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choosing a camp site for your tent


  • choosing a camp site for your tent can be the most time consuming part of setting up your tent as there are many factors which need to be taken into consideration
  • camp site on this page refers to an individual camp area and not a whole camping ground
  • unfortunately, many of these factors cannot be adequately addressed if you have to book a particular site in advance of knowing the weather forecasts and the characteristics of that site - it does pay to check out the sites prior to booking, if possible.
  • take a bit of time to choose your site and how your shelter is best positioned on the site
    • it may save you from getting being injured, have your bedding wet, shelter damaged, or having to move your shelter in an unexpected storm at night
    • it gives you the opportunity to optimise your shelter for best comfort and ambience

Factors to consider

ensure it is not a freezing depression

  • on cold nights with little wind, cold dense air sinks down mountain slopes and will pool in a deep depression, or may just flow along the floor of a valley
  • these extra cold areas in the alpine regions can be detected by the presence of an inverted tree line
    • trees grow above it but as they get closer to it become stunted with poor growth and then the area becomes tree-less with only the hardiest grasses and shrubs growing
    • a great example is Long Plain in the Snowy Mountains, NSW - presumably this is on limestone given the close proximity to Yangobilly limestone caves
    • they are more likely to occur overlying limestone as normally a depression will result in a dam forming and then filling with sediment, but limestone is permeable and has cracks so water can seep through it and dams do not form

can you set up a shelter on that site?

  • is it big enough for your shelter and guy ropes, etc
  • are you allowed to camp there?
  • can you get pegs into the ground?
    • elevated locations on tops of hills and mountains are often mainly rocky with minimal soil to allow pegs of adequate size to hold your shelter down

widow makers

  • it is not uncommon for many Australian trees (especially river red gums) to suddenly drop large lethal branches without warning even when there is no wind!
  • many a farmer and camper have been killed in this manner
  • always check what is above you and don't camp under high risk branches of Australian trees:
    • river red gum branches
    • almost horizontal large branches
    • branches that are compromised or dead
    • any branches if strong wind or lightning is likely
  • other tree branches can have other issues when above your tent:
    • drop sticky gum onto your tent or vehicle
    • more noisy after rain as drops water onto your tent
    • drops fruit such as pine cones onto your tent
    • perching birds drop poo onto your tent

prevailing winds

  • direction of breezes will impact smoke from camp fires, temperature control, and potentially raise annoying dust

shade and sunlight

  • in summer, you will probably want as much shade as possible, especially from 11am-4pm - but not directly under a widow maker branch!
    • in southern states of Australia, this can be achieved by having tall trees some distance to the north of your tent
  • do you want early morning sun?
    • you may want morning sun to help dry out your shelter
    • you may NOT want morning sun as it makes sleeping in too hot and bright

site protection from adverse weather

  • in fair weather, this is not usually an issue but unexpected thunderstorms can still occur, so it is good practice to choose wisely for this
  • avoid exposure to strong winds as these are likely to damage your tent if over 50-60kph and risk trees falling onto you
    • avoid exposed ridges even if the views are awesome - unless you are absolutely sure all will be well
    • avoid camping downwind of a large tree if strong winds forecast
    • aim for a sheltered site, perhaps partly protected by 2-3m tall brush or where you can park your vehicle so that your tent is partly protected
    • if winds are forecast over 60kph gust - perhaps cancel camping or at least camp in a very sheltered spot with a wind resistant set up
      • winds over 80kph can blow down individual trees / branches which risk falling on your tent or vehicle, or blocking road access as well as power, mobile phone reception to the region
      • wind storms over 120kph can blow down almost every tall tree in a forest on an otherwise exposed mountain-side - you do NOT want to be there when that happens!
        • this happened in many areas of Victoria in 2021 with large areas devastated
  • avoid sites that are at risk of flooding in a heavy down pour
    • do not camp in river beds even if dry - distant thunderstorms can send a sudden torrent of water down it
    • avoid the lowest part of a camp site unless it is clearly well drained
      • you do need to study the area as it can be hard to ascertain where the rain will pool sometimes
      • ensure your inner tent is on higher ground so rain will drain away from it
      • if this is not possible, take extra measures such as clamping a tarp under your inner tent so that its sides extend up the wall 10cm or so to reduce the chance of flooding water entering your inner tent (don't trust the “waterproofing” of the inner tent's bathtub floor - it gets compromised over time
      • if using a ground sheet, ensure it does not extend beyond the fly as you don't want rain running down the fly onto the ground sheet and under your inner tent
  • reduce lightning risks
    • lightning strikes can kill you in a number of ways:
      • direct hits (rare unless you are the highest object (eg. on a ridge, in open fields or water), holding a lightning rod, or touching the tallest tree or conductive object)
        • if you have a conductive tall object as part of your shelter (eg. steel stove chimney), ensure it is NOT grounded by placing plastic/rubber UNDER it which will reduce it being directly hit by lightning, and ensure there are taller objects at 5-15m away to be a better lightning target
      • ground currents - most common issue, so be at least 5m from a tall tree which may be hit
      • shrapnel from a tree burst - also a major risk - consider placing vehicle between your tent and the tallest tree
      • falling branches from a tree strike - a major risk - don't be under the branches of the tallest tree!
    • consider NOT camping in a storm

wildlife considerations

  • ensure you are not camping in a wildlife path
  • check you are not camping on an ant nest or near bee or wasp hives
  • avoid being too close to water - you will get more insects, more wildlife including snakes, and more water condensation, plus you risk flooding
  • many animals, including snakes, prefer not to wander into open exposed spaces so avoid camping close to bush or long grass and give yourself plenty of open space around your tent
  • obviously don't camp on the ground in crocodile areas especially near rivers or beaches where they inhabit

security considerations

  • thefts are not uncommon and usually opportunistic
  • avoid camping next to a thoroughfare which increases temptation and ease of thefts
  • avoid camping too far from others that your camp will be at risk while you are away unless:
    • you are stealth camping and others cannot see your shelter, or,
    • there is nothing valuable to steal

privacy and social distancing

  • in general, most people do not want to be too close to others whether they be family, friends or strangers
  • sleeping whilst camping is hard enough, having noisy neighbours or snorers does not help
  • optimising privacy and your nature experience and ambience whilst camping can be tricky and may take some added planning considerations

other physical safety issues

  • unsafe cliff tops or bottoms of cliffs which may fall onto you
  • kids near busy roads
  • etc
australia/camping_siteselection.txt · Last modified: 2023/12/14 15:35 by gary1

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