At the end of a long day of backpacking, it’s tempting to plop down at the first level site you encounter. Don’t. The best campsites offer shelter, protection from bugs, convenient access to water, and stay-longer views. In short, they have it all. Campsites like this can be found from the mountains to the desert to the beach and everywhere in between—here’s how to find yours.
First, understand the principles of Leave No Trace camping. If there are designated or otherwise clearly established sites available, use them. Don’t trample vegetation and disturb animal habitat by making new campsites. If you’re in a truly remote area where few have camped, pitch your tent on durable surfaces such as sand, slickrock, gravel, or snow.
Drop your pack and explore the area for campsite options. The best site is rarely the first one.
Check for hazards:
Avoid dangers like standing dead trees (which could fall at any time), rockfall areas, flash flood zones, and spots below the high tide line on a beach.
You want the nearest water source to be close enough to be convenient, but at least 200 feet away from your camp to prevent pollution and disturbing wildlife, and to allow access for any other campers in the area.
The best sites have natural weather protection. Trees provide cover from rain and wind (boulders can also serve as windbreaks) as well as shade. If lightning is a possibility, don’t pitch your tent in the middle of a field or any other place where you’re the highest thing around.