Have you wanted to get into camping, but don’t really know where to start? It seems easy enough. Go out into the wilderness, set up a tent, and live there for a short period of time. Not super complicated, right?
Well, yes and no.
Camping might not be rocket science, but if you’ve never really done it before, there are some things that are important to know about. There are lots of different kinds of camping and varying levels of experience needed for each one to be comfortable and environmentally friendly.
Most of what you need to know when it comes to camping is how to set up your campsite. Here are some pointers for setting up the campsite in the best way possible.
Choosing The Site
Choosing your campsite is pretty critical, since it can be a huge pain to move all your stuff somewhere else if you decide you don’t like your site. You might be looking for different things depending on what kind of camping you are doing, so I have some tips split into car camping or backpacking.
When you go car camping, you are usually in a campground that has running water and bathroom facilities. You might think that a spot right next to the restrooms would be prime real estate and super convenient in the middle of the night when nature calls unexpectedly, however don’t make this mistake.
Of course, you do want to be close to the bathrooms, but try not to be too close. If you are right next to the bathrooms, you will have all the foot traffic of other campers who need to use the restroom in the middle of the night and all the early risers who use the showers before a line forms.
Setting up camp next to a lake or a river, if there is one, may seem like good idea too, but you might want to stay a little further back from this as well. One, for the same reason that you don’t want to be near the bathrooms, you might have to deal with crowds. For another reason, if you are by a body of water, you might have mosquito issues more than other areas.
When you are backpacking to a campsite, crowds are rarely a problem, so getting as close to a source of water is paramount. You won’t have the luxury of having plumbing but the next best thing is a good source of fast rushing water. You will always want to purify your water, but rushing water is much more pure already than water from a lake that is just sitting there with little movement.
Hiking is also different from car camping because you don’t have ready made clearings all the time that are perfectly flat and free of sharp rocks. So look for a clearing that has as little slope as possible. If you do have a slope, remember to have your head positioned at the top.
Tent Set Up
Once you have found your campsite, you are ready to set up your tent! You can survive in optimal weather conditions by just throwing up a pop tent anywhere, but there is a correct way to set up a tent.
One thing that many novice campers forget to bring on their camping trip is some kind of tarp to put under their tent. This serves a few purposes. First, it will serve as an additional layer of insulation from the cold ground. Second it will protect the tent from any potential tears from sharp rocks or pine cones. You should, of course, try to remove most of these before setting up your tent anyway.
You may also want to bring a rug to put on the floor of your tent interior to insulate even more and make the space more comfortable.
If you live anywhere where the weather can turn quickly on you, bringing an extra tarp to throw over the top of the tent for extra weatherproofing is always a good idea.
After you have your site cleared as much as possible, find the optimal place for your tent to be. You want it in the flattest area possible and not so close to your fire pit that it could get scorched by some fire embers.
Whether you are at a campground or a hiking campsite, you should always make sure that your food is stored securely and doesn’t attract wildlife. Even at a campground, you might have some bear visitors, so it is important to pick up after yourself and not leave food out in the open, especially near your tent.
Car camping can be more convenient as far as food goes because you can store it in your car without any problems.
If you are hiking, you don’t have the option of using a car space to store food. Though you may be tempted to store the food in your tent—never do this. Bears can smell the food and could potentially bother you, especially if they are very hungry or if they have had human food before.
Instead, invest in a bear bag and secure it up in a tree at least 200 feet away from camp. Bears might still be attracted to it, but they will be far enough away from you that they will probably not bother you.
Campgrounds typically have bathroom facilities, but if you are in a hiking campsite, you will need to figure this out on your own. Make sure that you are at least 200 feet away from camp where you decide to go to the bathroom. Also make sure that you are far away and uphill from your water source.
When setting up your fire, make sure that it is as safe as possible. Keep it a good distance away from surrounding wood—15 to 20 feet. Also as mentioned before, make it a bit of a distance from your tent so embers don’t burn it. Remember to always have a large cooking pot full of water for emergency extinguishers.
Though these tips are not complicated, they can be easy to skip if you haven’t ever thought of them before. Have you ever been in a situation where you learned these tips the hard way?