Choosing the Right Tent Site
In order to have the best possible trip, make sure to spend some time and energy choosing the right place to set up your camping tent.
Do Your Research
Doing research before going camping is essential. For instance, making sure you’re aware of weather conditions, finding a campsite that fits your needs, and educating yourself on the campsite’s policies should be first on your list. You’ll need to be cognizant of the forecast in case you want to reschedule the trip because of adverse conditions. Many campers are more than happy to share their opinions of campgrounds and shelters, so ask around. The best way to learn about a potential camping spot is to hear a firsthand account.
If you’re going backpacking, you’ll want to examine a map of your trail prior to the hike to determine where you can camp. There will usually be campgrounds along the way, but some trails are incredibly rugged and won’t have convenient grounds at regular intervals. Figure out where dispersed camping is allowed, where there are campgrounds, and whether or not the sites are free. Make notes on your map of where the grounds are, keeping in mind your physical ability. An experienced hiker will likely know how many miles they can average in a day and will have no problem determining what sites they can reach each day; a novice hiker may want to deliberate more..
What to Look For
If possible, you should avoid campsites that are in valleys, as these areas can grow cold and damp. Camping at higher plateaus will help keep water out of your camping equipment, and looking for dry places to stay—about 200 feet away from water—will make you less of a target for mosquitoes and allow you to have a more comfortable camping experience. You should also be cognizant of how level the ground is where you want to set up camp. Even a slight incline can lead to you traveling in your sleep, which is not a situation you want to wake up to. Look for a campsite that’s shaded and protects you from the bulk of the wind.
When camping with your family or in a group, you may want to consider using a campsite that takes reservations. Both public and private campsites allow you to reserve a spot in advance, but privately owned campgrounds tend to be less rustic, which can sometimes be better for young children. Conversely, public sites, which are usually national parks, are more nature focused and provide you with more of an opportunity to experience the great outdoors.
In the backcountry, dispersed camping is likely going to be your only option for at least one night. However, there are certain regulations that need to be followed when camping. For example, on the Appalachian Trail, you are allowed to camp only for the maximum number of nights as defined by local authorities: usually two or three. That includes dispersed camping and staying at shelters. It’s important to familiarize yourself with the specific limitations of the trail you intend to hike on, or of the campsite you’re planning on visiting. In addition to educating yourself about the rules and regulations of the trail, you should also become familiar with principles of Leave No Trace.
Leave No Trace
The Leave No Trace program aims to teach outdoor enthusiasts how to enjoy the outdoors without impacting the environment by championing the idea of exploring nature without taking it with you or leaving any camping equipment behind. LNT recommends thorough preparation for your excursion, including learning the intricacies of the hike in order to avoid going off trail. The organization also requires campers to set up their tents at least 200 feet from water sources so as not to damage riparian areas. When choosing a campsite, take care to not trample any plants, and don’t camp anywhere that seems as though it’s been used before. While this may seem counterproductive, an area that has already been populated by people has a better chance of revegetation if it is henceforth undisturbed.
Inspect the Ground
Setting up camp on top of an anthill, near a collection of poison ivy, or on top of a prominent root can cause your trip to take a turn for the worse. Before making the final decision on your campsite, inspect the ground and surrounding area.
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