Camping is one of life’s great experiences. But you do need to ensure you’ve got the basics down before you head off into the wilderness. Choosing the right campsite can be crucial to enjoying your time away. After all, waking up in the dark with a soggy sleeping bag is no one’s idea of a good time.
1. Flat Base
There's probably no better way to ruin a good night’s sleep than by spending the whole night rolling into one corner of your tent. Not only that, if your campsite isn’t level your tent will end up off kilter – greatly reducing its structural stability and increasing the chances of it coming down around you in strong winds or heavy rain – so choose a good flat area to pitch your tent
Also, make sure the ground itself is clear of debris like sticks rocks and seeds. Not only will these make for an uncomfortable night’s sleep, they can put holes in the floor of your tent.
Having water nearby is great for washing (yourself/dishes) and for all the fun activities you plan on doing while you’re camping. But you want to make sure it’s far enough away that it isn’t a danger to your campsite.
As a general rule, you should make sure your campsite is at least 60m away from nearby rivers, lakes or oceans. This ensures there is no chance that anything you bring in to the site accidentally ends up floating away with the tide.
If you're camping near a river, it is vital that you set up your site at a level higher than the river itself – if it rains heavily or there’s a flash flood, you could be in big trouble.
3. High, Solid Ground
Although it’s more difficult to hammer those tent pegs into hard, dry ground, once it's done you can rest easy in the knowledge your tent is there to stay.
When you’re knocking the pegs in, make sure they are slightly angled towards the tent. This way, they’re much less likely to be pulled up by the wind and you’re a lot less likely to put the back of a claw hammer through the side of your tent as you take them out.
Find high ground if you can. Try to imagine where the water will collect if there’s a downpour and avoid those areas. A gully might seem like a tranquil and protected spot on a sunny day, but it’s another story when the rain sets in.
Wherever you are camping, there are sure to be some wild animals in the area (even New Zealand has wild boar and possums), so it’s best to make sure there aren’t any obvious signs that animals use the area often. Look out for tracks, droppings, broken vegetation and big gouges on tree trunks. Don’t camp in long grass in Australia – it's prime snake territory!
Ideally, you want your campsite to be as sheltered as possible from all the elements. It’s important to have a good natural source of shade (especially in the mornings) and to be out of the prevailing wind.
When you first arrive at a potential site, spend some time hanging out in the area. See how it is affected by the wind, and use this information to work out which direction to face your tent.
Despite what we’ve just said about shade, it’s not a great idea to camp directly under large trees.
Scan the area to make sure there aren’t any trees with dead or damaged branches near your site – you don’t want a new window in the side of your tent. If there are a lot of rotten branches on the ground, there’s a good chance there will be more coming from above in the near future.
The size of your tent will naturally dictate the size of your campsite. However, it’s also important to think about the space around the tent and how you intend to use it.
It’s a good idea to create a separate area designated as your campsite kitchen so that if anything goes wrong, your whole trip doesn’t end up in smoke.
Setting up an extra covered area as your outdoor living room will help keep muddy feet away from your tent and give you optional shelter if it rains. Tarps are perfect for this.