In all likelihood I will have been on the bike for 10 – 12 hours and nightfall is not all that far away. It is time to look for a place to lay down for the night, but where? What do I look for when choosing a camp site?
There are many options and the selection of a camp site may ourne one of the biggest decisions of the day. One that if not made wisely, will leave me feeling tired and listless as I head out the next morning.
To avoid this risk, I do try to find a suitable location in daylight so that I can set up camp, stow my gear and get a meal underway before the sun sets.
These then are the points I consider.
Things I look for:
Somewhere that has easy access but is out of sight of other campers and the main roads. Small side roads often make good choices and in the morning it is easy to head back on out again. I also try to be as inconspicuous as possible so that I do not attract attention.
A slight slope. I like to sleep with my head slightly higher than my feet and also, if it rains, I don’t have to worry about water collecting around the tent.
Ground that is clear of large stones, tree branches and general debris. Not having to clear the ground saves time and reduces the risk of puncturing my air mattress or tent floor.
Somewhere big enough for my tent and gear. If I have to get up during the night, I don’t want to be tripping over one of the tent ropes or the bike. Nor do I want the camp fire to close to the tent where a stray ember is going to leave a hole.
A sheltered location protected from the wind so that I am not disturbed or the tent destroyed!
A location with a view. On nights when there is not going to be rain, I leave like to leave the fly sheet off the tent so I can look out at the stars, watch the morning sun rise or just feel at one with the world.
If possible an aspect that will put the tent in the path of the morning sun. This will give it a chance to dry off before being packed up for a day’s travel.
Things I avoid:
Camping close to towns or settlements. For me anything closer than about 15 kilometres (9 miles) is not suitable. Again I like to be inconspicuous and the last thing I want is a zealous official moving me on at 11pm.
Ant nests or where I can see that critters are living underground. Snakes are a consideration here in Australia but ants and other crawlies are a more likely nighttime visitor.
Road side parking bays and truck stops. Not only will there be a constant whooshing of brakes and sweeping headlights all night long, but there have been instances of truckies not seeing campers until after they have run them over. A sleeping body does not create much of a bump for an eighteen wheeler and it’s trailer!
Gum trees, particularly the River Red Gum are notorious for dropping branches without warning, especially after a period of heat, then rain. They are not called “widowmakers” without reason and you don’t want a limb the size of a small car crashing down on your tent during the night.
Creek beds. It is surprising how quickly they can flood unexpectedly even though it has not rained in the region for months. Water travels hundreds of kilometres throughout Australia. The roar of approaching water can sound like road traffic and be ignored or missed if you are a sound sleeper.
Over hanging cliffs or rock faces. The same way that trees drop branches, so do cliffs shed rocks. A falling rock can be a hazard!
Unless I have chosen a public camping ground, I look for somewhere away from other campers.
Areas that may have a mosquito, march fly or other airborne insect population. These locations include low-lying marshy places, still water or tall grass.
Lastly, so that the next cyclist, hiker or lover of nature can enjoy the same tranquil location that provided me with a good nights rest, I try to:
Practice low impact camping and leave it as it was when I arrived.
Not disturb the undergrowth or damage the trees.
Where fires are allowed, keep them as small as possible and put them out before going to sleep. I also scatter the cold ashes before departing in the morning.
Take all my rubbish with me. The first rubbish bin I find invariably gets a small donation.
Be courteous to any other campers nearby.
This may look like a long list but most of them are common sense and will come naturally after a little practice.
Following these rules will help keep you safe, make your journey more enjoyable and leave the camp site looking as though you were never there.