Updated: Mar 10, 2020
Your family camping trip is finally here! You found and booked the ‘perfect’ campground months ago (thanks to this handy guide!), but sites are not allocated. You know the value of your campsite to the success of your camping trip, so you will either be delighted by the opportunity to choose where you’ll be setting up or you will be terrified…
So, how does a mum know where to set up her camp? How does she assess a campground and all the environmental factors in that campground to choose the campsite that is right for her family?
Based on my own experience and the experiences of hundreds of Camping Mums, below is my guide for How to Choose Your Family’s ‘Perfect’ Campsite.
Our 'perfect' campsite at Palm Valley Campground, Finke Gorge (NT), April 2019.
The first thing to do when you arrive at the campground and are choosing your campsite (after you've cracked a cold one, of course) is to check ground conditions...
STEP 1: CHECK THE GROUND
The two main reasons you want a level site are so: 1. You’re not sleeping on an incline; and, 2. If it rains, you’re not waking up in a pool of water.
If you can not get a level site (believe me, it happens), look for the flattest site/s possible and work with what you’ve got. My top two tips for a setting-up on an inclined site: set up your bed with your head at the top of the slope and if heavy rain or a storm is forecast build some decent drains during daylight hours and before the storm hits, seriously.
At some campgrounds there may be variations in the surface of the ground – grass / sand / dirt etc. – so, even if you have awesome matting or flooring, choose the site/s with the surfaces your family enjoys (or will tolerate) best.
The main things to look for here are things that may pose safety risks to you and your family or damage your gear. Things like unmovable rocks, potholes, knotty tree roots, soil compaction, nearby anthills, and animal burrows. Also look for debris and rubbish, such as glass and metal – if there is any on your site, be sure to move this before you set up.
Once you have found sites within the campground that have suitable ground conditions, narrow them down by looking upwards…
STEP 2: CHECK THE SKY
If strong winds are likely, look for sites that have some wind protection – such as behind sand dunes, bushland, and hills. This will make setting up camp easier and minimise the risk of your equipment being damaged or flying away. On the other hand, if temperatures are soaring and you’re relying on the breeze to help cool things down, look for sites that are more open and allow airflow.
During a hot, Aussie summer when you’re camping with kids, a shaded campsite is more than a nice to have, it is almost a necessity. Even throughout the rest of the year, a shaded campsite is really nice to have. Look for sites where there will be shade in the afternoon and where you can position your set up to make the most of it. But, don’t camp under large gum trees or trees with large, dead branches – these pose a major safety risk.
At this point, you will know which sites meet the natural environment needs of your family, so it’s time to work out where you will fit!
STEP 3: CHECK WHERE YOU WILL FIT
The best site in the world is no good (let alone 'perfect') for your family camping trip if you won’t be able to fit yourselves (your friends, if you have friends joining you) and all your stuff and, safely have a campfire (if that’s your plan).
Choose a site where you can not only fit all your gear including awnings and your campfire but where you can move around with ease, not obstruct other campers and not encroach on adjacent sites.
By now you’ll either have chosen your 'perfect' site or have a shortlist. So how do you decide? This is where it gets really personal...
STEP 4: CONSIDER YOUR PROXIMITY
Some people don't care about their proximity to anyone or anything, but when you have young kids proximity to certain things can take a campsite from great to 'perfect'. So how close do you personally want or need to be to:
Remember that the closer you are to these things the more likely you are to have increased foot or vehicle traffic, noise and even odour from amenities, but the closer you are to these things might make your camping trip even better than you've imagined! And about proximity to adjacent sites – Please always consider others and what they may want from their camping trip. In the type of campgrounds where you can choose your site, most campers will have come there looking for peace and quiet and are not going to appreciate you camping right beside them when you don’t have to. So, be respectful to campers who are already set-up when you arrive and give them some space!
The only pic I took of my most hated campsite ever! Ayers Rock Campground, Yulara (NT). April 2019.
So, now you know how to choose the 'perfect' campground and campsite for your family, the time to lock in your next family camping trip is now! (And, if you do end up selecting a not-so-ideal campsite, don't be too hard on yourself - it's a rite of passage!) Happy Camping! ~ Shell
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