How to Pick the Perfect Campsite on Your Next Camping Trip
Whether you’re a novice or an experienced camper, selecting a campsite can make or break a trip. No matter how many supplies you bring or how comfortable your tents are, if the campsite is a lemon, your trip will be memorable for all the wrong reasons. While picking a spot at random might lead to a charming experience, the opposite is all too possible. It pays to perform due diligence ahead of time.
Check Terrain Before Deciding
At first glance, a potential campsite may look appealing. You might be taken in by its attractive views or by more routine features, such as the nearby presence of water. The scenery is always a factor when selecting a campsite. After all, the whole point is to enjoy the outdoors. However, tent camping brings with it unique considerations.
Choosing the right terrain to pitch a tent is key to a fun experience. According to Active Weekender, you need to select an area that is flat and clear. When setting up, pebbles and pine needles beneath the tent might not seem like a big deal. However, such debris has a tendency to annoy over time. Even in a sleeping bag, in the middle of the night that one stone can make rest a miserable proposition. Debris will also wear out the bottom of your tent or tarp faster. Taking a few minutes to clear your area will result in a more comfortable experience.
Proximity to water is also important. It is comforting to know that if you run out of water, a steady supply for drinking and washing is nearby. Yet, water provides its own hazards. You cannot know whether water is safe to drink solely by viewing it. A good kit should include a portable water filter system, but if you do not own one, look for signs advertising safe water at the campsite.
You should not set up camp too close to water whether it’s safe to drink or not. You run the risk of being flooded out should the weather turn for the worse. Also, insects love to gather near still water sources, especially in the summer months. You may find yourself swatting mosquitoes instead of admiring the sunset. There is a greater likelihood of water condensation building up inside your tent. The Washington Trail Association advises that you set up around 200 feet from your water source, and preferably on higher ground, if possible.
Find a Less Crowded Campsite
Some folks love to enjoy the outdoors with several dozen new-found friends. They love to gather at the campfire. Others want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and prefer their experience quiet or even solitary. If you are part of the second group, you will need to dig a little deeper in your research. Campers who have found that special, relatively untrammeled site sometimes keep it a secret, but most others want to share their good fortune when finding lesser-known sites.
Online reviews remain a popular method of finding such prime spots. According to Podium, 84% of people trust online reviews as much as recommendations from friends or family. However, that a campsite has few online reviews does not mean that it is not desirable. It could be that few people are aware of it. As with checking the terrain, always read the reviews carefully. Are the amenities sufficient? Is the weather generally reliable and comfortable? If you desire a less crowded campsite and can read between the lines of a review, that perfect spot might just be hiding in plain sight.
It also pays to widen your online study. In addition to surveying common review sites, seek out lesser-known or more specialized crowd-sourced review forums. In addition to finding out about great campsites, you can also pick up a lot of camping knowledge that can come in handy later. A less-frequented campsite boasts many advantages, including cleaner bathrooms, cleaner water sources and the tranquility of relative solitude. If you’ve had a great experience at a campsite, why not leave a review to help out fellow campers?
Don’t Overlook Our Public Lands
There is another reason to research campsites online. According to Reserve America, campers who enjoy the outdoors with as few of the amenities as possible, such as electrical hookups and bathrooms, practice what is known as primitive camping, or boondocking. Such camping has grown in popularity, as has a tendency for some nomads to camp in any inviting open space. This can pose a problem when an unaware owner arrives in the early morning and you realize that your campsite is actually on someone’s private property, so always make sure to ascertain whether you’re at a public campsite or not.
Public lands provide a similar, but legal, camping experience. Unlike camping at commercial campgrounds, public campsites encompass a vast array of locales. Owned and overseen by the Bureau of Land Management, campsites range from relatively space sites that will require experience and a fair amount of ingenuity to more organized sites that resemble their commercial brethren. Either way, fees and limitations may apply.
The national forests provide another alternative, especially for campers who wish to retain a sense of spontaneity. Many people are not aware that one can camp free in designated US National Forests & Grasslands, unless specifically prohibited. While there are generally no reservations or fees, setting up camp requires greater camping knowledge and more supplies because the amenities are few or nonexistent. Still, some find the challenge of camping so far off the grid a worthy endeavor in itself.
Interest in camping continues to grow, and so do the types of camping options available. Folks looking to get away from it all have a greater array of choices than ever. Finding the perfect campsite requires planning and a willingness to dig deep into information found online as well as word of mouth. With sufficient research and preparation, you can find that special campsite that’s guaranteed to provide fond memories.
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