I’m going to describe the way we usually set up camp when arriving at night. Because we car camp at a primitive campsite, the same rules about arriving late aren’t generally adhered to.
If you camp at a paid site, read up on the rules and etiquette for that site; they usually don’t let you arrive after a certain time and also have noise curfews. Wherever you camp, just remember to always respect other campers. (If you arrive during the day, which you should, especially if you’ve never been to the campsite before, determine which tasks off this list are more important to your situation and proceed from there).
The first thing we do to set up camp is use a small shovel to clear out the debris and moisture that’s accumulated in the fire ring. Sometimes inconsiderate campers will leave aluminum cans/bottles behind; we need to get that out of there. We also want to dig down a bit to make that small “pit”.
Then we gather some tinder (small sticks, twigs, dry grass, leaves, and/or branches) and set it up like a teepee.
Then we light that or add some newspaper to get the fire started. Cotton pads dipped in wax, potato chips (Doritos), and pine cones also make great fire starters.
On top of that tinder, we made the teepee larger with slightly larger pieces of wood. We keep adding around that teepee, while leaving enough space open between our pieces of wood to allow oxygen to flow through to ignite the fire.
Note: If arriving at night, bring a couple bundles of wood. Remember never to transport firewood more than 50 miles from its original source. According to Don’t Move Firewood, only “heat treated firewood with a USDA APHIS treatment seal is considered safe to move.” The wood can be infested with bugs/parasites that are not indigenous to the area. Bringing an insect from one ecosystem into another miles away can cause serious damage. For more information on rules and regulations of firewood transportation, visit “Don’t Move Firewood”)
We generally set up 2 propane lanterns opposite each other across the campsite. The lanterns are hung off of tree branches and/or lantern hangers. We also have a couple Tiki Torches burning citronella, which adds ambiance and keeps the bugs away.
Around this time, we pull out our camping chairs and set them up around the firepit.
Next thing we do is clear an area out on level ground for our tents. We then lay a tarp down, which we’ll set our tent on top of.
Remember: Always have a tarp placed underneath your tent. This adds an added layer of protection from any abrasions that may occur. (e.g., rocks, dirt, sticks, glass). The tarp should be just a little bit smaller than the base of your tent. If the tarp is larger than the base and it rains, water will pool up underneath the tent.
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