Today is the day! Today is the day you leave for your first camping experience. Perhaps you’ve found someone to go with you to who is more experienced, or perhaps you’re going it alone. In either case, if you’re not excited about going on your first camping excursion, then you might as well not even bother going.
Seriously, if you’re just ho-hum about it, I highly doubt that you’ll have a good time, nor will you want to go again. But I can tell, you’re super excited about this first camping trip! So, what do you do first? Do you take a walk through the park? Do you head out for swimming? Do you get a fire going? Do you put up the hammock and take a nap? Well, for most people, getting your campsite established is usually the first thing you do. Here’s what I recommend doing in order:
1– Set up your tent and get your bed arranged
2– Put anything else, like clothes, into your tent that you feel you want/need
3– If you have another tent, like an EZ-UP, put that up next
4– Put up your lawn chairs how you like them
5– Establish your cooking area on the picnic table; this is usually at one end of the table where you would prep and cook your food
6– Deal with anything else you want to do for the campsite Now, you may notice that I didn’t say anything about what to do with your food. That’s because I recommend leaving the food and coolers in your vehicle, especially at night.
If you take out your food and/or coolers, be sure to put them back in your vehicle before you go to bed. Otherwise, you risk having many different animals making a midnight stop at your campsite and possibly raiding your food supplies without leaving you any money in exchange.
Picking The Right Campsite
So, you should just choose whatever site looks nice, right? Well, not always. There are some things you should consider. If you can, it’s a good idea to drive through the park at least once before deciding on a site.
This way you can get a look at all of the open campsites to see which ones deserve a second look. Even if you’ve reserved a site, it doesn’t hurt to look at the others that haven’t been reserved.
You may find one that is better, and often you can switch your reservation to this better site. At this point, I’ll point out that some of what I’ll describe here might not fit all campgrounds that you’ll encounter. If you are traveling out in the Dakotas, you might be seriously hard-pressed to find even a single tree. In some of the highlands of the southwest, finding the grass is equivalent to finding gold — it just ain’t going to happen.
So keep in mind that what I’m describing is an ideal, but you’ll have to modify your expectations based on the geography that you find yourself in. First, I like to look for a site that has a lot of natural shade from trees.
Especially when camping in the heat of summer, having shade is a welcome feature of any campsite. You also may not have brought any portable canopies, so having natural shade will make you the envy of the park. Second, look at the potential site and see if it has a lot of tree roots showing through the dirt. You definitely don’t want to pitch your tent over the roots and then try to sleep on them. That’s a good way to mess up your back! Plus, you don’t want to trip over them, as that could lead to injury.
The same goes for rocks as well, try to find a site without rocks. Grass would be ideal, but if you have a shaded site then you probably will not have grass or at least very much of it.
A third aspect that makes for a good site is if you can see neighboring sites easily or not. While it’s not always possible to have a natural barrier between sites, it certainly is nice. It helps to keep conversations muted, and you also don’t have that feeling like you’re always being watched.
Most campgrounds have sites that are laid out in a circle pattern, with sites on both the inside and outside of the circle. Part of our strategy is to try to choose a site that is on the outside of the circle.
Usually, the sites are a bit further apart and do not butt up against another site like those on the inside of the circle. A park map will be very helpful in providing the layout of the campsites and give you the opportunity to mark which ones look to be the best as you are driving through the park.
Another item to keep in mind is the proximity to the bathrooms. If you have a need to be close to the bathroom, then that should be something to keep in mind, otherwise, I prefer to be several sites away from bathrooms.
Not only to you mitigate any unpleasant smells by being further away, but you also don’t have to deal with the traffic of people as they go back and forth from their sites to the bathroom and back.