When most of us think of setting up a campsite, we think of getting back to a simpler time when life was anything but complicated. The truth is, however, that setting up a campsite correctly is anything but simple. While camping may be a reprieve from the fast pace and technology overload of everyday life, there are a number of other potential aggravations you could face, such as flooding, fire, cold, bugs, and rashes, not to mention critters both big and small. How you set up your campsite will have a big impact on the quality of your trip, the environment you’re out there trying to enjoy, and possibly even your safety. Proper planning and a bit of common sense will make your camping trip the relaxing getaway you hoped it would be rather than a series of frustrating mistakes. Here are some tips and tricks for how to set up a campsite.
To start with, choose a location for your camp that’s fairly level and fairly close to a water supply. About 300 feet from water (preferably running water, because still water attracts bugs) is a good distance. Also, choose a site that’s at a medium elevation. High up on a hill will expose you to winds and lightning; way down in a valley increases the risk your campsite will flood should it rain. Check this area and any other area you set up for poison ivy.
Choose a nice level part of the site that’s free of vegetation and fairly packed down to pitch your tent. Not only do bugs tend to live in vegetation, but your tent will negatively affect the environment, possibly killing off the vegetation by smothering it. Clear the area of any rocks, twigs, or other debris that could puncture the tent floor or make sleeping uncomfortable, then lay down a tarp for additional waterproofing. If the spot isn’t perfectly level, set up your sleeping area so your head is on the higher side. If possible, locate your tent in a spot where the sun will hit it in the morning, giving a chance for any dew to dry off and also waking you up. If conditions are windy, look for a sheltered spot.
Next, you’ll want to set up your cooking site. Set up the fire now so it’s ready to light when you get hungry or it starts getting dark. Locate it at least 200 feet from your sleeping area and downwind of prevailing winds to prevent embers from damaging your tent or worse. Gather and stack any additional firewood close by. If it looks like rain, cover it with a tarp.
Food left around a campsite is a magnet for wildlife, so it’s important to handle it responsibly. Keep your food in bags hung at least 12 feet off the ground and at least 200 feet from your sleeping area. Use a rope slung over a tree branch so you can lower and raise the bags easily. Do not keep food in the tent with you.
About 200 feet from the campsite, find a poison ivy-free spot that’s fairly private and dig a hole about a foot deep. Place toilet paper close by in a zip-lock bag to protect it from the elements. Upon leaving, fill in the hole and cover with rocks so other campers won’t accidentally dig it up.