. If you are in an area that allows it, gather dead wood for the campfire. Make sure you check ahead of time to see if this allowed at your campground. If it is not, be sure to bring an adequate supply of firewood and a hatchet with you. Stack the wood near the fire pit, but not where it will be tripped over in the dark.
  2. Most campsites have picnic tables. Position the table so that it is not in line with the smoke from the campfire.
  3. Place coolers and food items near the cooking area. Try to keep them in the shade. Add fresh ice every couple of days to keep food from spoiling. Unless you have animal proof containers you might want to store them in your vehicle overnight. This may seem like a real pain, but so is having to drive to the nearest store after a skunk or raccoon has raided your supplies.
  4. Place a bucket or jug of water near the campfire in case of emergency.
  5. Have a garbage bag nearby for use during the day. Remember to dispose of it before going to sleep, or at least put in your vehicle to avoid attracting wild animals.
  6. Set up a lantern near the table so it is ready when you need it. If you have children a battery operated lantern is probably a better option than one that runs on fuel.
  7. Arrange some type of seating around the campfire area, but not to close. There are some great folding camping chairs available, some even have shades and cup holders. Just because your roughing it doesn’t mean you have to be uncomfortable.
  8. If it is allowed-set up a cloths line between two trees. I stress the if it is allowed. Some State Parks frown upon this incase it damages the trees. Make sure you check first. Always read the rules of the campground to avoid being asked to leave.

This may seem like a lot of work, but if everyone pitches in it will go quickly and doing it all in the beginning will give you more time to relax later.

By Sandra M. Webster

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