Just like the popular real estate adage, when it comes to how to find a good campsite, it all comes to location, location, location.
There are some crucial elements which are going to determine where you set up camp and these include water, sun and wind.
The vast country of Australia offers you some unique considerations if you want to go camping.
The diversity of the landscape offers the occasional floods, heat, some nasty wildlife and the sneaky gumtrees.
Choosing a camp site eliminates the above problems and your campsite selection can make or break your entire camping trip.
Some internet research, careful inspection of local maps, or seeking out some local knowledge of the area can go a long way in assisting you to find a camp site that offers a pleasant and memorable experience.
Below are several tips on how to find a good campsite.
Location, Location, Location!
When it comes to how to find a good campsite, you might find it useful to leave your vehicle and take a good look around at your prospective site a little more closely as part of your decision-making.
• Check out if the site has anthills – those ants are going to find you even before you know they are around!
• Is the soil around the site heavily compacted? This could be an indicator of poor drainage when the rains come down.
• Is the camping site clear of debris such as rocks, twigs, rubbish, and in particular metal and glass? This could easily injure you and also ruin your gear like your tents or airbed. Of course, if needed, you could clear away such, so it need not be a deal breaker but it is something worth thinking about.
When choosing a camp site first look at what amounts to must-have needs and then address what you would like if conditions permit, your personal preferences.
How close are you to water?
In case you need to replenish your drinking water supplies how far do you have to walk? Or do you need to come with enough water for entire camping duration?
Access to Toilets
• If any are available, how far away from you are they?
• Will you require them and are they sufficiently far away so that odours don’t get back to site?
• Do you need them or are you self-sufficient?
Your Privacy and proximity to others
• What type of screening is available between your location and the next camping site?
• Will you be hearing and seeing every aspect of your neighbour’s camping trip?
• Are all the camps squashed together?
These are factors worth taking into consideration when choosing a camp site.
By picking a site that is located too near to another camping party, are you according them the kind of privacy they came seeking or perhaps you could move yours further apart?
If you expect the weather to be warm, having some shade would be a nice option.
Check around and see the kind of trees that are present near your proposed site. For example, Gum trees in Australia are notorious for unexpectedly dropping limbs, particularly following a hot season that is then followed by rain.
Avoid setting your camp underneath large gums or indeed any trees that are dead or have large boughs.
Healthy trees that are alive can offer you the much needed shade, although their location within the camping site is something you need to think about too.
Certainly, you will want to position your camp where the tree supply shade from the afternoon sun, where you can view both the rising and setting of the sun. In case you arrived at the site during early morning hours, then you may need to consider such things in advance.
If your team has hammock campers, it then becomes crucial to have trees at the campsite you select if you want that special camping experience!
Sites in Australia will vary widely in size, and as you look into different aspects of how to find a good campsite, think about some of the following aspects:
• What size of tent do you have?
• What is the number of tents you want fitted into the site?
• Will there be sufficient room for your chairs, table and extra gear such as camp kitchen?
• Will the camper trailer fit in when fully opened without causing obstruction? Will you be able to manoeuvre it into the site?
Remember that if you have paid for a site, you may not be allowed to encroach into an adjacent one without paying additional fees.
Therefore carefully think about the size of space you need based on the kind of gear you have with you.
Another very important consideration when choosing a camp site size is whether you will be using a campfire.
This is because you certainly will not want that campfire too close to your camping gear, particularly your tent.
Also, you want the position of the fire to be some fair distance away, so that the smoke doesn’t billow through your entire shelter.
Campsite Ground Level
It may not always be possible to get a level sleeping spot, so a gentle incline might be considered okay, but ensure that as you sleep your head is towards the slope top.
An additional reason why you need to look for a spot that is relatively level is in case it rains.
A dipping site could mean pooling of water, creating puddles and chances of water coming into your tent.
The Wayward Wind
A moderate breeze could turn out to be a good thing, blowing away your campfire smoke, helping with condensation, and cooling you down on that hot day.
However, severe gales could make your camping, not just challenging to set up, but they also pose a risk to your belongings and shelter.
Therefore, some form of protection from the strong wind like sand dune and hills could be beneficial as you select a camp location.
You can judge the direction of the prevailing local wind by observation.
Generally, trees grow and also bend with the local breeze and when you carefully look at them, they virtually will be pointing away from where the wind is coming from.
Similarly, branches and leaves will be blown into specific locations from a certain direction.
A quick mental survey upon arrival plus an educated guess in terms of wind direction can help you in planning around the wind.
Your campfire location choice should always be decided by the direction of the local wind.
First decide on the sleeping positions, placing the tent in such a way that the camp fire doesn’t smother you in smoke, sparks ash.
As aforementioned, it makes great sense to avoid parking your caravan or sleeping close to the famous Australian gum trees.
Although the natural shade offered may seem to be a welcome bonus and the trunk ideally makes an excellent tie down point, the gum trees tend to lose their branches.
Certainly, some are more risky compared to others but heavy and big overhanging gum tree branches have a higher potential of coming down, particularly during a windy period.
Take Precautions against Animals and Pests
Trees provide a habitat for many animals and insects, especially in locations of light forestation.
Setting camp near areas infested with insects is a sure way to misery.
Worse could be camping on an ant’s nest. Look out for any small tell-tale hills and holes of a nest.
These insects will quickly find you and invade your supplies and cause you untold misery during your stay in their territory.
Fortunately, Australia doesn’t have aggressive animals such as bears, lions or tigers but snakes and dingoes can be encountered.
The best practice when you encounter snakes is to simply leave them alone for they will move on their own.
Generally, they are not aggressive and prefer to flee than fight. (see our article on avoiding snake bites while camping)
In established campsites, dingoes are real and the problem has been created by people who mean well when they handfeed wild animals.
To leave food in your tents is not very wise as you could come back to find your tent slashed by the dingoes as they search for food.
If the area under consideration when choosing a camp site has plenty of potential good campsites, then a consideration that is normally overlooked is the firewood supply.
Take note of the fact that if you have selected a popular area that usually hosts lots of campers there is a possibility that the circle of land around the location might be barren because wood producing trees die due to over use.
This circle tends to increase as campers walk further afield searching for firewood.
By going for a more secluded site away from the very popular areas, you increase your chances of getting good wood without too much trouble.
Setting up your camp near a big old log will, for example supply all your wood needs for the entire duration and is also great way of minimizing the workload.
When checking out a campsite where others are already present, it is important to study the campers themselves, as this could be an important factor into your choice of a campsite.
If for instance, they have stereos blaring all day, got trash all over the site or have generators running during the day, you can be sure that you will not find the peace you need for your camping trip.
Nothing wrong with them, it’s just their style which differs from yours.
Similarly if the site has dogs unleashed and running all over the place, or campers drinking themselves silly by mid-morning, you may reconsider your camping site options.
Remember they were there first, so consider moving on as you have the choice and give them their space.
Choosing a camp site and setting up can take up some time and certainly nobody wants to have to dismantle a camping site straight after it’s been nicely setup.
Careful observation and examination of prospective sites prior to moving can help you in averting both major and minor camping catastrophes.
Getting some of the key basic elements right first time around will see you and your team getting the relaxation and fun you want from the camp location.
Sometimes, in Australia, you may have to first book with your National Park campsite, and this could make your campsite choice a bit more complicated because you will have to settle with what gets allocated to you.
The trick here lies in making your move early enough, so that you can get your preferred camp site.