What Makes a Good Campsite?

When you pitch a tent, you want to be sure you’ve picked the right spot. You want to be able to sleep well in nature and you need the quietude the outdoors offers. You don’t want to be anxious about wildlife while you lie awake or be frustrated by noisy campers. But there’s more to choosing a good campsite than considering the animals and the racket of other people.

The Campsite Necessities

Every person has a different idea of a good campsite. Some want quiet, which means no kids, no dogs and few campers around. Others want access to toilets, proximity to pubs and Wi-Fi. The latter type of campers would likely be OK with less secluded campsites. So how do you know you’re going to land in a good one?

For starters, figure out what you’re looking for when camping. Do you want to socialize still but in nature? Would prefer to focus on enjoying nature and no people about? Do you simply want to sleep under the stars and wake up to meditate before a stunning view of the mountains?

Once you’ve uncovered what it is you want from this outdoor activity, you can narrow down your choices.

Next would be to follow a sustainable approach to camping? Why? Because as visitors in nature, it is a person’s job to leave as little or nothing behind, to preserve the condition of the environment. Although camping is good for your physical and mental health, its popularity has degraded ecosystems, harming the environment.

So apart from the usual factors for picking your campsite, be guided by the “leave no trace” principle.

Campsite Selection, The Sustainable Way

When considering certain outdoor spaces, think about this: what kind of impact will I leave? Although pitching a tent on durable surfaces, from packed dirt or snow to sand and grass, tend to be good spots, your temporary presence could leave damaging effects that last years.

tents near the trees
Photo by Lukas from Pexels

Pick a site that reduces your impact on vegetation

Moss, grass, wildflowers — they all take longer to grow again once trampled on. When this happens, it affects the ecosystem wherein animals lose their food source or shelter. So before you get all excited about pitching a tent on top of plush green fields, consider the animals and plant life you may be affecting.

Don’t camp near a water source

Have you ever watched YouTube video of bushcraft camping and wondered why the camper’s decided to pitch a tent far from the river? Why does the person insist on walking a ways off to fetch water from the river to cook with and drink? The person’s not a glutton for punishment, merely recognizes the impact of camping near a river.

For one, your presence may disturb the animals that drink from the river. For another, washing your dishes near the water source may affect it.

How far should you be from a river or lake?

The ideal spot would be 200 feet from the water source.

When camping in popular sites, choose already impacted spots

The whole idea is to confine your footprint. In crowded campsites, most spots will have little to no vegetation already. By camping in such spots, you’re still able to pitch a tent without creating further disturbance to the surroundings.

Don’t spread out

Some campers tend to place their tools far from one another; the stove is several steps away from the tent and the gear even farther out. As mentioned in the previous tip, confine your impact to prevent further disturbance. When setting up your camp, follow a triangle layout to placing your cooking, eating and sleeping areas. The outdoors may have more space than your home, but you’re merely a visitor in this vast land and plenty of residents (e.g., animals) must live off it long after you’ve left.

Leave nothing behind when you pack up

And that includes your trash. A responsible camper leaves no trace once they’ve packed up. Don’t pick flowers. Don’t take a rock. Each element in the outdoors you’re enjoying, much like human beings, has a purpose; the flower you’re taking could be crucial to pollination and that rock you’ve picked up may be shelter for some animal.

So take only memories, as one Native American quote goes. The pictures you’ve taken and memories you’ve made are enough to relive your camping experience.

A good campsite is one that retains its beauty and fragile ecosystem for future generations to enjoy. And that can only happen when campers today become stewards of nature.

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