How to Choose a Safe Campsite
We’ve all seen and experienced a badly set up camp – but do not be deterred, there are some simple strategies to help you choose and set up your campsite safely.
Setting up camp might seem like a simple process, but we’ve all seen and experienced when things go awry. Humanity has turned camping into an art form over the years, and from the ancient art of Feng Shui to the more modern camper’s guides, there is no shortage of advice or principles on the best way to arrange a campsite.
But as you roll into camp, it is always good to have some basic principles up your sleeve to ensure you choose a well-planned and safe campsite and ensure you get the most out of your precious time away – and not get a beating when Mother Nature loses her sense of humour.
STEP ONE — LOOK UP
Much like standing under a tree during a thunderstorm, camping under tall trees increases your chance of injury, whether by a lightning strike or falling limbs. Remember to look up and consider the trees around you – Australia’s native eucalyptus trees have a natural stress reaction that can cause them to drop branches at any time, without notice.
STEP TWO — RESPECT THE WATER
When camping near water, we all gravitate our camps towards it to enjoy the view and fresh air. However, it is important to remember that water is one of the most powerful forces of nature and not take it lightly.
Camping out in the open near the ocean can put you in the firing line of inclement weather while camping too close to a river’s bank can quickly take a turn during a rainstorm – either at your location or upriver.
STEP THREE — PROTECT YOUR BACK
Protecting your back while camping will help minimise your exposure to the elements. A campsite on a bare hill will expose you to the wind and sun, but on the opposite extreme, a depression or valley might protect you from the wind but will also trap cold air and rainfall.
Instead, choose a camp with vegetation or protection to the rear, preferably in the north so you can enjoy the shade through the hottest part of the day and sunlight in the morning and afternoons.
STEP FOUR — BEND IN THE ROAD
Keeping to the inside curve of a bend is always the safest option when setting up camp. When camping by rivers, it helps avoid the more violent floodwaters of the outer bend. While in a caravan park, setting up camp on the outer bend of an access road puts you at greater risk of injury or damage than on the inside road.
This comes down to trajectory, with vehicles (especially those with caravans) drifting towards the outer bend, bringing your camp much closer to the passing traffic than you’d bargained for. This could include the smaller – but just as impactful – interruption of a kid falling off their scooter or bike and tumbling into the middle of your campsite.
STEP FIVE — WINDBREAK
As we set up camp, it's important to assess the wind. Consider where your neighbours’ campfire smoke is going to blow, and whether the dust of the track is likely to drift into your camp. It will also help you understand whether your camp smoke is likely to choke your travel party, or if you’re downwind from nearby drop toilets or septic tanks.
While circling or boxing your rigs might seem the cosy option, this configuration funnels and traps wind – stifling the air or creating mini-tornados that can shred annexes and awnings if the wind picks up. Instead, create wind break by placing your tow-tug at right angles to your camper and the prevailing winds. This will encourage campfire smoke to go straight up instead of spreading cinders downwind.