Alright, everyone out of the car, let’s start setting up the tent. I turn around for one minute and everyone’s gone. Oh! They all ran to Barry’s camp site to enjoy the camp fire. Yeah, they are enjoying the fire why I have to unpack the car and set the tent up. Life just isn’t fair, at least for me.
The first thing you should do when you arrive at the site is to set up the tent. The tent is like a hub of a wheel, every other aspect of camping revolves around it. The location of the tent is very important. You never ever, ever want the tent too close to the fire pit. Tents aren’t fire proof and neither are you.
*Flashback* When I was a Cub Scout Leader our Pack 618 went camping in the month of November. Cub Scouts were always taught to put a bucket of water outside their tents just in case there was a fire. The last night of camping turned out to be very, very cold. You could see your breath inside the tent. Thoughts of hypothermia danced in my head as my eyes were closing and my teeth were chattering. I woke up the next morning thankful not to be a Popsicle. I unzipped the tent and saw that the bucket of water had turned into a bucket of ice. It’s a good thing that in my state of semi-hypothermia I decided against starting the tent on fire to keep warm.
Besides keeping the tent away from the fire pit, there are many environmental factors you have to take into consideration when deciding where your tent should be and what direction it faces. If there is any chance of rain, even the slightest chance, always put the tent on high ground. Tents are not waterproof, no matter what the manufacturer states. Waking up in a sleeping bag that is water logged is not my idea of fun. Flipper might think so but not me. Actually, waking up in any sleeping bag is not my idea of fun, wet or dry.
Now that the tent is away from the fire pit, and on the highest possible ground, you have to decide which direction the door should face. There are a couple rules of thought on this one. You could point the door towards the road just like a house normally faces. The only problem is privacy; everyone walking or driving by can look into your tent. Do you really want everybody looking into your tent? I don’t. I don’t want anybody to see my dirty laundry. The only person I want looking at my dirty laundry is my wife…. After all, someone needs to clean it, and it’s not going to be me.
One glance into a tent can tell a whole story about the people inside. If I see a messy tent, right away I think of people who are undecided, unorganized, middle to low class and unsure of themselves. If their tent is kept immaculate, they are probably well organized, upper class, and overachievers…. What am I saying, no upper class overachievers sleep in a tent. They are the ones who pull up in the big $100,000 dollar RV’s with the bull horns on the front. They push a button, the sides of the RV push out, the top expands and the satellite dish rotates to find the best signal. What I’m really saying is never judge a person by the tent he sleeps in, and always face the door of the tent away from the road.
Ok, we need a spot away from the fire pit, on high ground, door facing away from the road, what’s next? Trees or no trees, that’s the question. Trees mean shade, no trees mean sunshine. It pretty simple, putting a tent in direct sunshine on a 90 degree day is like sitting in an Easy Bake Oven with you being the main entree. But it’s really not that simple. Putting a tent under trees has its’ own problems with bugs being one of them. Nothing is worse than getting eaten up by mosquitoes. I’m talking about normal camping here; there are no bears, mountain lions, carnivorous ants, killer bees, scorpions and Hannibal Lectors. Blood sucking mosquitoes can ruin a nice camp fire. So you really have to decide, do I want to get eaten by mosquitoes or bake in the hot sun. Well at least I’ll have a sun tan; sun it is.
I have all the information I need now to find the perfect location for my tent. If I triangulate the three know factors, fire pit, high ground and sun, and find the average distance from all three, that should give a centralized location for the tent. This sounds like an episode from “NUMB3RS.” Well after all my calculations the perfect location for the tent should beee--- on the neighbors’ site. That’s not good. Maybe I should have used an algorithm instead of triangulation. I could really use Charlie right about now!
When in doubt, ask the wife where she wants it. “Honey, where should we put the tent?” Bonnie takes one look;” just put it there with the door facing the road.” “You want the door facing the road?” “Yeah” Bonnie says, “It’s a lot easier to unload the car right into the tent.” “But that’s also a low spot I replied”. She looks at me in her usual loving sarcastic way, “the weatherman says cloudy with no chance of rain, so what difference does it make were the tent goes, just as long as it’s away from the fire we should be OK”. Hmmm--- At least I got one out of the four factors right.
To tarp or not to tarp, that’s the second question. You should always put down a tarp before you put up the tent. It’s good common sense to keep the bottom of the tent from touching the ground. The tarp acts as a vapor, rock and mud barrier. It also keeps the bottom of the tent a lot cleaner. Tarp it is.