Setting up your campsite correctly can be the difference between a great vacation and a miserable one. In addition to understanding how to put everything in the proper place, it is important to accomplish the necessary tasks in the correct order. For example, setting up your tent first provides shelter that allows you to stay warm and dry should the weather turn sour.
Location, Location, Location
Many popular trails and parks require you to camp in established locations; if you must select a spot from scratch, it is important to consider several characteristics before settling on a location. Find a location near a water source, but avoid camping near standing water in the summer or the mosquitoes will make you miserable. Whenever possible, opt for a campsite on high ground with good drainage to prevent heavy rain from flooding your campsite. Look for a spot with ample tree cover, under which you will place your tent, and places with no overhanging branches, where you will construct the fire circle.
Situate Your Shelter
Once you have decided on a location, set up your tent. Look up at the nearby trees and make sure they are alive and healthy – dead branches can fall at any time, causing serious injuries or death. (Reference 2) Clear the ground of rocks, sticks or other things that may puncture your tent or dig into your body while you are sleeping. Use a bushy stick to “sweep” a 10-foot-diameter circle clear of all dead leaves and debris, to reduce the number of bugs crawling on the ground outside your tent. Always stake the tent down, whether it is currently windy or not.
Sleeping Bag and Night Gear
Place your air mattress or ground pad on the tent floor, and place your sleeping bag on top. Unroll your sleeping bag completely, which gives it some time to fluff back up before use. Place any necessary nighttime items, such as a flashlight, sleeping clothes and books, near your sleeping bag so that you will not have to find them in the dark. If you plan to enter your tent after dark, consider activating a glow stick and hanging it in the tent about an hour before sunset, which will help you find your tent in the dark.
Building a Bathroom
Place your bathroom at least 200 feet away from your campsite and water source. Dig a 6- to 8-inch deep hole with your camp shovel and make a small dirt pile next to the hole. Throw in some of the dirt after each use and completely refill the latrine once you break camp. Do not bury toilet paper, as animals will dig it up – pack it out or burn it.
Campfire and Kitchen
Start collecting firewood as soon as you have set up your tent, sleeping quarters and bathroom. Use rocks to create a fire circle about 10 feet in diameter and sweep away all of the dead leaves and organic debris inside. Do not place your fire circle close to your tent to avoid saturating all of your belongings in smoke. Be sure to keep a container full of water near the circle for safety’s sake. If rain is a possibility, cover the firewood with a tarp to keep it dry.
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