How to set up camp basics.

Let’s take the step by step approach how to set up camp in an organized way.

You just arrived at the campground and found your site now it's time to set up camp.

Campground in Chaco Canyon National Historical Park, NM

It might take a couple tries at camping to get really good system worked out. In no time at all the tent will be set up and dinner is cooking away! For us, my partner sets up the tent and I do the cooking.

While unpacking the vehicle and setting up camp there are a few things to look out for. Hopefully you didn’t end up getting that last site next to the restrooms, the water spigot, or the dumpster. Being next to the bathroom can be noisy and smelly. Usually it’s a high traffic area as well!

Note: Be sure to place the camping date stub on the site marker. Also, before leaving the campsite leave something on the table. That way others will know the site is occupied!

For more information on this, check out tip #4 on the camping tips page. It won't be long and you'll have you're own how to set up camp system in place.

• Finding a spot for the tent: Many campgrounds have platforms or sand pits for tents. Hopefully, your tent fits on or in one, if it doesn’t, no problem.

You’ll want to find a smooth flat spot that’s on higher ground. If it rains you’ll want the water to run away from your tent. The ground should be level, if it slopes you’ll slide to one side of the tent all night long.

Look around the area and stay away from setting up close to creeks and streams, in case it rains really hard. You don’t want to get swept away at night by rising water levels!

Camp away from the lake shore if it is a glacier fed lake.

Setting up a tent in a sand pit

Why? Because calving glaciers send out tsunami like waves! I’ve seen that happen while camping in Patagonia.

Pick a spot that is at least 15 feet away from a fire-pit and don’t set up too close to the picnic table. It’s a bummer if you always trip over the tent ropes as you walk around the table. I like having the tent door face east. Those first rays of sunshine feel great on those cooler mornings.

Usually we’ll set up our camping chairs right away. They make for a great place to store your camping items that will later go inside the tent.

Once the tent is set up we’ll place the sleeping pads, sleeping bags and pillows inside. By doing this you’ll have a lot more room in your vehicle in case you need to find something. For more info on setting up the sleeping quarters after dark, check out tip #2 on the camping tips section.

• If it looks like rain: Set up the canopy first! Once that is out of the way it’s easy setting up the tent, begin cooking and stay dry in the process.

• Getting ready to cook: The first thing I’ll set up is the stove. With my Colman Gas stove I need to assemble it, check the fuel level and pressurize the tank. Finding a level spot is crucial! If I need to boil water I’ll do that next. After that it’s time for food preparation!


Need a recipe? Once you've gone through the how to set up camp section, check the camping recipes section for some ideas.


If you have enough space while cooking it’s nice to have the coolers sitting on the picnic bench. That way I don’t need to bend over all the time to get stuff out cooler. It’s just more efficient.

Taking a walk through some Chaco Canyon ruins

• Looks like it’s time for a walk: The camp is set up. Dinner is done. It’s time to go out for a walk and check out the area. Maybe meet some nice people. Exchange stories and ideas. One of the fun parts about camping…getting together with others that are in “relax mode.”

Now that you know how to set up camp, we at The Camping Detective, hope you’ll have a nice relaxing time camping!

If you think there’s something important you’d like to add, please let us know and we’ll add it to the list.

Click here to head back to the how to camp page from the how to set up camp page.

Continue reading with more articles in the How to Camp section......

How to break camp
Learn step by step how to break camp in an organized way.

How to unpack
Simple after camping chores you need to do right away.

How not to camp
Avoid these 9 "how not to camp" mistakes.

Keep warm in your tent
9 things you can do to keep warm in your tent.