By Gina Bègin
Oct 10, 2014

Comfortable Camping: A Beginner’s Guide to Choosing the Best Campsite

Choosing the best campsite

This is Part IV in a series of getting comfortable with camping. For Part III, see Comfortable Camping: A Beginner’s Guide to Dressing Warm.

The properly selected site can do miracles to alleviate your cold camping blues. When sleeping outdoors, there are all kinds of elements to contend with: wind, cold sinks, water, rough surfaces, slopes, etc. No wonder it’s tricky to find a great spot to rest for the night! However, we’ve got some quick tips to help alleviate some of the uncomfortable side effects that a poorly chosen camp site can leave you with. Here are our suggestions when looking for the best spot for your tent:

Site Selection

  • Stay away from water. Yes, a stream might sound pretty as you sleep, but unless it’s summer time and you’re dying of heat, the sounds will not be enough to soothe away the cold that will creep in. Bodies of water are notorious creators of microclimates which serve up cool air which is often moist. This can counteract — in a big way — and efforts you have put in place to stay warm.
  • Out on a windy night? Try to spot features in the landscape that will block the breezes. Once you’ve located a large enough wind deterrent, place your tent against it. This will not only keep your tent from cooling down as much in the night, but will also keep it stilled from the gusts that would otherwise shake it all night. Some examples of wind blocks include cliff sides, boulders, a grove of trees or dense brush and grass.
  • Avoid summits where temperatures often dip lower due to elevation and wind exposure.
  • Spaces that lie low between two higher pieces of ground often become “cold sinks” or areas where cold air settles as the night closes in. These areas also often collect dew, making your gear damp. Avoid these areas by moving to higher ground.
  • Ground that has a thick carpet of grass or leaves can serve as an extra layer of protection from the ground’s cold and/or uneven surface.
  • If the ground is sloped and you’re unable to find a flat spot, sleep with your head at the top of the slope and your feet “downhill” from you. Stuff extra clothing where necessary to help facilitate a flatter sleeping area or to prevent you from rolling.
  • If you are camping in the northern hemisphere in the summer, look for northern sides of slopes for cooler camping. In the colder months, swap sides and go for southern exposures which get more sun. If you’re in the southern hemisphere, reverse all of the above.

Stay tuned: We’ve still got tips from experienced campers to share with you in the final part of this series on comfortable camping!

Have a tip on site selection when camping? Share it in the comments!
gina_begin-320x300Author: Gina Bègin | Writer for the ReadyProject blog; A ski instructor, baker, writer and photographer. She is the founder of the Outdoor Women’s Alliance and member of the OR Insight Lab.
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