Setting your camp site up; what to think about

Australia has some of the best camping in the world, and its not hard to find an amazing camp site. However, how you set your camp up will make or break your camping experience, and in this post we take a close look at everything you should consider before setting your camp up.

Fish Creek Camping
A little time taken before you set up camp is almost always worth it

Are you allowed to camp here?

The first, and most important thing to consider is whether you are actually allowed to camp in your chosen destination, or not. If its private property, you need the owners permission.

If its national park, you’ll probably need a booking, or at least to pay your fee. Do the right thing; there are far too many amazing places being closed on a regular basis because people don’t look after the area, or do braindead things to it.

If you are allowed to camp there, are you in the right location? We had a breakdown of communication some time ago which resulted in us camping on the kayak launching pad, not far from Perth!

Riverside camping
Are you actually allowed to camp here (turns out we weren’t meant to!)

Where is north?

For us, the second most important thing to consider is which way north is. This allows us to see what the sun is doing, and have an idea of where the weather might come from.

Most phones have compasses these days, or you can use an old school mechanical compass, or use your watch, or what ever you are comfortable with.

Camped at Freshwater Bay
Knowing which way north is allows you to position according to wind and sun protection

What is the wind and weather doing?

The wind and weather can make or break your camping trip, and this is even more the case if you aren’t set up for it. We’ve been at so many amazing camp grounds that are world class, only to see them turn to an absolute nightmare when a storm rolls through, or when it blows for hours and hours on end.

Once you know where north is, you can determine where the wind is going to come from, and how its going to affect you. If you set up your cooking in the direction that the wind is going to hammer from, you’ll have a hard time keeping your rubbish together, boiling a kettle and frankly enjoying yourself.

If you set it up the other way though, you have a pretty good chance of enjoying yourself despite what the weather does.

Long term camping
The wind and weather will hugely impact your camping experience

What shade do you have?

Shade is hugely important, especially once you start heading north and the temperatures get warmer and warmer. We make sure there is a decent amount of shade by the way we set up, and if there isn’t going to be enough, we create it with an annexe, or the Ute canopy door, breezy shade, or what ever it might be.

We normally face our camper trailer drawbar to the West. This means that the storage and toilet side of the camper is facing north, and the kitchen and living side faces south.

In this arrangement, you get some sun early in the morning and late in the afternoon, but for the bulk of the hotter, harsher part of the day you can sit in some shade, without having to set an awning up or do anything. Now, I will mention this doesn’t work too well in summer, when the sun is much higher in the sky than the rest of the year, and the amount of shade you get is negligible, so we put our awning out.

Sometimes we can’t do this, depending on where we are camping, but its critical that you have some decent shade.

Reconn R2 awning
Shade is an absolute must for camping in Australia

Which way should your tent face?

Your tent direction should be determined by 3 things. View, Wind and Weather. Everyone loves a great view, but there’s no point having a good view if you are going to cop heavy wind on the long side of the tent all night. 

Also, sometimes there are restrictions for which way your tent can face. I know we’ve jammed our setup in between trees before and you really don’t have any option but to face one way, and that’s that.

Pender Bay views
Which way should your tent face?

What can hurt you?

I’m not one to be too concerned when camping, but it does pay to have a small think about what’s around the camp site that can hurt you, and your friends or family. This is especially the case if you have young kids, as they are most susceptible to making bad choices!

Things like gum tree branches breaking off and you camping underneath it, or smashed bottles from grubs prior to you, or a river full of hungry salt water crocodiles are all legitimate concerns, and you should be taking the appropriate measures to avoid them.

Trees overhead
Are any branches likely to come down and land on you?

Where’s the nearest emergency assistance?

Following on from the above, should the worst happen, what’s your plan for getting help? If you are local this will all be natural, but if you are on the other side of the country in a remote camp site, would you know what to do, and where to go to get help?

Knowing where the nearest hospital is, and how you’d get there in a hurry isn’t a bad thought to have.

I will admit to not thinking about this too much until our kids came along, and now I usually make a mental note of where I’d hurry off to if something went wrong when we arrive at camp.

First aid kit
Everyone should have a first aid kit, but where’s the nearest real help?

What happens if it rains?

If you check the weather prior to leaving, you are at much less chance of being caught out here, but rain can cause a heap of havoc when camping, especially if you are unprepared for it.

For starters, the most dangerous thing that can happen is flooding. If you are camping at the bottom of a river bed, or where water is going to come raging down then it’s a dangerous place to be.

Beyond that, your tent can easily fill with water if you are at the bottom of a valley, or you don’t have little moats to guide the water away. I recall waking up as a kid to a puddle of water in our tent, because we were in a small grassy hollow in a caravan park, and it had been raining so much. Not much fun!

St Mary Inlet Camp
Camping in the rain can be amazing, if you are prepared for it!

Can you get level enough?

You’ll only sleep on sloping ground once, I promise. Waking up from a huge headache when all of the blood has worked its way to your head, or rolling onto your partner all night isn’t much fun, and we always look for ground that is relatively level, or that we can level ourselves using wheel chocks for the camper trailer. 

Some setups are more flexible with slope, and others really have very limited ability to correct it. If you do need to sleep on a slope, make sure your head is higher than your body!

Level camping
You need to be able to get level

Where’s the toilet?

You need some form of toilet when you head out camping. Whether you dig a hole in an appropriate place, take a portable toilet or you camp near amenities that are provided, its a huge part of making camping comfortable.

We generally take a camping toilet with us and it works pretty well, but if you are travelling more light weight this might not be an option. Fortunately in Australia there’s quite a few low cost or free camping areas that have toilets provided, and you can just hop from one to the next as needed.

Coronation Beach Toilets
Where’s the nearest toilet?

What else do you think about when setting a camp site up?

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