Feb 19 2014

How to Set Up Camp in the Wild

How to Select the Best Camp and How to Set up the best Camp for Wilderness Survival 

Location, location, location – yes even in a wilderness setting you have to know your real estate and knowing how to set up camp in the wilderness can mean the difference between surviving and not.

Your first priority in most cases will be shelter, so it is important that the area you choose is livable. This means there are not any snake dens, anthills, dens where hibernating predators may be and it must be above the high water mark.

Water should be close by but in most cases, it is not recommended that you camp right at the edge of any body of water.

The area must be level and large enough for your shelter, fire, working space and gear.

Water attracts insects, predators (two legged and four legged), and then there is always the chance of flooding.

Therefore, what may seem like the ideal wilderness survival camp at first may not to be so desirable after exploring for a bit.


First, evaluate the area for shelter materials.

You, in most instances, cannot afford to burn off precious calories by dragging shelter material any distances, so do not pick a spot and then go off and drag back limbs and boughs. * Find an area so you can gather the materials and practically build on the spot.

Depending on your situation, you may want to choose an open space, close enough to a large body of water so you can maintain signal fires for rescue personnel but not too close to the water. If you want to be covert, you want to avoid open spaces and stay well back from any water sources.

Gather water in the middle of the day to avoid nocturnal hunters and other animals and insects seeking water under the cover of darkness.

Once you have picked a spot you should explore out from the base camp.

Food sources would be wild game, fish and wild edibles. If you plan to shelter in place for an extended period, your hunting should be done far enough away from camp to prevent scaring off the game close by. The game close to your camp will be a food source for when you cannot hunt far from camp.

Fuel sources for your fire must be available within a reasonable distance. Always keep in mind the what ifs, for example if it is raining hard, icing or snowing can you reach the fuel source, water source and gather, hunt or fish for food without endangering your life or getting lost.

You typically want to extend your perimeter as far out as your comfort level allows. Forage for edibles at the far reaches and work your way back toward the base camp. You do not want to overgraze, as it were, to close to camp. Save the edibles close by for when the weather is bad or as a source to carry with you if you have to leave in a hurry.

Along the edges of lakes and large streams is an ideal place for signal fires because aircraft and watercraft can easily spot the smoke. If you are in a heavily forested area smoke can be seen during the day but it is more difficult and usually can only be spotted from the air or from a fire station tower. In most cases rescue personnel do not search at night for safety reason.

Other Considerations

  • Avoid avalanche areas
  • Avoid wooded areas with dead overhead limbs and dead trees that can be blown down in a wind
  • Avoid areas that may produce rockslides
  • Do not camp in any dry washes or depressions because of the possibility of flash flooding

Too many campers and others have been attracted to the protection that depressions and dry washes offer only to find themselves in a dangerous situation because of heavy rains miles upstream.

You never want to find yourself having to climb out of a situation to save your life. Choosing the high ground has many advantages and one of those means not having to scramble uphill in the middle of the night to avoid rushing waters.