The number one question campers have when they first arrive at their destination is, “Where am I going to set up my campsite?” Sometimes this question is easily answered, and other times it’s not so easy. The location of your campsite makes a great difference as to how your camping trip will be. A great campsite adds a level of comfort and increases your enjoyment, while a bad campsite can simply ruin the whole trip. Knowing what to look for in a campsite is the key to an enjoyable camping experience.
When you first arrive on the site the first thing you need to do is check the topography of the land. Look at the surface of the land, and pay attention to hills, and low-lying areas. Keep in mind that in the case of rain, water will always flow downhill. Placing your site at the bottom of a hill, or aside a creek bed is never advisable, for obvious reasons. Placing your site on the side of a hill is a slightly better option, but you may find it a little uncomfortable sleeping on a slope. The best option is to set up your site on the top of a hill, preferably under a tree. This will add an extra level of protection in the case of inclement weather conditions.
Once you have established a suitable area for your campsite it’s time to set up your shelter. Assuming you have a tent, find a spot either under a tree or around a set of bushes. This will give you protection from the rain as well as the wind. This comes in handy when the wind picks up and you are trying to start a fire. Plus, it will help keep the smoke out of your tent. If you are “roughing it” there are a few things for you to keep in mind. When constructing a shelter out of branches and other vegetation, always check the area for snakes and other dangerous animals. Try to keep sharp edges at a safe angle away from your body, and preferably pointed outward from the shelter, as opposed to inward, in case of a shelter collapse. If you have a tent, make sure that you set it up away from low-lying branches, and clear of any other potentially dangerous objects. The last thing you want on a camping trip is a tent with a giant hole in the side.
After you set your shelter up you will have to clean up the campsite. Clear the ground of any debris such as leaves, sticks, thorns, etc. Keeping the ground around your campsite clear will help keep the bugs away, and give you a little piece of mind while sleeping at night. Snakes and other dangerous animals like to hide under leaves and other debris so be weary of these critters when conducting your clean “sweep”. Use a fallen branch to sweep the area as well as you can, and make sure to take note of ant hills, animal holes, and anything else that may cause a problem. If you find that you are surrounded by ant hills, or your tent is right next to an animal hole, you might want to consider finding a new campsite. These can make for a very uncomfortable camping experience, so avoid them whenever possible.
Camping is a great way to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, but is something you should never hastily jump into. Most campers are miles and miles from the nearest Emergency Room, so staying vigilant, with safety as the number one priority, is paramount to an enjoyable camping trip. Whether you are in the backwoods of Kentucky, or in the mountains of Colorado, a safe and comfortable campsite can make or break your experience. By keeping your campsite above the water, out of the wind, and clear of dangerous animals and objects, you increase your chances of a fun filled, yet safe camping experience.