in: Outdoor/Survival, Skills, Visual Guides

• Last updated: June 1, 2021

How to Pick the Perfect Campsite

Comic guide to pick a campsite.

When you’re out in the wild, your campsite will be your home away from home. Maximizing your comfort and enjoyment in your wilderness abode starts with picking the right spot for setting up camp. 

If you’re car camping at a park with sites specifically set aside for this purpose, you usually don’t have to think much about where to set up camp. The park designers have done that for you. You just park in the spot designated for your vehicle and then put up your tent in the area that’s allocated for it.

If you’re camping where the sites are a little more primitive or there are no designated spots (as is often the case while backpacking), you’ll need to think carefully about where to set up camp. Above you’ll find a visual guide on what to look for in making your choice: camping on a flat area away from others and by a tree break will keep the setting quiet, comfortable, and calm; avoiding positioning your tent underneath tree branches will prevent it from being crushed by a falling “widow maker”; and setting up at least 200 feet from a water source will give you easy access to it for drinking, but put you far enough away to avoid contaminating the water with your waste, or having it flood into your campsite if it rains.

Besides the features that are called out in illustration, you’ll also want to avoid low spots in the terrain. Water tends to collect in depressions and they’re usually chillier because cold air sinks. Avoid areas that look pristine too. That flowery meadow might look like a bucolic place to pitch your tent, but after camping and trampling on it, you’ll reduce the very loveliness that drew your eye. 

Finally, don’t take too long to make your campsite selection. You should start setting up camp at least two hours before sunset, as it’s no fun trying to pitch a tent and cook dinner in the dark; I know from experience. 

Happy camping!

Illustration by Ted Slampyak

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