How do you pick a place to pitch? The flattest patch of ground, furthest from the long drop, and a safe distance from any snorers.
Shot by Alex Spurway
But, do you ever really consider the topography – not only what’s around you but also above you, under you and even 100km away from you. It turns out choosing the perfect – and safest – place to rest your head is not as simple as keeping a safe distance from the campfire. We quizzed environmental construction expert, Kurt Laboyrie for his top tips on choosing prime campsite real estate.
#1 Consider Water Catchment
Is that nice, flat patch of ground you’ve chosen actually in the middle of a water catchment? Don’t just think about the landscape of your immediate campsite. If you’re pitched next to a river, where does it go to and what’s upstream from you? It might be dry where you are but, if it’s raining 100km away, the next morning you could be flooded. Check the weather forecast for areas upstream from you, looking for storm warnings or excessive rainfall. I use the website Six Maps to check an area’s topography – it’s like Google maps but is generally more up to date and has great mapping tools.
#2 Build a Moat
I have mates in the army who’ve joined me for camping expeditions. As soon as they pitch a tent they dig a small ‘diversion drain’ uphill from it to funnel any water flow away from their dry sleeping space. The one rule of water is that it always flows downhill so even if you’re only pitching on a very gentle slope take precautions. Carry a foldable shovel or just use the blade of a machete (my usual option). Just make sure your moat doesn’t flow towards someone else’s sleeping bag!
#3 Ground your Guy Ropes
When a friend of mine – who isn’t a camper – borrowed my tent he complained afterwards that it leaked. It turns out he didn’t use any of the guy ropes which meant the outer and inner shell were touching. Make sure your campsite has enough space so you can pull your ropes tight or attach them to a tree. If you’re camping on the beach, be aware soft sand won’t hold pegs in strong winds. If you want more security get some pieces of drift wood, bury them around the tent and tie your guy ropes to them.
#4 Look Up
It’s not always possible to avoid camping under trees. Not many campsites are like football fields (and who’d want them to be?) Most people know to avoid pitching under widow makers but also consider smaller falling debris like dead sticks and twigs which can pierce your tent beyond repair. Look down as well as up! If you have to move a bunch of dead leaves or branches on the ground to be able to pitch your tent, it’s a big clue you might want to move on.
#5 Check Animal Tracks
This isn’t make or break but is worth considering. Wombats are weird animals and will go down the same old track every day. That means that if you put something in their way – like a tent – they will try to barge through it. I’ve heard stories of wombats smashing through fly nets on the front door of peoples houses, strolling down the hallway and exiting the back door. Keep an eye out for wombat holes or animal droppings unless you want an unexpected guest. Although some people might like that!