How to choose & set up a campsite for your next outdoor adventure


Related Articles

Warmer weather means a chance to get outdoors and reconnect with nature — it’s also another great way to fit in some exercise. What better way to be among Mother Earth than to hike in her forests and parks and camp out among the stars?

You’ll get a nice cardio workout, strengthen your muscles, boost your mood and create some new memories with friends and loved ones.

Choosing the right spot for your next spring or summer adventure is vital for a successful camping experience. Here are some tips for beginners and weekend warriors looking to escape into the woods for a few days.

According to Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, a good campsite is found, not made. There is no need to alter a site. If you’re camping in a popular area:

  • Use existing trails and campsites.
  • Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
  • Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.


If you’re camping in a pristine area:

  • Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
  • Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.


Set up your tents on flat, well-drained terrain with a slight rise, if possible. This will help you avoid puddles from forming around, and eventually inside, your tent.

REI says that proximity to water is usually the most important factor when selecting a site since you will need it for cooking, cleaning and filtering for your next day's drinking supply. Choose a spot at least 200 feet away from water and the trail. This will keep you out of sight of other hikers and allow wildlife to get to the water.

Avoid places where there is no breeze and stillwater, like a lake or pond, as mosquitoes will be plentiful. Rivers are best.


Let the sunshine in

After a chilly spring night in the woods, there's nothing more rewarding than waking up with the sun's rays shining on your campsite. REI suggests pointing the head-end of your tent toward the east to catch early morning sunshine.


Backpacking 101

If you’re a backpacker setting up camp for a night, know in advance where campsites can be found along the trail, and be sure to schedule your day so you arrive at your campsite at least two hours before sunset. You don’t want to be fumbling in the dark to set up camp.


Family fun

If you’re planning a trip to a specific campground with family, make sure to arrive early so you get the primo location at the facility. That means finding a spot with the best proximity to the bathroom (but not too close so there’s not too much foot traffic near your campground); keeping small children safe by having some distance from water and vehicle paths; and being a safe distance away from the playground and hiking trails.

Try these creative recipes on your next trip. Happy camping!