What Makes a Good Campsite?

Some people are under the impression that a good campsite really depends on the person, but those people probably don’t camp often. There are definite things that are necessary in order to be a good site for camping, and here is a pretty good list of them:

  • Don’t camp downhill. This one should be common sense but most people don’t think about it until it starts to rain and all of a sudden their tent is an island. Or they overlook the rocks that fall from the cliff their tent is pitched under until one falls and hurts someone or trashes the tent.
  • In the same vein, don’t set up camp too close to water. Water can attract animals, which will be unexpected guests, but also to prevent source contamination.
  • Put your tent up on a flat, durable surface like rock or dirt so you’re not damaging the plant life that was happily existing there until you showed up. You don’t want to destroy the very nature that you’re out there to enjoy. If you’re in a rocky area, do yourself a favor and check for snakes before setting up camp. Another free tip: long grasses are a poor choice because chances are stuff is already living there—like ants, chiggers, ticks, and other things that will bite, sting, or otherwise annoy the heck out of you.
  • Don’t camp near a lone tree, a tree that looks like it might be dead, or with heavy branches directly over the tent. You don’t want to attract lighting or your own death with a fallen branch.
  • In mosquito prone areas, keep windward if you can. Mosquitos don’t fly well against the wind, which will help you from becoming a blood donor.
  • Utilize your surroundings. Boulders or rock outcroppings will protect you from the wind if you put your tent up accordingly. A tent that gets some sun in the morning will warm you up and dry off any dew/moisture that occurs overnight. A tent that gets sun all afternoon will be a sweatbox when you are trying to sleep.
  • Don’t set up your tent too close to a fire pit, and especially don’t put up a tent right downwind of a firepit. Most of your gear is supposed to be fire retardant, but it will still burn (and smell). Here is the more important part to remember: you are pretty flammable. Don’t become a human s’more. Stay far enough away from fire pits. Also, be sure you can even light a fire before you do so. And only light them according to the rules of where you are staying, and make sure they are completely out before you go to sleep or move on. Let’s not burn the whole place down, OK?
  • The idea is to make it look like you were never there when you pack up. Bring all your crap with you when you leave. Make sure to leave the site intact so that the person after you can enjoy themselves, too.
The best thing to do is only camp at an already-established site, but there are times where that isn’t feasible. Be courteous, be respectful, and be safe. You’ll have an awesome time.