Setting Up Camp

The Right Spot

Setting up camp is just as important as the time you took to plan your trip in the first place.  Most of your camping trips will probably be return visits to a favorite campsite and each time you already know what you have to do to improve your stay.

However, if you are picking a campsite after a day of hiking through a forest or trail, you are about to sleep in uncharted territory, and a little time spent investigating your surroundings can go a long way.  Please print out and read our Choosing Your Campsite page to determine the best location for your campsite.

Campsite Layout

Now that you know where you will stay, just follow these simple tips to determine how your site is set up.

Remote Campsite

First, if there is a noticeable breeze in one direction most of the time, you will want to place your tent as far upwind as possible.  Next, locate your fire pit at least 10 feet away from the tent and downwind.  Finally, the location of the latrine should be downwind and as far away as possible, and I don't think I need to state the reason for this one!

Setting Up Camp

Once you have selected the right campsite, the first thing you should do is go on a treasure hunt.  If you don't have a small rake, find a fallen tree branch with plenty of small twigs that can act as a rake.

Setting up Tent

Your first job will be to rake or brush the entire area you have chosen for your tent.  Look for any rocks, hidden roots, or small holes previously unnoticed.  If there are rocks or roots, you may find yourself sleeping on one of these the hard way unless you get rid of it first.

Fill any small holes that can be filled in easily, before you lay down your tarp.  Pay special attention however, if there is a small trench or washed out area, this indicates a water flow problem you don't want to encounter during a rain.  Move your campsite selection somewhere else if you find one of these unless you can reroute the water away from your tent.

Keeping out unwanted visitors

Before laying down a tarp or setting up your vinyl floored tent for a proper campsite, you might want to put down a little insurance.  Ants and other type of bugs can get into most anything through the smallest of holes.  Here is a quick and environmentally friendly way to keep these visitors out.


Using a mixture of 1/2 ant bait (Amdro) or other similar bait with 1/2 of garden safe Sevin Dust powder.  We use a large plastic spice container to spread down a thin barrier around where the outline of the tarp will be and then lightly cover the inside area inside the barrier.

It is just enough for ants and other insects to avoid the area, but won't harm animals if they ingest the mixture.  Most of the mixture will dissipaite into the ground naturally overnight, and all traces will be gone after a light rain.  Setting up camp is a lot more than just raising the tent.

Keeping dry

The best camping trip is a dry and comfortable one.  This comes from the tent being properly setup.  If the floor of the tent is not made of a heavy duty vinyl plastic mesh, you will need to purchase and use a plastic tarp.  The key to staying dry comes first by having a good vapor barrier at your feet.  After preparing the area (see above), lay out the tarp over the area.

The tarp size should be slightly larger than the footprint of the tent.  Fold up all four sides so there is no chance of rain from falling on the tarp and collecting on it.  Folding just enough so the tarp is completely under the tent.  At this point, find some small twigs about 4 inches long and place them under the folded sides of the tarp.  This ensures that water will pass under the tarp, not on top of it.

Setting up camp includes the proper tent setup.  Most larger tents have a "rain fly" that is more impervious to the elements than the fabric of the tent walls or floor.  Small domed tents may or may not have a rain fly.  In either case, you will need to purchase at least a couple of cans of "Scotch Guard" that will be enough to spray the entire exterior surfaces (including floor) twice.

If you have a rain fly, coat both sides to make sure it is completely covered.  This simple yearly maintenance will ensure a safe, dry and comfortable trip every time.

Setting Up Camp gives you just the basics but may not answer all questions you have. Email us using the Contact Us page if you have a question.

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