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How to Set Up a Campsite That Makes Sense and Prioritizes Safety

If you’re new to how to up a campsite or looking for ways to improve the efficiency of your campsite setup while prioritizing safety, you’ve come to the right place. Setting up a campsite takes patience and practice; this post is here to help.

How to set up a campsite skillfully starts with choosing the best campsite for your style of camping, the weather conditions, and the campground layout. You can easily become a campsite setup pro once you’ve mastered how to select the best campsite.

Keep reading to learn how to choose the best campsite to make setting up your tent or RV a breeze, common campsite layouts, and a step-by-step guide on how to safely set up a campsite free of stress.

how to set up a campsite

Choosing the Best Campsite

The first step before starting the process of how to set up a campsite is to choose the best campsite for your camping needs. Choosing a great campsite will make the setup process safer and less stressful!

The Basics

This is a quick run-down of the four most common types of campsites available in the United States campgrounds.

Primitive Campsites

Primitive is another word for backcountry. These campsites are isolated from regular campground amenities and other campers.

They have minimum amenities, but some may have drinking water, animal-proof garbage cans, picnic tables, and a fire ring. Some may be accessible by vehicles, but many are walk-in only or only allow vehicles in case of an emergency. Learn more about Backcountry Camping Essentials.

Tent Campsites

Tent campsites are commonly found in public and private campgrounds and are only large enough to accommodate tents.

Many tent sites now have electric hookups; water service may be available from a water pipe. They are close to other campers’ sites, shops, bathrooms, and sometimes showers and laundry rooms. These sites also have space for a vehicle to park beside the tent. Learn more about tent camping.

RV Campsites

RV campsites are larger and usually have gravel or concrete space to park your RV. They normally have electric hookups and sometimes have water and sewer hookups.

These spots will also vary in size, so you will want to make sure you have enough space when choosing a site if you have a larger RV. Learn more about RV camping.

how to set up a campsite

Campsite Layouts

Familiarize yourself with the four common campground layouts. Understanding these layouts and knowing which layouts the campground you’re visiting uses will help you identify which spaces are best and will make learning how to set up a campsite easier.

Standard Layouts for Setting up a Campsite


Angled spaces are common in campgrounds and allow campers to have space between their neighbors. They can be tricky for larger RVs to back into, but it’s doable with practice. Angled spaces also make great tent sites.


Straight spaces are best for RVs and pop-up campers because they’re easier to back into. They have space for parking your car or RV in front and the camping pad with the fire ring, picnic table, and electrical hookups in the back.

The biggest disadvantage of straight spaces is you’re generally right next to your neighbor, leaving you little privacy regardless of how you set up a campsite.


L-Shaped spaces are similar to straight spaces, though they have your parking on one side with your picnic table and fire ring beside it, making an “L.” Although these sites are also easy for RVs and pop-up campers to back into, they leave little privacy.


Curved campsites are arranged in a circular pattern, and they’re best for campers looking for more privacy because they limit what your neighbors can see by angling campsites away from each other.

If a campground prioritizes safety, you will only find them on the left side of the road on one-way roads, which avoids the possibility of a driver focused on navigating his campsite running into on-coming traffic.

how to set up a campsite

Primitive Campsites

Many people have a misbelief that primitive campsites have no design, which means they’re allowed to camp wherever they want in the area. This is not the case.

Primitive campsites are structurally placed on flat ground and in areas that provide easy access to emergency crews. The goal of a structured primitive campsite is to prevent campers from setting up camp in random places, digging multiple fire pits, and leaving behind garbage in random places.

Tent Campsites

Tent campsites are small in size and generally have 12 feet by 30 feet parking space near 20 feet by 20 feet camping pad.

Some campgrounds eliminate the parking space and allow campers to park on the road in front or behind the space. Others have walk-in tent camping and a parking space available for tent campers

Grills, campsites, and picnic tables may be provided, and don’t be surprised if your picnic table is anchored to prevent campers from moving it to another campsite.

This may seem frustrating if you wanted to move your picnic table to another spot on your campsite, but you would be more frustrated to pull in and find you don’t have a picnic table and your neighbor has two.

Tent campsites are usually straight, angled, or L-shaped.

RV Campsites

RV campsites are becoming all the rage in recent years. They are larger and like tent sites, have grills, picnic tables, and fire rings. Along with electric, water, and sewer hookups, internet and cable TV hookups have become more common in recent years.

Depending on the campground, RV pads range from 10 to 12 inches wide and 20 to 45 feet long. The best RV spots have pull-through spaces, so you can avoid backing into a space.

how to set up a campsite

Things to Consider on the Campground Map

Water and Trash

If you don’t have a water hookup at a campsite, you will need to consider where the closest water pump is located. Many campgrounds have water pumps listed on their maps, so you can select campsites closest to water.

You want to be near an animal-proof trash can, but you don’t want to be near the dumpster when setting up a campsite. Dumpsters lure in wild animals; you don’t want to smell them.


The caveat with being near a water hose can be drainage, so you may not want to choose the site right next to a water pump. You also don’t want to be near the campground’s main sewage drain.

Bathhouses and showers also often have drainage, so while it’s great to be close to the bathroom, you don’t want to be too close.

Drainage especially affects campsites at the bottom of a hill, so you want to avoid those campsites like the plague.

Sun and Shade

Sun and shade are huge factors when choosing the best camping space. On a hot, humid day, you want to choose spaces that receive plenty of shade. Though if you’re camping during the cooler months of the year, you might welcome the sun.

Flat is Best

Look for notations about hills on the map. You can pull up the campground on Google Earth, which will help you identify the flattest spaces in the campground.

Also, look out for vegetation, which can be seen on Google Earth. Vegetation attracts pests and insects, which you don’t want while you’re camping.

How to Set Up a Campsite and Prioritize Safety

Check the Weather

Check the weather before you start the process of how to set up your campsite. If you are camping with inclement weather in the forecast, be aware of the campground’s emergency shelter plan with how you set up a campsite.

When checking the forecast, note the wind direction, which is extremely important with setting up a campsite. Pay attention to the temperature to know whether to place your tent in the sun or shade if you’ve selected a partial shade space.

If you’re not from the area, follow the weather a few days before your arrival so that you know how much rain the area has had. This will help you prepare for muddy campsites or drought-like conditions, so you dress accordingly.

Avoid Widow Makers and Dead Trees

A widow maker is a dead branch that has the potential to fall either on you, your tent, or your RV. Avoid walking or camping under these, and stay away at least 1 ½ times the height of the tree from any dead tree you spot in the campground.

how to set up a campsite

Remove Rocks

Rocks can be a problem at any campsite for a variety of reasons. They move through erosion all over the world through water, wind, and gravity. Children also like to play with them and bring them everywhere they go.

Eliminating any sign of pesky rocks is important if you’re tent camping, but it can also be important for RVers. You don’t want to pop a dent in your RV when you’re pulling in or stepping out of your RV to be met by a pile of rocks (Ouch!).

You also don’t want to start the tent staking process only to be met by a hard rock in the ground. Or worse, to get your tent set up to discover you’re on a bed of rocks.

Scout the entire site for rocks before you begin the setup process to eliminate the possibility of rocks ruining your camping trip.

Position Your Tent or RV in a Way that Makes Sense

No two campsites are identical, so common sense will aid you in how to set up a campsite. However, take into these considerations when setting up a campsite.

Ten Feet Rule

When setting up a campsite, your campfire should be ten feet from your tent or RV.

Doors and Wind

You don’t want your RV or tent door to get caught in the wind, so your doors need to face away from the wind.

Ideally, your door will face away from other campers. If you’re placing two tents on a campsite, you probably will want to have the doors facing each other, especially if one tent is a kids’ tent.

Use Water to Stake

Don’t give up on staking your tent if the ground is hard on a hot summer day. If the ground is too hard to stake and you’ve confirmed a rock isn’t the cause, wetting the ground down with water should do the trick.

Place Your Seating Near Your Firepit

When setting up a campsite, your chairs should be three feet from a wood-burning fire pit. This provides enough distance to prevent them from catching fire and allows you to be close enough to enjoy the toasty fire warmth while cooking over an open fire.

Camp Kitchen Safety

Food in tents can lure in animals, which can be especially dangerous if you’re in bear country. If you’re in raccoon alley, don’t be surprised if you find your food up a tree if you leave it in an easily-opened cooler.

Strategically store food in animal-proof containers at least 200 feet from your tent when setting up a campsite kitchen. Hanging your food from trees might prevent bears from getting to it, but they will not stop raccoons.

Wrapping Up How to Set Up a Campsite

how to set up a campsite

You’re prepared for how to set up a campsite like a pro! If you’re looking for more camping tips and tricks, check out the Camping section!