Selecting a campsite is one of the most important things you can do when enjoying the
outdoors. You can avoid many of the pitfalls of camping by following these simple steps.
Choose a Type of Camping
The campsite type will depend on the camping you are doing. Some types of camping require
specialized outdoor gear like generators, RVs, and archery equipment, while others do not.
Here are some of the types you can engage in.
• Glamping – This is camping in luxury. If you go to a glamping resort, you don’t need to bring
• Backyard camping – You can use any gear when camping in your backyard. Since you are
close to home, you probably already know which site you want to use.
• Wild camping – This is camping in the wilderness. Most campers in the wilds have
lightweight backpacks and bike, hike, canoe, or kayak to their campsite. Their gear is
usually minimal and practical.
• RV or vehicle camping – For this type of camping, you will need a tent and general camping
gear. Your campsite is usually at a campground.
• Bivvying or cowboy camping – Essentially, this is camping without a tent. You sleep under
the stars with a backpack, bedroll, and possibly some fire cooking utensils.
Although there are other types of camping, these are the ones that people engage in most
often. Each of these types requires a different type of campsite.
Choose Your Destination
Your destination will often determine your campsite. After choosing the type of camping, you can
look into types of resorts, campgrounds, or wild camping destinations such as national parks,
forests, and other wilderness locations.
Campsite location is particularly important for cowboy camping or wilderness camping. You will
want to consider the time of year, weather patterns, camping type, and location.
Know Your Camping Gear
Test your survival gear before you go. Practice with all of it, including your:
• Tent – know how to put it up and take it down quickly in case you need to move things in the
middle of the night.
• Camp stove – make sure it works, and you have all the proper supplies
• GPS navigation device – check batteries and chargers
• Lighting – Check batteries, filaments, and chargers
• Medical and first aid – make sure there are no expired medications or solutions
Your camping equipment will determine your campsite. Without a good first aid kit, you wouldn’t
want to go wilderness or cowboy camping. You might want to change your campsite to a
campground if your GPS or navigation device is not working.
Find a Flat Spot
You will want to find a relatively flat spot when selecting your campsite. Although this is less
important when you are glamping or RV and vehicle camping, you will still need to look for a
relatively even area. If you are wilderness or cowboy camping, flat locations become more
important because you sleep on the ground in a tent or sleeping bag.
Look Up and Around
With any type of camping, you need to look up. Dead trees are a real problem. No one wants to
find their camping gear or tent crushed by a falling limb or tree. You might want to consider a
different site if you see any large dead limbs or dead trees within range of your campsite.
Check for Game and Hiking Trails
When selecting your campsite, you will want to be far removed from game trails. Although deer
and other herbivores might be welcome, they are not the only ones using game trails. Hunters
and carnivores such as bears and mountain lions use them too. Choosing a campsite away
from game trails is best if you do not want unfortunate interruptions.
Check for Proper Drainage
Checking for drainage will help if it starts to rain while you are camping. You should look for
signs of where water runs when it rains. These signs include canals in dirt or rock and moist
ground. You want to ensure you are not at the end of a downslope.
Whether cowboy or wilderness camping ground that slopes toward you can cause your sleeping
bag or tent to flood. You can mitigate this by digging a moat or channel away from your
campsite. It is less of an RV or vehicle camping issue, but you will still need to watch out for
mudslides and washouts.
Check for Sharp Objects
This is more important for cowboy and wilderness camping than RVs and vehicles. No one
wants a sharp object, rock or stick poking them while sleeping, just as no one wants to step
down in the morning onto something sharp.
It is a quick process to clean your campsite of rocks and sticks as long as they are small. If your
kids are camping with you, you can always make a game of it. Declare the one that does the
best job on their side of the campsite, the winner.
Understand the 200-Foot Rule
The 200-foot rule outlines how far away certain things should be from your campsite. If you are
camping near water, make sure you are at least 200 feet away from the shore. You will also
want to be 200 feet away from hiking, hunting, or game trails. Nothing is worse than being
disturbed by an unruly animal in the middle of the night.
All animals are opportunistic feeders. Most of the animals that would get into your food are
harmless. Some of them are most definitely not. By keeping your food storage and coolers and
food waste 200 feet away from your campsite, you can avoid having a mischievous raccoon,
overly friendly opossum, or hungry bear stomping through your campsite.