How to Choose a Great Campsite

May 19, 2015
How to Choose a Great Campsite

Camping in the great outdoors is one of life’s great experiences. But unless you’re a seasoned veteran, the basics can be hard to remember, especially if you have never camped before or if you only manage to get out to the wilderness a handful of times a year. Picking the right campsite is crucial to enjoying your time away. After all, who wants to move once they’re all set up and ready to chill?

1. Flat

There is probably no better way to ruin a good night’s sleep than by spending the whole night rolling into one corner of your tent to end up with the luggage as your pillow.

Not only that, but if you’re campsite isn’t level your tent will end up way off kilter greatly reducing its structural stability and increasing the chances of it coming down around you in heavy wind or rain.

2. Water

You want to be both close to a water source and far enough away that it isn’t a danger to your site and your team. Having water nearby is great for washing (yourself/dishes) and for all the fun activities you plan on doing while you’re out there. As a general rule you should make sure your camp site is at least 60m away from nearby rivers, lakes or oceans. This ensures there is no chance that anything you bring into the site accidentally ends up floating away with the tide. If you are camping near a river, it is vital that you set up your site at a level higher than that of the river itself. If it rains heavily or there is a flash flood, you could be in big trouble.

3. Solid Ground

Although it’s much tricker to hammer those tent pegs into hard, dry ground, once you do, you can rest easy that your tent should be there to stay. Just make sure you bring some form of comfortable sleeping mattress or camping stretcher, otherwise you won’t be much fun to be around in the morning.

4. Bears

While Bears don’t necessarily inhabit every potential camping area in the world, if you pretend like they do, you’ll sleep easy at night. Wherever you are, there are sure to be 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, broken vegetation and big gouges on tree trunks. Don’t camp in long grass in Australia – it goes without saying that it's prime snake territory!

5. Shelter

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, and for it to be out of the prevailing wind. When you first arrive at a potential site, spend some time hanging out in the area for a while to see how it is effected by the wind, and work out which direction to face your tent accordingly.

6. Trees

Despite what we’ve just said about shade, trees are to be avoided for a number of reasons. Firstly, make sure there are not any damaged or falling trees near your site. You don’t want a new window in the side of your tent. Also make sure the ground itself is clear of fallen debris. If there are a lot of rotten branches in the area, there’s a good chance there will be more sometime in the near future. If you know the area well by all means use trees as shelter, but be warned, possums do go bump in the night.

7. Size

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.

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