What a perfect day: You got up at dawn and you’ve been hiking through the wilderness all day. You and your camping party haven’t seen another person for hours. You’re deep in the backcountry, the sun will set soon, and it’s time to pick a spot to pitch camp. You may be tired and ready to sack out, but stay alert: Using your head now will make the difference between a great night and an uncomfortable one. Here’s 10 tips with what to look for in the perfect campsite:
Help prevent pollution: Pitch your camp at least 200 feet from lakes and rivers.
You may think that flat patch of earth will be most comfortable, but you actually want to be on a little bit of a slope. This way, if it rains, puddles won’t form easily.
Stay away from standing, stagnant water—it’ll be alive with mosquitoes by sundown.
Tall grasses attract ticks and chiggers.
Don’t camp right underneath the only tree in a meadow. It’s like a bullseye for lightning.
If you must camp under trees, make sure that they’re alive and healthy. Don’t camp underneath a large dead tree or dead branch. It could come crashing down in a high wind.
Fallen trees and rock piles are a haven for snakes and an invitation for a broken ankle. Try not to camp (or walk) too close.
Keep a sharp eye on the vegetation. Many a camping trip has been ruined by poison ivy, so learn what it looks like—and give it a wide berth!
Cold air is heavier than warm air, so stay out of valley bottoms unless you like to shiver.
If you’re camping in desert country, be careful about setting up in arroyos or desert canyons. Stay above the high-water mark. Flash flooding can happen much more quickly than you might think. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be raining where you are…a storm several miles upstream can cause a flood.