When you arrive at your camping spot, you're usually tired and ready for a break already. Setting up camp can seem like a huge ordeal, and the last thing you want is to be scrambling around well after dark when you’d rather be relaxing and having fun.
The good news is, your camp setup doesn’t have to be a stressful, time-consuming experience. Follow these seven tips, and you’ll be sitting around the campfire telling ghost stories and roasting marshmallows before you know it.
While there isn't a single magical secret to quick camp setup, it needn’t be a chore. Taking the below advice will help you be more organized and prepared, which in turn will lead to a more enjoyable retreat in the wilderness.
We're big advocates of giving your tent a practice run before you go on your camping trip. If you’ve recently purchased a new tent, this is your opportunity to practice setting it up and identify any potential quirks. You can also make sure that you haven't purchased a faulty tent with missing pieces.
If you're using an old faithful, a practice run at home is still advised. It allows you to make sure there's no damage from previous years and that whoever packed it last time didn't leave any parts behind. After all, nothing makes a camping getaway fizzle out faster than a tent with only two pegs or a ripped flysheet!
Pack your camping gear in a logical order so that everything is right at hand when you need it. You don't want to be digging through every bag just to find a mallet for your tent pegs. And if you arrive at your campsite late in the day, be sure to store some flashlights and/or head torches in an easily accessible spot, such as the outer pocket of a backpack or bag.
Choosing the right camping spot is key. It's much easier to pitch a tent on level ground, and it makes for a cozier night's sleep. Look for a spot on higher ground if possible, just in case of flooding. Pitch near a water source so you don't have to go far to get the water you need while setting up. And select a shady spot if it’s going to be warm. You probably don’t want to be awakened by a heat wave when the sun rises.
Whether you’re in the market for a tent, backpack, sleeping pad, cooler, fire pit, or portable grill, choose easy-to-use gear for a low-stress camping trip.
Want to set up camp fast? Choose a tent that sets up fast. You can pitch a pop-up tent in the time it takes to unzip it from its bag, toss it in the air, and peg it down. However, pop-up tents are only suitable for camping in good weather, as they have a tendency to leak.
Other "instant" tents are generally more watertight than pop-up tents, but despite the name, they don’t pitch instantaneously. The poles are pre-threaded into the skin, however, so they generally take less than two minutes to pitch — plus the amount of time you need to peg them down.
If everyone in your party helps with setup, the process will move much faster. Don’t let folks sit around and do nothing just because you don’t need them to help pitch the tent. There are other jobs, too, such as unpacking the car, collecting firewood, choosing waste and storage areas, and filling water containers at the nearest tap (assuming you’re camping at a site with water).
Of course food is important, and you'll need to designate areas for cooking and food storage. Some planning beforehand will help with this. Make sure your cooking area is a safe distance from your tent. If you're camping in an area where bears roam, you'll need to bring bear-proof containers — or your campground may have bear poles or other food storage areas. If you're bringing any chilled items, you'll need an appropriate cooler.
Setting up camp is much quicker and easier if you know where everything is supposed to go. Designate a waste area near your tent, so you know where to put everything that needs to be cleared away. (Of course, if camping in bear country, make sure no food waste is left in this area!) Not only will you feel more organized, it will help you when packing up to leave, too.