Before You Hit the Trail:
- Practice setting up your tent before taking it out on a trip. Assemble it in the backyard or living room if necessary, to make sure all the parts are there before you leave home.
- Make sure that any new backpack or other gear has been properly fitted to you before heading out on your trip.
- Look over your older or used gear to ensure that it’s in proper working condition. If you detect a problem, make the effort to remedy it before you leave.
- Familiarize yourself with all the warning/ hazard labels on your camping equipment.
- Make sure you have all the proper maps, permits and equipment needed for your intended destination.
- Schedule your day so you arrive at your chosen campsite at least two hours before sunset. This will ensure you are not rushed with your site selection or left setting up camp in the dark. We know that sucks.
What Makes a Good Campsite:Water
- One of the most important elements of a good campsite is it’s proximity to water. You will need water for cooking, cleanup and filtering your next day's drinking supply. Choose a spot at least 200 feet away from your water source to avoid grey water contamination and to avoid disturbing any paths animals use to come and drink.
- Look for “Previously Impacted Areas” or in other words, places where others have camped before. This will minimize your impact on the land. Practice “Leave No Trace” guidelines whenever possible.
Choose sites that will drain well -- even in a downpour.
- Find the most level spot to pitch your tent; if you end up on a slope, sleep parallel with the slope with your head on the higher side.
- Once inside your tent, you can fine-tune how level your sleeping pad is by placing your backpack, extra layers, etc. underneath your pad on the downhill side as a wedge (or shim) to make your sleeping surface more flat.
- Remove any sharp objects from the area directly underneath your tent. This is where most tent damage occurs.
Anticipate the wind. If it's gusting, try to select a campsite where boulders or trees provide a windbreak.
Keep in mind that cold air collects in meadows and valleys at night and that breezes blow up canyons or mountains during the day, and blow down at night.
If your campsite will be a basecamp for day trips, choose a site that offers ample shade during the day. A tent's rain fly can deteriorate when left in direct sunlight for prolonged periods.
Be considerate of other campers and the proximity of your camp sites.
What Makes a Bad Campsite:
Dangerous Land Features
- Avoid areas that show signs of avalanches, rockslides, high water or flood marks, and vegetation like poison ivy or oak.
- Do not camp at the bottom of cliffs with loose or falling rocks.
- Do not camp under "widow makers" (fallen trees leaning on other trees) or threatening limbs.
- Avoid pitching your tent directly underneath trees that drip sap, drop fruit, or have dead branches.
- Even though selecting a site near water is essential, keep in mind close proximity to water with little or no breeze generally means mosquitos and flies.
- Avoid low spots in the terrain. If you are camping along a river or within narrow canyons, seek higher ground when selecting a campsite in case bad weather moves in overnight. Low spots are colder and tend to collect water. You want a campsite that has some elevation and isn’t in a depression.
- Trees can be great for shade or natural wind blocks, but remember that tall, dominant, and single trees or small clumps of trees in an open area are potential targets for lightning.
Remember to always be aware of your surroundings and be courteous to the environment and others.