Choosing Your Campsite

Travel & LeisureOutdoors

  • Author Don Williamson
  • Published June 25, 2011
  • Word count 382

When choosing your campsite out in a national forest, rocky mountain pass, or on a beach near a waterfall, there is a right and a wrong way to select the right spot.

Take a long hard look at the spot to make sure it is level for your tent and doesn't have any "hidden" surprises. There is nothing worse than setting up and finding out when you go to bed that you have an unforeseen rock pushing up in the middle of your back.

The area you choose should have at least 2 feet clearance all the way around your tent. If you are staying for a day or two, then it is important to have an area that you can sleep and have your fire pit together but not too close. A good rule of thumb is for the center of the fire pit to be at least 20 feet away from the closest part of your tent.

The Forest Floor

What else to look for? Looks can be deceiving and when selecting your campsite in the forest is no exception. Generally, the most common mistake made by campers would be to select a spot without looking at the slope of the ground and imagine where the rain would collect and flow as it heads to a stream or bottom of a valley.

Look for a higher than normal bluff or raised ground around a draining area to ensure there are no surprises when it rains. Waking up in the middle of the night because there is now 2 to 3 inches of water in bed with you is no picnic.

If there are no raised areas to choose from, then select a spot that is further up in elevation, not down.

Rocky Ledges

These types of campsites are the most dangerous since you are making your decision with no rain in sight. Without warning, what had seemed a nice protective ledge may be the target of a waterfall from above and you might be in it. Take your time to look for worn or smooth rock around the area you are deciding on before setting up. Rock that is worn smooth may be an indication of a natural drain path.

In short, choosing your campsite can be as important as the camping trip itself.

About Author:

Don Williamson is the editor of, the complete guide to camping for novices and the seasoned. Find more about picking campsites in the camping guide at his site.

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