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How to pick the right tent direction

You’ve just arrived at camp, with spectacular scenery all around, and its time to set the tent up. A lot of people don’t bother picking a direction for their tent to face, but its often worth taking a couple of minutes to choose the best direction. So, how do you pick the right direction for your tent to face?

Level ground

For most people, this is the first thing you should look at. If you’ve ever camped on a slope, you would know why. Find the flattest section that you can, and if it is still marginally sloped, make sure your head is pointing up the slope. This way, your head doesn’t fill up with blood throughout the night, and you don’t wake up with a thumper headache!

If the ground isn’t as level as you’d like it, you can often fix it without spending too much time (or wrecking the area).

Level ground is pretty important

Finding level ground is normally our first priority

Wind and rain

Wind can be a serious problem when camping in a tent if you don’t factor it in. There’s nothing worse than having to get up in the middle of the night to adjust things, or move things around because of the constant flapping, or worse, if something on your tent breaks.

Try to face your tent so the wind blows over it with the best aerodynamics. You want the wind to flow over the tent easily, and not get caught on it, potentially damaging your gear.

Windy camping

Our old soft floor camper trailer getting hammered by wind at Wooramel Station

By parking your 4WD in the direction that the wind is coming from, you can stop a considerable amount of it from reaching your tent. It’s not perfect, but it’s a lot better than nothing!

If rain is on the agenda, have a good think about where the water is going to pool, and whether its going to cause you any grief. Waking up to a tent that is full of water is not fun! I’ve been there, and don’t really fancy doing it again. 

This means camping at the bottom of a valley, or in a river bed, or where water is going to flow is a very bad idea. It is possible to make minor adjustments to the ground so water flows past your tent, but don’t camp where you could turn your tent into a swimming pool.

Cooking in the rain

If its raining, where are you going to cook?

Sun

In the hot summers that we get over in WA, the sun is pretty important. You want to have adequate shade from your awnings, whilst making sure that the tent stays as cool as possible. Have a think about where the sun is going to rise from too; unless you want to be woken by the sun in the morning.

For us, we try and set the tent up facing south, so the awning gives you shade from the sun all day, as the sun goes from East to West (on the north side). On our Hybrid camper trailer this means we get full protection during the middle of the day, and in the morning and late afternoon we just sit further around the trailer.

Warroora Station Sunset

The WA Sun can be pretty harsh; make sure you have adequate protection from it

Accessibility

If you have to run lights from your 4WD, or access the fridge, or get gear out of your vehicle, you don’t want to be walking more than a few meters to get there! Have a think about where your vehicle can go too, along with the direction it is parked in.

Unfortunately some camp sites are walk in, meaning you can’t camp next to your 4WD, but the tent direction can make a big difference if its around the other way and you are camping for a long time.

Waychinicup Camping

Our Oztent facing the wrong way to make up for sloping ground

Overhanging branches

There have been a few people killed by trees or branches coming down on their tents. Its not wise to camp under any branches that are likely to break off, or near trees that have a reputation of shedding limbs. Gums in Australia are notorious for this, and we actually witnessed two big branches snap off over one weekend, several hours apart.

It was dead still, and in both instances I heard a massive crack before the branches came down. If anyone was under either of them, they’d be long gone. Unfortunately this happens in Australia a couple of times every few years; its not worth the risk.

Good morning Denmark

Be very careful where you set up camp; away from any branches likely to land on you!

Space

If you have a big tent, or a camper trailer your options for tent direction are often hugely limited by space. This is either in terms of room once its set up, or your ability to physically get the tent, or trailer in position. 

If we were camping in a caravan park with our soft floor camper trailer, we often had no choice in the direction; we just had to get it to fit!

Nannup caravan park

The bigger the setup, the less choice you have for how it gets set up

Overall

Life is full of compromises, and very rarely will you find the perfect campsite. If you do, good on you; keep it to yourself! For every other campsite though, you have to work out what is most important. I’d rather wake up facing away from the beautiful lake if it means my tent isn’t going to blow over during the night, because we faced a better direction.

How do you face your tent? What do you look for?

Big tents

You’ll soon work out what is best

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