Campcraft- “While camping you are at the mercy of natural forces, and your activities will be dominated by the times of sunrise and sunset, changes in the weather, the lie of the land, the nearest water and supply of fuel. Your comfort will depend on your skills in choosing a suitable site, erecting a shelter, building a fire and establishing a smooth routine. When you leave there should be no trace of your stay.”
There are very few perfect campsites, so when choosing a site you will probably have to compromise to some extent. Obviously your priorities will vary depending on how long you are going to stay there, and how large your camp will be, but it is a good idea to have some general principles in mind during the selection process so that you know what to look out for! 🙂
If your campsite is to be an overnight stop on the trail you should start to look for a suitable place at least two to three hours before it gets dark. By that time you will need to have settled in and pitched your tents and your food preparations should be well under way. Be prepared to stop short of your intended destination for that day if you find a spot that looks ideal. You may even want to backtrack a little if you do go on but the terrain ahead fails to offer further viable sites.
Try to avoid extreme conditions of any kind. In hot countries you will find it a great advantage to have some natural shade on your campsites. In colder areas your priority is likely to be natural shelter from wind. Always try to find a site that is well drained; this usually means looking for a reasonably high site. Not only will you avoid marshy, damp ground, but you will also not find yourself in a pocket of cold air during the night. If it is windy, you will need space to pitch your tents with doors facing away from the wind.
It will be an advantage if the site has it’s own water supply but you should always check to see where the water comes from. Just because local people drink it, it does not mean that it is safe for you to drink. Unless you have a good evidence to the contrary, you should always regard water as contaminated and treat it accordingly. Don’t be tempted to camp too near a water source, such as a stream, as it may attract clouds of biting insects in the evening, and may be a place where animals come to drink.
The layout of your camp will be dictated by the site you have chosen, the climate conditions, the size of the camp and personal preferences. There are, however, some golden rules to follow for the sake of the safety and well-being of the campers! 🙂
Positioning Tents: Try to pitch tents with their back into the prevailing wind. If possible, use either a belt of trees or bushes to form a natural windbreak. If hot weather conditions make shade important then choose a place under some trees, but remember that falling twigs and branches will be likely. Make sure your sleeping area is well away from the cooking area and toilet area, and upwind of them if there is prevailing wind. 😉
Toilets: if there are no permanent toilets on the site,construct a toilet downwind of the tents and away from sleeping and cooking areas, with natural screening or bivvy bag or groundsheet for privacy. You can dig a hole in the ground with a trowel or knife for solid waste, covering it with soil after use and burning toilet paper.
Washing Areas: If you are going to have an area dedicated to washing clothes, keep this area away from cooking and sleeping areas. Site any clothes lines well away from where people will be walking, especially at night.
Where To Site A Fire: If you are going to have a fire, light it well away from the tents, as sparks can fly out and burn holes in the material. Also make sure it is a downwind of the tents, on a flat area well away from trees and bushes.
Kitchen: Site the food preparation area some distance from where you will be sleeping, so that if an animal is attracted by the smells of food during the night, you will not be disturbed. Also, any flies attracted to your cooking will be well away from your sleeping area. If you can, have an extra tent near the cooking area for the storage of food. Do not keep food inside a tent where anyone is sleeping.
Lastly: Have FUN!!! There is no other activity that we have done that creates so many lasting memories! 🙂