Rec Sites Drone-23

Pitching a tent – engineering 101

23 October 2019

If you’re packing the camping gear into the boot of the car this holiday season there’s a good chance you’ll come across some of the camping and recreation sites we manage. There are dozens of them around the state and we would love you to use them. If you’re not sure where they are or which one would be best for you, take a look at our ‘find-a-site’ interactive map.  


Once you’ve arrived at your preferred location you’ll need to get cracking on setting up your campsite, which in a very roundabout way is a lot like building a dam.


To help you get the most out of your camping experience, we asked a couple of our engineers to apply their knowledge of dam building to pitching a tent.


There are four main stages of dam building: a feasibility study, design, construction and maintenance. So, according to the experts, here’s how you should apply this process to camping.


Stage one: Feasibility


When building a dam this stage determines the project’s technical, economic and environmental viability. Basically, whether or not the project should go ahead.


With camping, it’s important to make sure your trip won’t end in disaster. Going on holiday with the wrong people or equipment can put an irreversible strain on your mental and physical wellbeing.


Follow these simple steps to conduct your own pre-camp feasibility study:


  1. Go to the Hydro Tasmania website and find a site using our interactive online map, which lets you search based on the facilities you need (boat ramps, toilets etc.) and the activities you want to do (walking, fishing, paddling etc.). IMG_2600
  2. Work out how long you want to stay. Most of our sites have a maximum stay of 28 days – any longer and you’re not camping, you’re moving in!
  3. Check the weather forecast and, if you plan on using our waterways, be sure to go to our website to check the latest water levels.
  4. Conduct a thorough screening of all the people and equipment you plan on taking to the bush. Nothing ruins a camping trip faster than not being prepared for a snorer or waking up in the middle of the night and realising that your tent is no longer waterproof.


Stage two: Design


During this stage you need to work out how you’re going to organise your campsite and where you are going to pitch your tent.


Remember the six-P-principle: prior preparation and planning prevents poor performance:


  1. Conduct an environmental impact assessment. Make sure you don’t inadvertently lay your swag out on a jack jumper nest or set up camp in the line of falling tree branches. Also be aware of the local wildlife; gum trees are particularly DSC00060notoriousfor containing Drop Bears (Bearuss Dropalotacuss), which have been known to drop on top of unsuspecting victims (or tents).
  2. Undertake a geotechnical investigation of the foundations of your site. If the soil is too hard you won’t be able to sufficiently anchor your tent (get the pegs in the ground). If it’s too soft you won’t be able to get enough tension on your guide ropes to ensure the structural integrity of the tent (you’ll wake up in a potato sack).   
  3. Conduct a thorough topographical assessment to ensure optimal use of landscape. Sleeping on a slight slope is ok but nobody likes sleeping with their legs higher than their head. And never pitch downhill of the toilets. Likewise, some protection from the wind can be beneficial when choosing a camp location as severe winds increase the risk of your tent and everything else you own turning into a kite.
  4. Contract jobs to those with expert skills. Ensure everyone is working where they add best value. Whilst creativity and a disregard for instructions is a must for campsite cooking (who doesn’t like a deconstructed apple crumble made of tinned peaches?), taking a cavalier approach to tent construction is not advised.


Stage three: Construction


This is where you really get to show off your engineering skills by creating the most magnificent campsite in the area:


  1. Prioritise the most important tasks, like finding a good spot for the esky.
  2. Prep the area by clearing debris from your site. Remove anything that could damage the tent floor or poke you in the backside whilst you’re sleeping.
  3. Properly secure all equipment. A strong wind can make laying out your tent feel more like flying a kite. If it’s windy, peg down the tent corners first. You can always re-peg your tent in its final position later.
  4. Don’t rush. Rushing increases the risk of not looking cool, calm and collected. The best engineers always look cool, calm and collected even when faced with life’s major problems – like what is an appropriate sock-to-trouser ratio for the office?
  5. Keep a thorough record of your progress. Take a selfie and share it with the world; after all, if it’s not on social it didn’t happen.


Stage four: Maintenance


It’s great to have your own portable version of the Taj Mahal kitted out with every accessory you can find but poor tent maintenance, just like poor dam maintenance, can rapidly affect functionality, style and comfort:


  1. Ensure appropriate security protocols are in place. Keep the flyscreen zipped up. It’s lovely to see native flora and fauna IMG_2489while you’re spending time in the bush but you don’t necessarily want any in your tent.
  2. Similarly, store your shoes upside down and off the ground. This should help them remain dry and free of wildlife.  
  3. Conduct routine site inspections. Before heading to bed or off for a paddle, check that everything is appropriately covered. Toilet paper is one of those things that should never be left out. Trust me, it's not going to do the trick when it is soggy.
  4. Keep your workspace clean and tidy. Make sure all food is properly packed away. If an animal can see/smell your food they are more than likely going to try to eat it, even if it means chewing through the pockets of your favourite jeans.


And don’t forget the golden rules for any camping trip:

  1. Pack your sense of humour.
  2. Take only pictures.
  3. Make lots of memories
  4. Leave only footprints.  

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