But the place which you have selected for your camp, though never so rough and grim, begins at once to have its attractions, and becomes a very centre of civilization to you: “Home is home, be it never so homely.”
-Henry David Thoreau
Remember the time you slept outdoors with the rocks jutting into your back all night? The following day you gimped along, stooped over, and promised yourself the next time you went camping you would give some thought to the spot that would be your home in the great outdoors.
Regardless of the type of camping trip you are planning, I think most experienced campers will agree that when choosing your campsite location, careful consideration should be given to the following:
- View: To quote T. Edward Nickens, “It should have a view that makes you want to leap from the tent and high-five the rising sun.”
- Near water: Ideally, your spot should be about 200 feet or so from water.
- Sheltered from wind: The area should be protected from the worst winds, yet out in the open enough so you will be able to enjoy the view and keep the mosquitoes at bay.
- Hard, flat surface: Instead of a bumpy, soft surface, you should aim for a hard, flat surface. Clear away all debris, rocks, and roots. Fill holes if necessary. Then, before pitching your tent, lay out your ground cloth and lie down on the spot to check the comfort level. Should you have to pitch your tent on a slope, remember to keep the opening downhill to prevent rain from coming in.
- Well-drained terrain: Your goal here should be to find a slightly elevated spot to help avoid puddles in case it rains.
- Away from hazards: The site should be safe. Look for signs of predatory animals. Check the area for poisonous plants and unstable branches or widow-makers. Stay away from stagnant water, a breeding ground for bacteria and mosquitoes.
That seems like a lot to consider, and it is. However, you should keep in mind that your wilderness home is the place you will come to unwind after a long day in the outdoors. It is the spot where you and your companions will gather to discuss the day’s activities and dream up the next day’s adventures. Choosing your camping spot with care will reward you with a big payoff in terms of the kinds of memories you make.