Setting up camp
Okay, now that you have found the perfect spot it is time to set up camp. If you do not have a rake or broom amongst your camping gear, you can sweep the area with some twigs or small branches, making sure there are no sharp objects or twigs that could potentially pierce your ground sheet or air mattress.
When camping with young children, your campsite layout will play a major role in camp safety; don’t just rush in setting up tents left, right and center. Be aware of walkways, roadways, tracks and other campers’ guide ropes and boundaries when setting up your tent. Most campgrounds have several roads in and around the camping area so campers can access their campsites with their vehicles. Always supervise children around the campsite and never let them play on a main pathway or roads where vehicles are likely to travel.
A good campsite layout is essential for safety.
As your campfire will probably be the focal point of the campsite, it should be located in or close to the center of your open area. Ideally you want your tents facing into the campsite & campfire; if the tents are slightly angled so they are down-wind from the fire, they won’t fill up with smoke. While some campsites allow plenty of space to spread yourself out, others cram campers in like sardines, but if space allows, it is recommended to have tents at least 6 meters apart from each other to prevent the risk of fire spreading.
HINT: A simple door mat or ground cloth placed at the entrance of the tent for shoes to sit and wipe on, certainly keeps the tent cleaner if you are unable to prevent kids from going in & out.
Another focal point of the campsite is the picnic table/meals area which should be located between the cooking area and the campfire. An esky or cooler near the picnic table containing drinks and snacks for the children will reduce the traffic through the cooking area for added safety.
If you are not using your campfire for cooking, it is best to have a designated Cooking area for food storage, cooking & rubbish removal on the outer edge of the campsite’s open area so it is not in the way of other camp activities but still easy to access. You will need a grey water hole to empty the dish water and other non-food liquids and this should be a bit further from the cooking area/camp kitchen than a regular rubbish bin. Always remember to remove all food scraps & rubbish each night to prevent wildlife from entering the campsite. If the campground does not provide rubbish bins or a proper waste removal system, then you might consider using re-usable containers & zip lock bags to store food in before leaving home, to reduce the amount of rubbish you bring home with you.
Make sure you have a safe activity area designated for the children and if riding bikes, skateboards etc., make sure they are out of harm’s way of passing traffic, water craft included. The children’s play area should be away from unsafe areas such as the campfire, cooking and wood chopping areas but still within eyesight and close to the main camp.
If you are not in a primitive camping ground or have a portable camping toilet, you will need a designated Toilet or Latrine area. This should be in the opposite direction of the Cooking & Food areas and close to the tents for the children’s safety – but not too close, you don’t want any nasty odours wafting back into the campsite. Young children should always be accompanied by an adult or a buddy on late night toilet trips and if provided with their own special torch and a toilet close by, that scary trip to the bush toilet isn’t so bad after all.HINT: We use brightly coloured guide ropes and/or attach fluro coloured tags to each rope so they can be easily seen, especially in the dark on the way back from a midnight toilet trip and the kids feel safer too, knowing they can spot their tent quickly out of what is sometimes a sea of tents in a crowded camp ground. Different coloured ropes or tags can also designate “out of bounds” areas for little children, to keep them from entering the cooking areas where potential hazards are high. We also man each of the children with a whistle attached to a lanyard around their necks so they can summon for help if needed which they are to carry with them at all times and their own torch after the sun goes down. We have also implemented a buddy system which only allows them out of the main campsite if they are accompanied by at least one friend known & trusted by the group.