Choose the Perfect Campsite

Choosing the perfect wilderness campsite can be the difference between turning your escape to the outdoors into a true weekend paradise or an experience of truly “roughing” it. While some may choose a giant recreational vehicle and sleep inside in their well-stocked tenement-on-wheels, “real campers” sleep under the stars and enjoy the challenges posed by leaving creature comforts behind. Be the skilled outdoorsman or outdoorswoman your fellow campers will admire and spare them a weekend of camp regret by choosing the perfect spot to pitch a tent, roast marshmallows, breath in the fresh air and relax.

The Field & Stream Camping Guide: Camping Skills You Need offers great tips on choosing the right camping spot and more. The perfect campsite should include:

A View

Whether it’s a shimmering lake, a babbling brook or a panoramic view of the distant mountain range, we go camping to enjoy the sights, sounds and sensations of the raw outdoors. What better way to enjoy it than being sure you have a commanding view of the nature and terrain around you?

Open Space

Look for an open spot among the forest, large enough to accommodate your tent(s), chairs, cooking space and other items. Avoid trampling vegetation, and don’t cut or remove plants. Always leave the area exactly as you found it.


Don’t pitch a camp site in the wide open, if possible, and choose a spot with ample shade to keep cool in summer and avoid sunburn in both warm weather and cold.


Make sure you have a source of clean water within 100 yards to make hauling it to camp for cooking and cleaning easy. Some parks and wilderness areas may restrict how close you can set up near water due to erosion and pollution concerns, so know the regulations where you will be camping.

Level ground

Pitch a tent on solid, level ground devoid of protruding roots and half-buried rocks. Remove sticks, loose rocks, pine cones and other hard objects and layer the surface with fallen leaves and loose moss for added comfort and moisture absorption. If there is a slight incline, set your tent and sleeping bags so campers’ heads will be uphill when sleeping.

Protection from Wind

In addition to providing shade, the trees and terrain should protect the camp from high winds, yet still allow breezes to pass through to keep camp cool and deter mosquitoes.

Some other things to do when choosing a campsite include:

  • Check the trees around a potential campsite for dead limbs or trunks that can fall in high winds. Never set a tent below a tree with large, dead limbs.
  • Be sure the trees around camp are all of roughly the same height. A single tree that towers above the rest could serve as a lightning rod in a severe storm.
  • Never camp in low areas, such as creek bottoms or drainage ditches, as they may be prone to flash flooding in a storm.
  • Don’t camp beneath rocky ledges or below loose, boulder-strewn slopes where falling rocks or even a full-blown landslide, mudslide or avalanche could wipe you out.


Photo courtesy of Coleman
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