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How to Choose a Great Campsite

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Whether you’re tent camping, car camping, throwing your bivy sack on the ground, or you have a giant RV or camper, there are some tricks of the trade you need to use to choose a great campsite.

Great campsites have some common features – protection from the elements, plenty of room to spread out, and a nice view, too!

Here’s a few tips for finding campsites like this.

Do a Quick Zone of Assessment

When you’re hunting for the ideal campsite, you need to have a mental checklist so you can evaluate each spot for it’s worthiness. When doing so, look for:

  • Flat, open areas to put your tent (or park your camper)
  • The presence (and hopefully the absence of) widowmakers – dead trees that could come crashing down on you as you sleep
  • The view…is there a nice vista to take in as the sun sets?
  • How the rising sun interacts with the site…will you be awakened at the crack of dawn by the rising sun or is there some shade that will help you sleep a little later?

Looking for features like this will help you find a spot that you can turn into a comfortable place to rest.

How to Choose a Great Campsite: Where’s the Outhouse?

How to Choose a Great Campsite Where's the Outhouse

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If you’re camping in an established campground, it’s good to know where the outhouse is for a couple of reasons.

First, if you’re like my mother and you need to use the restroom overnight, it’s beneficial to be relatively close to the outhouse. Long walks in the woods at night can be a little scary (and cold!).

Second, you want to be upwind from the outhouse at all costs, lest the outhouse smell overwhelms your camp. In my neck of the woods, prevailing winds come from the northwest, so we always choose campsites northwest of the nearest outhouse.

Third, try to balance the need to be near the outhouse with the need to not have the outhouse right in your face. While you might not want to be a quarter of a mile away from the outhouse, you don’t want to pick the spot right next to it, either.

Learn More:

Prepare for Bugs

prepare for bugs

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Selecting a spot that has some protection from the wind, rain, and other elements is a smart choice for a happier existence in camp. But just like you, mosquitoes, deer flies, and other annoying bugs like to be protected as well.

If you select a campsite that is well-protected, be ready with bug spray, long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and a mosquito net to put over your head.

Additionally, bring along some bug-repelling candles and some funky wood to get a nice, smoky fire going to help keep bugs away. A canopy with mosquito netting isn’t a bad idea either – it gives you a space to sit outside without dealing with tons of bugs.

Another thought is to search for a campsite that offers protection for your tent or camper, but also has an open area where you can cook, eat, and hang out. Sure, it might be a little windier in the open, but you can at least enjoy one another’s company with fewer bugs bothering you.

How to Choose a Great Campsite: Look for Privacy

How to Choose a Great Campsite Look for Privacy

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Obviously, there are times when the best campsite around won’t be all that private. But even in established campgrounds, you can find sites that have trees for privacy or that are located on the edge of a loop that minimizes how many other campers might be nearby.

Additionally, think about how the parking situation can help you create a more private campsite. For example, some campgrounds have pull-through spurs that allow you to use your vehicle and camper as a screen from all the folks driving by.

If you’re backpacking, look for a place to pitch your tent away from the trail. While you want to tread lightly and minimize your impact on the environment, you also don’t want your tent to be five feet from the trail where passersby will interrupt your camping experience.

Consider Opportunities for Fun

Consider Opportunities for Fun

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If you’ll be in the same spot for several days, you will want a campsite that has opportunities for exploration, games, and other fun activities.

Look for trees where you can hang a hammock or put up a slackline. Find a site with some open areas for playing frisbee or cornhole. If you’re a photographer, scope out sites that give you a nice view to photograph and improve your photography skills.

These tips aren’t rocket science by any means, but they can still help you learn how to choose a great campsite that will enable you to have a fun-filled trip!

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