Camping is a fun way to relax after a long work week. However, sometimes knowing where to put your tent isn’t easy. Overlooking the little things could mean the difference between an amazing weekend and an uncomfortable night sleeping on a rock.
Many of these tips were learned from experience. I’ve put up tents in a lot of places and learned from making mistakes. Pitching your tent in the right place is essential to being comfortable as well as not damaging your equipment.
Choose Flat Ground
This should go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway. Pitching your tent on flat ground is arguably the most important step. Sleeping on a slope leaves you feeling like you’re sliding or rolling down a hill. Avoid setting up camp anywhere on a hill—at the bottom, middle or top. Wherever possible, camp in a designated site or in a spot that has clearly already been used by a tent camper.
Shade or No Shade
This comes down more to personal preference than an actual rule. If you find somewhere to put your tent that offers some shade, particularly in the morning, you’ll keep that morning sunlight from getting in and heating up your tent quickly. It can also offer some extra cover from the rain. If you have more shade in the afternoon, then it could help keep your tent cooler and more comfortable when it’s time for bed.
However, if you want the sun to wake you naturally and get an early start to the day, then you may want to opt for a place with less shade in the morning.
Remove Sticks and Rocks
Clearing the space where you put your tent is important for being comfortable and to protect the floor of your tent. Once there is a rip in the bottom of your tent, it isn’t easy to repair.
Remove sticks and rocks from the space, preferably in a larger area than the footprint of your tent. This is so when you’re putting it up you have the space to rotate the tent if you need to and it won’t snag on anything as you’re pitching it.
Away From the Fire
Again, this may seem like common sense, but it needs to be said. Most tents are made of flammable material. It doesn’t take much for them to catch on fire. Your campfire sparks and a gust of wind can carry a hot ember to your tent if it is close. Keep your tent at least 10 to 15 feet (three to four metres) away from your fire. Make sure you manage your fire and properly extinguish it before going to bed.
Access to Water
Proximity to water might come down to what kind of camping you are doing. If you are at a campground, you can choose a site near a lake access point, water tap or washroom facility. When backcountry camping, you should adhere to the “200 feet rule.” You will want to put your site at least 60 metres away from a water source, including a lake, pond, river or stream. While following the Leave No Trace principles, you need accessible water for cooking and cleaning, and if it is fresh water, you can boil it for drinking.
You need a site with enough space to put your tent. Choosing a spot that seems perfect but is too small for the size of tent you have is a pain in the neck. Make sure you will have enough room to put your tent down on a space free of sticks and rock and far enough from your campfire before you begin unpacking it.
Avoid Tall Grass and Stagnant Water
Bugs. Nothing ruins a camping trip faster than constantly fighting off mosquitos and worrying about ticks. Tall grass and stagnant water are havens for these pests. If possible, when choosing your site steer clear of tall grass and still water.
Watch Out for Deadfall
Deadfall can be very dangerous. When a tree has dead branches, they may fall and injure you without warning. Try to avoid putting your tent near any large tree that looks like it is dying or has sticks hanging among the branches.
You may not be able to follow each of these tips every time you go camping. As they often say in the military, the ground will dictate. This means that you may not have much choice once you get to your camping spot. But you should be able to control the basics when pitching your tent. Even being able to employ a few of these tips will make your night in the tent much more enjoyable.