Campsite Selection 101: How to Do It Right

Campsite Selection: A blue ultralight single-person tent set up in a level spot amidst the mountains

In this post, we'll take a look at:

Choosing the right campsite is like finding the coziest spot in nature. Whether you’re a new or seasoned camper, effective campsite selection is key for a good adventure.

In this post, we’ll give you a quick checklist for choosing a campsite, covering safety, terrain, and environmental factors for a comfortable camping experience. Let’s start.

Campsite Selection: Safety Basics

When it comes to camping, safety should always be your top priority. Let’s take a closer look at what you need to consider:

  1. Stay Away from Danger Zones: Look around and make sure you’re far away from any danger zones. These could be areas prone to rockslides, avalanches, or flash floods. Camping near such places can be risky, so it’s best to steer clear.
  2. Avoid Lone Trees and High Ridges: Steer clear of solitary trees, mountain tops, and high ridges since they can draw lightning during storms, which is potentially hazardous.
  3. Watch Out for Animal Habitats: Take care not to set up camp near animal trails, nests, or habitats. You don’t want unexpected wildlife visitors snooping around your tent at night.
  4. Stay Clear of Cold Valleys: Skip camping in low-lying areas like canyons or valleys, where it’s coldest and more humid. Opt for a warmer, comfier spot for a good night’s sleep.

Campsite Selection: Terrain Considerations

Campsite Selection: A hiker beside his ultralight backpacking tent, strategically pitched among the protective cover of bushes on the only relatively flat ground available

The terrain of your campsite plays a big role in your camping experience. It affects how comfortable and safe your stay will be. Let’s dive into some important terrain factors to keep in mind:

  1. Look for Level Ground: Start by finding level ground for your campsite. It may seem small, but it’s crucial. A flat campsite prevents tent sliding, simplifies setup, and enhances sleeping comfort.
  2. Think About Natural Ground Cover: Search for natural ground cover like pine needles, moss, leaves, or sand; they’re more comfortable and insulating than hard-packed dirt, providing a fortunate find.
  3. Look for Something to Block the Wind: To prevent your tent from being blown around by strong winds, camp near healthy trees or bushes for added stability and comfort.
  4. Consider Drainage: To keep your tent dry when camping, pick a spot with good drainage. Check the ground for dampness to make sure it won’t flood when it rains. Campsites near rivers and creeks are more prone to flooding.

If you’re camping in a sandy area, learn how to use tent stakes effectively with our guide here.

Campsite Selection: Environmental Factors

The environment around your campsite can greatly impact your camping experience. To choose the perfect campsite, you’ll need to consider these environmental factors:

  1. Proximity to Water Sources: Choosing a campsite close to water is handy for access to drinking, cooking, and cleaning. But remember, it can get colder due to cool air and humidity. Aim for a spot at least 200 feet (about 61 meters) away from the water’s edge.
  2. Beware of Widow-Makers: Highlighted in the safety section, but worth repeating: Stay safe by checking tree health around your campsite. Avoid camping under trees with rotted branches and steer clear of dead trees when choosing your spot.
  3. Leave No Trace: Preserving the wilderness is crucial. Dispose of litter in designated bins or carry it with you when you leave.


In the heart of nature, choosing the best campsite isn’t just a decision; it’s a responsibility. As you’ve discovered, the ideal campsite is more than just convenient—it’s about safety, comfort, and taking care of the environment.

By thinking about safety zones, terrain, environmental impact, and respecting wildlife, you guarantee a memorable and responsible camping adventure. Stay safe and enjoy your camping experience!


Which direction is best to pitch a tent?

The best tent direction depends on factors like wind, sun, views, and safety. For windy conditions, position the narrow side against the wind. In cooler weather, face the entrance toward the morning sun for warmth. In hot weather, avoid the sun. Maximize views or privacy based on your preference. Consider proximity to water and level terrain, and avoid potential hazards.

What is the best location to set up your tent?

The best tent location balances safety, comfort, and environmental care. In a forested area, choose a spot that’s level, away from dead trees, and not too close to a river to prevent flooding risks. In an open, non-forested area, prioritize shelter from the wind, a flat terrain, and avoid low-lying spots that might collect water.

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