Selecting a Good Tent Site

The best tent site will vary greatly depending on your preferences. You might want to pitch your tent where you’ll catch an evening breeze to drive away the bugs or a place that warms with the first rays of morning sun. Here are some general guidelines for selecting prime camping real estate.

Things to look for:

  • Above the high tide mark or flood zone of a river.
  • Close to a clean water source.
  • At least 300 feet from your kitchen and from your food cache.
  • Ground cover such as sand or snow that can be restored when you leave.
  • Behind a good windblock.
  • Smooth, level ground.

Things to avoid:

  • The middle of a game trail.
  • Standing water that breeds bugs.
  • Fragile ground such as tundra, or delicate plants like alpine flowers.
  • Berry patches or spawning fish that might be a food source for bears.
  • Trees that might drip pitch or drop branches.
  • Low areas that don’t drain, or that fill with cold air.
  • Seracs that might fall or slopes that might avalanche.

Also consider that exposure to UV rays combined with hot weather and high elevations will damage tent fabrics. Colors fade and fabrics can become frail and brittle. Keep your tent out of intense sun by taking it down, setting it in the shade, or covering it with an inexpensive tarp. At the very least, you should protect the vulnerable canopy fabric by keeping it covered with the fly. Replacing the fly is less expensive than buying an entire tent.

Once you have your tent up, ensure that it’s well anchored and tensioned, so strong winds won’t move it. Use tent pegs on ground that will hold them securely. On surfaces like bare rock, loose sand, hardpack, or snow you can improvise by using rocks, poles, skis, or try filling a stuff sack with sand or snow and burying it for a sturdy tent anchor.

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