September 18, 2006 - Admin

Get the Best Campsite This Weekend

Imagine enjoying a peaceful morning sleeping until ten only to be woke at 5am by a man on a power mower mowing the grass on the adjacent golf course.

This actually happened to 200 campers at a campground in Washington, some of whom claimed “It was our worse camping experience ever.” The man ridding the mower explained it all by saying, “this is the only time that there are no golfers around!” (Lucky for them, I’d say!)

This proves one thing. It doesn’t matter how beautiful the campground is and how scenic the view is. If you’ve set up camp in the wrong location your trip could turn into a nightmare. Planning is critical when camping. Planning starts at home, before you’ve even left, and doesn’t stop until you make your weary way home again.

Part of your planning involves getting the very best camping site to meet your needs this weekend. That is the best way of ensuring a pleasurable experience for every member of your group. There are a variety of campgrounds, each offering different facilities, and a different kind of holiday. These are private parks, state park campgrounds and state or national forest campgrounds.

Most parks have a designated area for a campsite. Reservations can be made often for a fee which is highly recommended. Some campgrounds allow you to choose a site before making a commitment. Some even allow you to change your mind so if your chosen site turns out to be a nightmare, you check with the park managers for other available sites.

Here are a few tips for getting the best camping site this weekend:

  • If you’ve arrived at an unfamiliar campground ask the campground hosts for a detailed map and have a quick drive or hike around and make a list of some possible campsite locations.
  • Do not take a site that has camping items but no vehicle as it could belong to RV owners who aren’t on site for the day.
  • Always arrive before dark. You can rest assured that the best campsites will be taken if you arrive late in the afternoon.
  • Camp at least 200-300 feet away from water.
  • Make sure there are trees where you can hang your garbage and food upwind outside of camp.
  • Set up camp away from other campers and away from any trails.
  • Avoid setting up camp in tall grassy locations as they are a wonderland for insects.
  • Never camp at the bottom of cliffs with loose rocks.
  • Become familiar with flora and avoid all areas with poison ivy.
  • Get the best protection from lightning by camping near a dense grouping of trees, all the same height in a low area away from water.
  • Make sure the site is large enough to meet all your needs. Think about what would happen to your site in the event of a storm.
  • Consider the location of bathroom facilities (if applicable).
  • Water is absolutely critical for camping. You will need it for washing, drinking and cooking so ensure that you have a water source nearby to your camp site.
  • If rain is expected locate your campsite in a flood free area.
  • Never modify an area by removing vegetation and rocks to create the perfect campsite. The perfect campsite is never created by man but has already been made by Mother Nature.
  • Find an area free of tree roots and rocks. If you’ve found the perfect location but there’s a problem with small rocks gently rake them away to create a smooth level for sleeping. Never camp on a ridge. You are too exposed to severe wind and lightning conditions.
  • Avoid sharing a site with campers who are not part of your group. There’s plenty of land to go around and every camper is entitled to some personal space.
  • Look for a campsite that has some shelter from the sun. But if rain is expected never set up camp under trees. There’s the danger of lightning plus the fact that the trees will continue to rain on your site long after any rainfall has stopped.
  • Keep insects at a minimum by setting up your campsite in a dry area not too close to water.
  • Make sure that you set up camp where water naturally flows away from your site.
  • Respect wildlife. Campers are venturing into the natural habitat of many animals. Don’t set up camp close to wildlife food sources or any animal trails. We are the animal’s guests. Treat your hosts with respect.
  • Avoid parking too close to RV’s and noisy neighbors.
  • If you have a large group consider a group campsite.
  • In autumn and summer look for sheltered spots along shorelines and protected in bays.
  • Trips located on islands and points in summer will offer calming cool breezes.
  • Some sites have flat, cleared spots all ready for your tent so look out for these or ask your friends of great campsites they’d recommend.
  • If you’re canoeing a good spot for loading and unloading your canoe is critical.
  • Avoid camping where trees are leaning over your campsite.
  • Avoid camping near big pine trees as they act like lightning rods when lightning strikes.
  • Avoid sites around marshes etc as they are a breeding ground for insects like mosquitoes.
  • Find a flat camp site to ensure no slipping and sliding downhill.
  • Make sure there’s a convenient location for relaxing in your kitchen.
  • Make sure there’s good drainage.
  • Having a reasonable source of firewood in the vicinity is not a necessity but recommended.

Finding the best campsite possible is a crucial part of your camping experience. It is not the time to be impatient, tired, or hurried. A poor campsite will cause unlimited problems on your trip. With a little planning, patience and preparation your perfect campsite is waiting at a campground near you this weekend.

This is just some of the many super tips Karin Manning has included in her latest book, “The Ultimate Campfire Kitchen and Camping Guide”. (Her amateur weather forecasting tips will have you predicting the weather before you even leave home. They’re cool! Check them out at

Camping Gear / Outdoor Stories

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