Clear a Campsite in the Forest

Clearing Overgrown Land for a Permanent Camp in the Forest

Clearing land for the camp is the first step in setting up your permanent campsite. Once you have selected a suitable campsite in the woods you will need to remove all shrubs, trees, rocks and debris to make your camping experience on your permanent campsite a favorable one. Once you have selected a good campsite now is the time to clear it.

Preparation and Safety

Make sure all your gear is in place and ready to go. You can use manual or mechanical tools to clear your camp site. You can find an optimal list of tools bellow. You can mix and match and use what tools you have handy. Purists might only use manual tools while for practicality purposes you might want to use mechanized tools like a chainsaw or brushcutter. It all depends on what type of site you are clearing, season and weather conditions. Wear thick clothing to prevent small scratches and injury. Use insect repellent to prevent bites from mosquitos or ticks. Use safety glasses and hearing if you are going to use a chain saw or brushcutter. Have ample clean water handy to prevent dehydration ( you will be sweating) and have a good and stocked first aid kit around in case of injury.

Prepare your equipment for a long day of work. This means sharpening your chainsaw and brushcutter blades, your axe.

Size of Permanent Camp

As a rule of thumb try to clear an area that is larger than the footprint of your tent. Clear land for your tent, for your fire pit, an outdoor sitting area and an area where you can work on cutting wood etc. Go a bit further to create a vacant patch of land around your camp. This way you will have a safety buffer away from shrubs that can be used by ticks and other insects to hide.

Remove Brush and Shrubs for Camp
Remove Brush and Shrubs for Camp

Clear Brush

Use the machete or gas brushcutter with the appropriate extension to clear any shrubs around the area you want to call camp. Try to cut all shrubs small trees and bush down as low as possible. Cut everything as low as possible but visible enough so that you can go back and remove the roots if necessary later. This will include shrubs, tree saplings other weeds etc. The brushcutter works wonders in situations like these. We use stihl brushcutters for all our land clearing. Use the pick axe and the shovel and shears to cut any larger bush roots and remove them. Once everything is cut down as much as possible you can go ahead and remove any dead trees, stumps or other debris that was hiding under the brush.

Brushcutter to Clear Camp
A Trimmer or Brushcutter with a blade instead of string can come in very handy

Remove Dead or Fallen Trees

Remove anything in your way. Use an axe or chainsaw to cut branches and trees. Dead trees standing trees are excellent firewood. Keep dry softwood or hardwood trees aside. You can use both for your campfire or tent stove. Pile everything up out of the way you can process firewood later. If the trees are rotten pile them up somewhere else. Rotten wood is not good firewood but you can use rotten stumps as barriers or to fill holes when leveling your campsite. Everything has its uses in the forest. Keep them around to use for supporting earth around areas where you need to add soil to flatten tent site.

Dead and Rotten Trees in the Woods
Dead and Rotten Trees in the Woods

Remove Dead Standing Trees and “Widowmakers”

Once you have semi cleared site you can take the time to drop any trees that can fall later. This is a safety precaution primarily. Last thing you need is a tree or branches falling on your tent during a windstorm. This could result in significant damage or injury. Use the chainsaw and axe to drop any precarious trees or branches. Pile everything up aside and process the firewood later. Felling trees is a difficult process. Be prepared and keep safety in mind.

Flatten ground for tent site
Remove rocks, stones and flatten the camp site

Flatten Earth For Tent Site

This is where your shovel and pick axe will come in handy. You will want to flatten the earth as best as possible to arrange your sleeping area and tent. Taking the time to turn the soil with a shovel will produce flat and soft earth to set your tent on for years to come. It is a little extra work but it will pay dividends. Remove stones and rocks and save them for later use. You can use some for your fire pit. Use a rake to flatten the soil. You are now ready to pitch your tent.

Main Fire Pit

Camp Fire Pit
Camp Fire Pit for Cooking and Relaxing

Finally the fire pit. You want the fire pit somewhere close to the tent but not too close for safety reasons. Dig a small hole and use the stones you removed from clearing the land to build a wind breaker around the fire. Make sure this pit is in a location where you can sit and work around as this is where you will be doing all your cooking.

The main fire pit is where you will be doing all your cooking. So you need to protect it from the wind as much as possible. Collect all the rocks you removed from clearing your campsite and build a wall around the hole. Approximately a foot or foot and half high. You want to keep some smaller stones and place them inside the put.

So you might want to dig a little deeper. The stones on the bottom of the pit will help to reflect heat, keep moisture away from when you are lighting the first time around and make for faster cooking. You might want to install a rotating grill base so you can swing a pan or pot on an off the fire.

Finally go ahead and chop some of that wood you cleared earlier. Dry wood for a good fire.

How to Deal With Woody Debris

Process the branches and stumps you cleared from the land for firewood. If it is dry you can use it right away. If not stack everything somewhere nearby. In a few months you will have firewood and kindling. You can burn woody debris you will not use for firewood by building a smoldering fire near camp. This will help keep insects away and what will be left from the fire can be used as fertilizer down the line.

Clearing overgrown land for a camp is not an easy undertaking. If you take your time and do it right you will not have to do it again. You can do all the work in one day, or take your time and do it in multiple instances. All depends on how much work you want to put in, time, weather and what tools you have on hand.

Featured Gear

Shovel, Pickaxe, Axe, Rake, Shears, Digging Bar, Saw or Chainsaw, Machete, Brushcutter or trimmer, Cart or Sled for Moving Things, swivel grill, cast iron pan