Have you ever picked a campsite that looked ideal, only to realize you placed your tent on an ant hill or didn't check the weather and were almost blown out of your camp? Maybe you woke up only to find that bears had gotten into your breakfast?
It makes sense that when traveling into the wild, you will be vulnerable to natural elements. That's part of the draw and thrill. But having experienced all of the previously mentioned events, trust us when we say, it's better to keep the following in mind.
- Find a spot that is protected. Consider the coverage above a campsite for shade potential in the heat. Also look to see what the expected wind speed should be during the course of your camping trip. If it's going to be gusty, look for campsites tucked into a forest up against a hill/mountain. It’s also smart to look for natural barriers, like rocks and trees. These will provide wind breakers.
- If possible camp close to a river or lake, so you can use it for washing and the kids can easily play. When selecting the campsite near water, make sure the ground of the campsite is high enough to avoid a flash flood.
- Consider how far away the toilets are. If you are planning to camp where public bathrooms are provided as an amenity to the site, think through the proximity your campsite will have to this. At night, kids can get scared walking far distances to the bathroom.
- Search the parameter of the campsite to make sure there are no pests already living there. Look for ant hills, bee hives, beetles and other insects in large numbers.
- If in bear country, determine where to put food/trash. Do you have a bear box (metal box designed to be accessible to humans, and keep bears out)? If you do, that's great! If you do not, locate a tree about 50-100 feet away from your campsite. Use this tree to tie up your food and hang it from here. Bears are after your food not your children, so put the food out of the campsite and hang it from a tree, out of their reach. You will need a small rope for this and some basic knot ties. Treat trash the same way. Before doing so, check your car for anything that has a distinct smell and put it in the bags to be strung up. (One final note about bears, they will also go after anything that has a strong smell associated with it like sunscreen, or tooth paste, so put all items that have a fragrance in the bag.)
- Check out your neighbors. I can't tell you how many times I considered all of the above and failed to notice the fraternity party that was tuning up next to me. There’s nothing quite as disappointing as trying to go to sleep to the background noise of loud off color jokes and disco music. This is certainly not what you want to discover when you imagined sleeping peacefully to a cricket lullaby.
I know the last thing you want to do after a long car drive with the family, is to stall for another 20-30 minutes evaluating all free campsites. But rest assured if you take the time to do your due diligence, you will protect your family from memories that are unpleasant. Set yourself up for success and choose the right campsite for your trip!
Feel free to leave us a comment with any other tips you think may help campers!