How to Set up a Camping Area

It's time to go camping, either alone, with a friend or your family. You may be in an organized campground or just on your own, but you don't have a camper. How do you set up a tent camp to be efficient, clean and comfortable? Let's look at the basic steps.


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    Choose your site carefully. In an organized camp, look for such features as access to water or the restrooms, level parking, trees for shade, nearby streams, southern or northern exposure.
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    Choose an unorganized site according to the jurisdiction's regulations. On most federal land, you must be a certain distance from roads, trails, streams, and other recreational features.
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    Arrange sleeping and eating areas separately. Keep animals away from your tent or sleeping gear by locating it far from the table, stove, and food storage and preparation areas.
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    Clean any existing tables, cabinets, fire rings or stoves. Use a small broom to sweep tables and cabinets. Shovel out old ashes and dispose in the bins. Clear out old trash and dispose in bins also.
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    Store food according to regulations. Many places require bear-proof storage in provided metal or wooden boxes. Keep foods cool in the shade or party immersed in running water.
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    Set up a tent or sleeping pad on a flat space. Survey it for ant hills, rodent holes, sharp rocks and sticks. Lightly remove uneven materials but don't clear-sweep the ground. Look for the three W's. Water, Widow Makers (Dead branches that could fall on your tent) and Animals (Animals)
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    Set up places for sitting and children playing. Mark them with guide ropes, flags, chairs, blankets, etc.
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    Hang up a clothes line for wet dirty clothes and towels.
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    Gather wood only as prescribed and place it near the fire ring or stove. Set a bucket of water nearby.
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    For unorganized camps, locate a toilet area away from the camp, downhill, and away from any water source. Place shovels for individual use along with a bucket of water for hand washing. Hang a towel on a tree branch or rope. Or dig a narrow trench 6 inches (15.2 cm) deep and up to three feet long and place the extra soil at the side. A shovel is used to replace the extra soil as the trench is used. Place a bag for tissue collection.


  • Do not deface the local area by cutting live trees, carving into trunks, dragging logs to a new place, picking flowers, sweeping dirt clean, building fences, etc. Leave the place as you found it.
  • Dress in layers for warmth. Start with synthetic fabric or silk, then wool, fleece, and nylon. Do not wear normal cotton as it is hard to dry and gets very cold and heavy when wet. Be ready to wear two to six layers, along with hat, scarf and gloves. If it's very hot, wear a hat and protect skin from sunburn.
  • Depending on the season and weather, place your sleeping area facing south (for heat) or north (for shade), out of low areas where sudden water flows may collect, away from a road, on ground with soft leaf cover or overhanging branches for shade, against a rock face for cooler summers, out of snow-damp ground, away from a steep drop where winds may pick up.
  • Do not try to burn cans, diapers, and other non-burnable items or use the fire ring as a dump site.
  • Be careful with food preparation and waste. Don't pollute the area or draw animals by simply dumping peelings, etc. around the area. Collect and dispose, not by burning.
  • Bring books and things to read, card for playing, board games, puzzles for children, nature guides for birds or flowers, a knitting project, or other handicraft.
  • Follow regulations of the jurisdiction including keeping pets under control, not driving off roads, observing quiet hours at night, not gathering unauthorized firewood, not bathing with soap in a water source.
  • Don't expect to have the comforts of home when tent camping. Relax and enjoy a simplified style and menu, don't worry about being dirty, and try to observe the nature around you, even at night.
  • Ensure you have at least one liter of water per day per person just for drinking. Cooking and washing water is extra. Do not think sodas, tea, etc. are substitutes for pure water.
  • Bring your own wood or charcoal if you want to make sure you will have a cooking or campfire.


  • If you camp alone far from developed places, have emergency gear, and tools for your vehicle. If you hike, leave a note on the dashboard giving date and time, approximate destination, and ETA.
  • Protect food from bears and other animals. Do not feed wildlife or get caught without something to eat.
  • Do not drink open water sources without purifying it by boiling 3 minutes or adding a couple drops of bleach in a gallon of water, then leave it for several hours.
  • You are criminally liable for fires. Ensure no fire is left uncontrolled or unwatched. Do not allow children to take burning materials away from the fireplace.
  • Camping in a prohibited area may get you removed suddenly. You must be aware of all regulations in the jurisdiction.
  • Getting cold and wet can be a life-threatening situation. Have a change of clothes, a way to keep dry or get warm.
  • Polluting water sources is prohibited. Washing, bathing or human waste may not occur within 500 feet (152.4 m) of a river or lake.

Things You'll Need

  • sleeping: tent, plastic drop cloth, sleeping bags, pads, pillows
  • eating: stove, wood, charcoal or other fuel, set of plastic dishes, cooler for food storage, simple pot and pan, can opener, utensils, extra plastic storage containers, foil and plastic wrap, water containers.
  • keeping clean: two or more plastic buckets, bar or liquid soap, sponges or wash clothes, towels and rope for hanging, tissue, garbage bags, shovels or spades, wet wipes
  • tools: knife, hatchet, spade, metal file, rope, stakes, plastic tarps, rags, lantern, auto tools, duct tape, machine oil, matches
  • personal safety: first aid kit, wasp trap, insect repellent, sunscreen, aloe vera gel, medicines, towels

Article Info

Categories: Camping