Aiming for 6 to 10 feet of space between tents is a good rule of thumb since it balances the need for socializing with friends with the dangers of setting up tents too close in case of a fire or strong winds. But let’s get you an expert on the topic.
Understanding the Basics
Before we discuss the best distance to have between your tent pitches, it’s important to talk about the basic elements of a tent and their roles in a properly pitched tent.
The tent body usually consists of the main fabric portion of the tent, while the tent floor is the bottom part, often waterproof, that provides a barrier between your body and the bare ground.
Tent poles provide structural support, shaping the tent and ensuring that it stands upright while guy lines are the cords that are used to secure the tent to the ground. Guy lines are normally tied to tent stakes and provide even more stability, especially against strong wind.
Being able to understand this is important as this will directly influence how much space you’ll need around your tent.
Tent Shapes and Types
Tunnel tents and other tent shapes will impact the amount of space required.
Tunnel tents, for example, have a longer design and typically need more linear space, influencing how you plan your pitches. Dome-shaped tents might have a wider base and need a broader area, especially if they include a rainfly – an additional waterproof layer that extends beyond the tent body.
It’s as good an idea can get to understand the specific spatial needs of your tent type when you’re thinking about pitch locations.
Why Flat Ground Is Key
As we also written in other articles, one fundamental rule of camping is to find flat ground to stake your tent.
Flat ground is crucial for your trip because uneven terrain can lead to uncomfortable sleeping conditions (who wants to sleep feeling rocks beneath the body?!) and potential water pooling under the tent floor during rain.
However, finding flat ground to set up your tent doesn’t mean compromising on your privacy or safety by pitching tents too close together (either too close to your friends, if in a group, or to other campers). There should always be ample space between tents to avoid disturbances and maintain a sense of privacy at the campsite.
So What Distance Should I Aim For?
While unfortunately there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, a solid rule of thumb to follow is to aim for 6 to 10 feet of space between tents.
You should include in your calculations the full length of all the poles, the breadth of the tent body, and room for extra guylines. 6 to 10 feet is not a random distance we just chose: this is the minimum distance to prevent guylines from tangling, to reduce noise between tents, and to ensure that you & your family have your own space.
However, remember that your need for space will vary based on tent shapes and sizes. Larger tents or those with extended awnings or rain flies will probably require additional separation.
Finally, consider the nature of your camping trip: you’ll probably be better off with closer pitches if you’re going camping with your family or group of friends to make it easier to communicate and socialize, while you’ll want more distance from other campers.
More Details Around Tent Distance
When camping on marshy ground, it’s crucial to increase the distance between tents.
Marshy or wet areas make it more likely to water seeping in your tent through the floor, and more space creates better airflow, allows faster ground drying, and reduces condensation in the tents. Also, you’ll need more room to avoid water run-off from one tent to another.
Wind direction is another critical factor you cannot ignore. We’ve written about how to position your tent in the past, but as a general rule, tents should be pitched with the narrowest side facing the prevailing wind to minimize resistance and the potential for the wind to uproot the tent stakes, but they should also be adequately spaced to avoid the possibility of a tent being blown into another. If the wind direction changes frequently or is very strong, you can also increase the distance between tents for extra safety.
The presence of dead trees (also known as “widowmakers”) nearby is a serious safety problem. Dead trees or dead branches can fall very easily, especially during strong winds, so tents should be spaced far enough from each other and from dead trees to reduce the risk of having branches fall on your tent and endangering your group.
Thinking About the Environment
As you may know, we believe that every camper must be environmentally responsible, and you are not an exception (read our article on respecting the principles of leave no trace for more information).
Avoid pitching tents on vegetation when possible and instead look for bare ground or established camp spots to minimize your ecological footprint & space your tents appropriately to preserve nature for future campers.
You Need To Check For Any Legal Distances
When the law determines minimum legal distances between tents, the objective is safety, and in particular to avoid fire risks and keeping secure and accessible escape routes in case of any emergency.
Regulations can vary depending on the type of campsite, its location, and local rules, so when preparing to pitch your tent, you need to check and see if there’s any existing regulation that you may need to comply with.
Remember: legal distances don’t exist so that you can just comply with the minimum and ignore them. They are there for a specific reason: to ensure that every camper can have a safe and comfortable camping experience.
Respecting legal distances prevents potential dangers from spreading or aggravating, provides more privacy for your family and helps keep noise levels under control (is there really anyone that enjoys trying to fall asleep when there’s a group of friends in the tent next door blasting loud music at 3 am?!)
Always check with the campsite or local authorities for any specific guidelines that may apply to your camping area, as rules might vary depending on the area you are choosing.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is Pre-Trip Preparation Important?
Pre-trip preparation is crucial because it allows campers to understand the terrain, forecasted weather conditions, and regulations of the campsite that they will be visiting. Knowing these factors in advance helps in making informed decisions on the appropriate distance between tents, ensuring safety, privacy, and comfort during the entire camping experience.
What Happens If Temperatures Drop A Lot? How Should Tents Be Pitched In This Scenario?
If temperatures drop, you should be setting up tents closer to natural windbreaks like bushes or trees (while keeping a safe distance to avoid fire hazards) but still far enough from each other to prevent any risk of fire spreading or feeling cramped. However, tents shouldn’t be so close that they rely on each other for wind protection, as this could risk all tents if one fails.
Is It Advisable To Orient Doors of Tents Facing Each Other?
Orienting doors for convenience or socialization is common, but it’s always important to ensure that there’s adequate space between the tents. This is important not just for privacy but also for safety: this way, if a fire is caught inside one tent, it won’t immediately endanger people in the adjacent tent. Furthermore, door orientation should also consider prevailing winds to prevent rain from entering the tents.
What Is The Risk of Pitching Tents Too Close to Each Other?
Tents that are set up too close to each other can easily share hazards. For example, if a fire happens inside one tent or a cooking accident occurs, it will probably quickly spread to other tents that are too close to it. Also, in strong wind conditions, a tent that is taken down by the wind can also impact other tents (aka, take them down).
Should I Carry Extra Stakes In Case I Need to Pitch My Tent Further From Others?
Yes, carrying extra stakes is always a good idea, especially if you’re going camping in areas known for unpredictable weather or strong wind. Extra stakes provide additional anchoring, ensuring that your tent remains stable, and give you the flexibility to set your tent up at a safe distance from others without compromising its stability.
Can The Distance Between Tents Impact Social Dynamics of the Camping Group?
Yes. While tents that are set up closer can foster a sense of community and make it easier to communicate, not everyone might feel comfortable being so close to each other. Always talk to your group about what they prefer and find a balance between sociability and privacy.