Established campsites are great, but they tend to either be full of people or located somewhere far away from where you’re actually planning to hike. If you’re heading out into the wilderness, one of the best skills you can pick up is learning how to find the perfect rough campsite. Here are a few tips, tricks and toys to help you get started.
There’s nothing worse than finding a campsite in the dark. We know you want to spend your entire day hiking from sunup to sundown, but setting up a campsite in the dark is a bad idea. You don’t want to wake up to find out that you’ve laid your tent down on a yellow jacket nest or next to a bear den, do you?
Find your campsite before the sun goes down so you have enough time to make sure the location is safe and secure before it gets too dark to see. Headlamps are great, but they only take you so far.
Off the Beaten Path
A general rule of thumb is that you want to set up your campsite at least 200 feet away from local trails and water sources. Not only does this keep people from bothering you as they’re hiking through the area, but setting up away from water sources also prevents your tent from being filled with condensation in the morning.
You should also, if possible, avoid animal game trails. While they’re generally not going to cause problems, you could end up with animals disturbing you as they make their way up and down the game trails at night.
Water and Hazards
Water is an essential part of hiking — it’s important to stay hydrated, after all — but it can also be a hazard that you need to be aware of.
First, keep an eye on the weather, especially if you’re in an area prone to flash floods. You don’t want your tent getting washed away, especially with you in it!
Second, if you’re planning on using local water sources to stay hydrated, make sure you have adequate filtration and sterilization tools to kill any bacteria that might be living in the water.
Flash floods and noisy hikers aren’t the only things you need to worry about when you’re camping. You’re in the wild, and that means you’re in the natural habitat of all sorts of wild animals. If you walk into a campsite in the dark or are walking after the sun has gone down, it’s important to be aware of any wild animals around you. You can use a thermal camera to quickly scan your campsite or your trail to easily avoid any animal-related hazards.
This might seem like common sense, but it’s important to find a level campsite. This is especially important if you toss and turn in your sleep — you could end up rolling down a hill, taking your whole tent with you!
If you’re up to carrying them, you can always use foam wedges to compensate for a sloped site, but it’s a lot easier and less annoying to just find a flat spot to pitch your tent.
Leave Only Footprints
They say that when you go hiking, you should take only pictures and leave behind only footprints. Not only does this leave a nice environment for other people to camp in, but it also helps keep the trails and sites healthy for the animals and plants that live there.
Keep all your trash bagged, secure and tie up your food in a bear bag to avoid enticing predators and don’t leave anything behind when you leave. Even organic trash like fruit peels and leftover food should be bagged up and taken with you.
Hiking and camping are great ways to get out into nature, but they definitely require some preparation to make sure you have the best experience possible without making a negative impact on your trails or campsites.
Scott Huntington is a writer from central Pennsylvania. He enjoys working on his home and garden with his wife and 2 kids. Follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington