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How to set up camp

Know the first thing to do upon arriving at your site? Look at the ground.
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January 22, 2018 11:58 AM

Whether you’re wondering about the best spot to pitch your tent, ways to divvy up the tasks or how to get your site prepped for cooking, our list of campsite setup tips will help.

Location, location, location
When you arrive, check out your site. Locate a good spot to set up the tent, one that’s flat and not rocky. Check the ground for signs of rain runoff; after all, you don’t want to set up your tent in a spot that becomes a pool after a shower.

Ideally, you should position your tent so that it has some degree of privacy—facing a stand of trees or an open area away from other sites.

Divide and conquer
While one team works on setting up the tent and blowing up sleeping pads, another group can get the table area organized. Kids can learn a lot by pitching in however they can. If they’re truly underfoot, task them with gathering kindling nearby. (Be sure to check at the ranger kiosk as you arrive, some campgrounds don’t allow wood gathering.)

Campsite with people cooking at picnic table

Your campsite kitchen
Set aside time to get your cooking area set up well. Create an area for cooking, one for eating, and another for washing up (this is one reason an extra folding table comes in handy). Take a large liquid laundry detergent container with a spigot, rinse it out thoroughly, and then fill it with water to create a simple handwashing station. Place it on a tree stump or rock and put a small bottle of biodegradable soap next to it; this setup will allow people to easily wash up before eating or helping with meals.

Speaking of food, always keep an eye on yours. Wily raccoon, jays and chipmunks (and in some places, bears) look for any opportunity to grab a snack. Stay near the food and cooler until everything is properly put away.

Campers around the campfire at night no kids

Before dark to-do’s
Once you have things pretty well organized at the site, explore the campground a bit. You can scope out the nearest bathroom and water faucet, locate any showers, find out if there’s a ranger program, and chat up other campers about their gear or any wildlife sightings. If you have kids along, be sure they know your site number and can lead the way back to your site.

If nightfall is coming, locate your lantern and headlamps right away. Everyone should have their own flashlight or headlamp, and kids can wear their headlamps like a necklace so they’re handy when the time comes. Choose a spot to stow away the car key, and make sure all the adults know exactly where it is.

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