Choosing a Campsite

You’ve arrived at the campground or forest where you plan to spend your trip. There’s tons of stuff to pull out of the car and transport to a site, but the question remains where to set up? Choosing a good campsite is going to be very important for your safety and enjoyment throughout your stay, so don’t skimp on this step.

Let’s look at what makes for a good camping space. First you need land that’s relatively flat, and free of rocks. A bed of pine needles in particular offers some nice cushioning (we do recommend putting a tarp over them to avoid any possible pin pricks in your tent). Another good choice is an area with hard packed soil (this offers the extra advantage of giving you good run off in the rain). Don’t go by looks alone, though, especially if you’re in a grassy area. Walk that land watching for unseen dips, rocks, slopes and critters that might make for uneasy sleep.

If you’re in a wooded area look to behind your tent and above it too. Placing your tent with a bush behind it gives you some safety from high winds. Above you there might be loose limbs in the trees that could come tumbling down. Either move those dead branches (possibly using them for your fire) or find another place to set up more safely.

Speaking of safety if you notice animal trails it’s a good idea to steer clear. For one thing this honors the environment. For another, it decreases the likelihood of an unwanted visitor at night. Check any nearby rocks and logs for signs of sneaks, and watch out for areas that are known for poison oak and ivy. Overall using an established campsite is a good idea. Most of these are away from water (avoid flash floods), have a spot for a safe fire (if one is permitted), and have already been placed with “safety-first” in mind.

Those considerations aside don’t forget about what you want in your camp site. If possible, look for a location that offers you plenty of visual appeal. Also consider how much privacy you’re afforded – it’s hard to feel “outdoorsy” when the folks in the next camp site are playing boom boxes. To avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes and no-see-ems avoid still water and tall, damp grass.

Finally, learn about the regulations of the camp where you plan to stay. Plan ahead of those inevitable unexpected moments (always pack one set of dry clothing in a sealed plastic bag, for example), and try to leave no trace of your presence when you go. This insures that others can enjoy the land and helps protect animals from potential harm.

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