Camp set-up can be crazy! It’s not just a matter of getting your tent up and in order, there is the camp kitchen to be put up, the fire to be made, and all sorts of other things that need to be tended to. But once it’s all done, it is more than worth the effort it took. Below are some guidelines for setting up camp to make it easier and quicker for all concerned.
Arriving at the site.
Make sure that your vehicle is parked in a way that enables you to unload your camping gear easily. Get it as close to the place your camping gear is going to be set up. You can always move the car further away later. If your site is just off of a service road or logging road, park your vehicle beside the trail leading to your personal site; this will inform other campers looking for camping sites that yours is taken. Keep it off the road as far as possible.
The first thing you should do (unless it is raining) is unload your gear. Tent gear should be taken to the spot where your tent is going. Food and kitchen gear goes to the area you will be setting up your cook shack or food area. Finally, any fire starting equipment should be placed by the fire pit.
If it is raining–
The very first thing you unload and set up is the overhead tarp. This over-sized tarp should be easily got to any time you pack your car. Even if it isn’t raining, you can take it out and set it aside for later. Make sure your ropes for tying it up over the campsite is also readily available. The tarp edge should come just over one part of the campfire, about ten or fifteen feet above. This will help keep rain off a portion of the campfire without attracting sparks. Needless to say this is with the understanding that your campfire is regulation size, and not a roaring conflagration.
If it is night time–
The very first thing your should take out is your lanterns–get them lit so you can see what you’re doing! I highly recommend getting to the site and setting up in daylight if at all possible, though. Setting up at night creates a world of problems.
Our family generally designates one person to start getting firewood and setting up the campfire while the others begin setting up their tents. Once the fire is going, the first person to finish their tent goes to help the fire-starter set up his or her tent. As each person finishes tent set-up, they help any others get theirs done. This makes for way quicker set-up times. Once the tents are up, each one goes back to their own and blows up their air mattresses, loads the tent with sleeping bags, tent gear, etc. and generally gets it ready for sleeping that night. Make sure you have a tarp over and a tarp under your tent; this protects it from rain and seepage.
What To Do After Setting Up The Tents
Depending on how early we arrive at the site, we generally leave setting up the cooking area for the next morning. We bring along a meal already prepared or something super easy for the first day, like hotdogs, and we unfold our camp chairs and generally take it easy for the rest of that day. Before it gets dark we make sure breakfast fixings and gear are ready to be set up for next morning, or if we get there really early sometimes we do set up the kitchen area right away. It depends on the weather and how we are feeling. After all, this is vacation time!
Same with the toilet. We bring little porta-potties for our tents and use them first night. The next day is when we set up our general toilet and shower. The toilet always gets set up, the shower only if we are camping more than three days.
One of the first conversations we have around the fire day one is who does what. Most of the time our family already knows their respective roles–my youngest brother crashes off into the woods with his chainsaw looking for deadfall, the kids collect small sticks and things for starting fires, I set up the kitchen and do the cooking, etc. But if this isn’t something you’ve already discussed, get it clear now.
Everybody should contribute to the overall camping experience by pulling their weight. There is nothing more annoying than everyone working hard and one guy sitting there poking the fire with a stick.
Make sure the kids know that they can’t just drop their candy wrappers on the ground, or leave their own gear draped over chairs or at the edge of the river. Get them into the habit of respecting the area they are in. It is a point of personal pride for our family to leave a site in better condition than we found it. If you are the type of group to drink or have pellet guns around for shooting practice, for heavens sake pick up your bottles and cartridges, and don’t smash your bottles in the campfire. Have a little respect for yourself, for others and for the area.
Hopefully they are the kind that like it quiet, and hopefully you are too. Remember that in a camping environment, if it is a place where there are other campers, your personal taste in music is not always theirs; it may be they don’t like electronic sound or loud party sound at all when they are camping. Keep your music and partying to a minimum and cut it off before it gets too late. Those who go camping for the express purpose of getting drunk or high, howling at the moon and blasting music so loud it causes avalanches two mountains away, should seek a campsite out in the bush so far away as to irritate only the bears.
Breaking down camp and leaving.
LEAVE NOTHING. Pack your garbage out if it can’t be burned. If it isn’t raining, raking the area leaves a beautiful campsite for others. Send the kids running around to check for anything that might have been dropped or forgotten. If you have remembered to bring extra garbage bags–and I highly recommend it–place your grubby stuff in them to protect your vehicles from dirt, leaves and soot.
Stack any unused firewood neatly to the side of the fire pit. Soak–and I do mean soak–the fire area with water. Keep pouring water on it until the rocks stop steaming. Make absolutely certain there is no chance of the fire starting up again, and when you are certain, soak it some more. Shovel earth on top of it. Make sure any excess firewood to the side of the fire pit is well away from the pit itself. Check the area you set up your toilet at–is your waste completely buried, and all toiletries (as it were) picked up and placed in a bag to take home? LEAVE NOTHING.
Taking these steps benefits everyone, most of all you.
When you set up, live in and break down camp using these steps, you accomplish a world of good for everyone. The site is clean, you have a great deal of self-respect, and you have taught your kids that if they love nature they will show it by the way they treat it. The joy of an orderly campsite cannot be over-emphasized. It contributes to the relaxing atmosphere of the vacation, if everyone does their part and doesn’t leave all the work up to one or two people. Best of all, you gain the reputation as the people others want to camp with. And a good reputation and self-respect are two things money cannot buy.