I was sitting around the campfire with a couple buddies one evening. We had completed another leg in a long but rewarding four-wheeling journey. Now relaxed, we were reflecting on the day’s adventures and the outdoors in general. Eventually the conversation came around to camping and campsites.
We were in a nice location that evening. As we reviewed our surroundings, it dawned on us that there are always certain qualities we like to have in a campsite.
Before turning in for the night I scribbled some notes from that conversation. That got me thinking further. What makes a really good campsite? I wondered. Within minutes I had a pretty lengthy list.
With the exception of remoteness, the following traits are in no particular order. Of course, we four-wheelers prefer to get away. At the heart of four-wheeling is a desire to discover new places. And with the exception of friends, we invite along, we prefer to enjoy the great outdoors without neighbors. So oftentimes, the more remote, the better.
No campsite has all these qualities. But the better ones have most. And I’m not talking about a specific campground. What follows are the attributes that make a great location to set up camp.
Qualities of a great campsite
- Level ground, or at least some level spots for tents, RTT’s and vehicles that people sleep inside.
- Trees: For shade, but we want to enjoy the morning sun and great views. So, just the right amount of tree cover. And just enough dead kindling on the ground to start a fire. Oh, almost forgot – a good branch to hang food on in Bear country.
- Morning sun to warm the soul and get the day off to a good start.
- Clear view of the night sky for stargazing.
- A clean fire ring in a clearing.
- A bubbling brook or lake nearby. (fewer bugs with running water.)
- Great view: Whether mountains, a wide-open prairie, or even a gorgeous sunset. Scenic surroundings add so much to a camping experience.
- A little elevation, at least in summer. Scenery is generally better, and you’re less likely to encounter other campers.
- Protection from the wind. Even better no wind the smoke from the camp fire goes straight up.
- Tent stakes go in easy, come out easy but will hold in storm.
- No bugs no bugs that bite, no bugs that sting.
- No music. Musical tastes can vary, and we don’t need any arguments during camp. If someone wants to lead the group in campfire songs, that’s OK. Those guests who insist on listening to music must pop in the ear buds.
- No fees.
- Bonus: Some sort of restroom, if just a pit toilet.
Tread Lightly with all camping
Just because a site has the above attributes doesn’t mean it’s ideal for camping. Many portions of the country are pristine and should be left that way. Try to find established campsites. You can still be dispersed, but you’re not creating a new fire pit or trampling down vegetation.
Regardless of where or when you go camping, always follow the Tread Lightly® principles. (You can learn more about Tread Lightly! at https://treadlightly.org/ ) Enjoy nature, but do so responsibly.
What makes a great campsite? I’m sure every four-wheeler and camper has their own thoughts on this. There is no right answer, of course. But by developing a list of what you like to see or experience, you can better select the right location for your outings.
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Did you miss the previous articles?
- 2021-03-20 Four-Wheeling for Seniors
- 2021-02-13 How to Be a Great Camp Cook
- 2021-01-15 4WD Trail Guide
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Tom Severin, President Badlands Off Road Adventures, Inc.
4-Wheel Drive School
Make it Fun. Keep it Safe.
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