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How to Set Up a Campsite

There’s an art and a science to setting up camp, and we’re going to teach you both.


  • Step 1: Pick a good spot Pick a spot on level ground that is not so high on a hill that it’s windy, but not so low in a valley that you’ll be at risk of being flooded if it rains. Make sure there are no patches of poison ivy or oak.
  • Step 2: Consider nearby water Before you actually pitch your tent, figure out where you’re going to get your water. Ideally, you want to be close enough to a lake or stream to access water for washing, but not so near that your activities will pollute the water. About 300 feet away is a good rule of thumb.
  • TIP: Don’t set up camp near still water. It may run deep, but it’s also a magnet for mosquitoes.
  • Step 3: Pitch your tent Pitch your tent in a spot where the sun will hit it in the morning. Unroll your sleeping bags so they have a chance to fluff up, and lay out your inflatable mattress pads, if you have any, so they’re easier to inflate later.
  • Step 4: Set up your kitchen Set up a cooking area about 200 feet from your tent, in a spot where the wind won’t blow cooking embers toward your tent. Build your fire in advance, so it’s ready to light when you want to start cooking.
  • Step 5: Find a tree for your food Find a tree at least 200 feet from your tent from which you can suspend a bag of opened food. Hang it at least 12 feet off the ground to keep it out of reach of bears and other critters.
  • TIP: Stick your toothpaste in the food bag at night; bears have been known to mistake the minty fresh smell for something tasty.
  • Step 6: Build your latrine Find a secluded spot at least 200 feet from camp to serve as your latrine. Dig a hole about a foot deep for a makeshift toilet, and set out a roll of toilet paper, protected from the elements in a sealed plastic bag.
  • Step 7: Leave nothing behind When it’s time to break camp, take all your garbage with you. And pile some stones on your latrine after you fill it in, so the next group of campers doesn’t dig up a nasty surprise!
  • FACT: Fifty-three percent of campers bring their laptops with them, according to a survey.

You Will Need

  • A good spot
  • A water source
  • A cooking area
  • Some wood
  • A tall tree for hanging a food bag
  • A shovel

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