Picking out the best camping spot shouldn't be so difficult. Here are a few pointers.
Making the time to go camping with your family or loved ones should be all about the preparation to have a good time in the great outdoors, not about hoping that the campsite you get is a good one or not. The trouble is, without actually seeing the site ahead of time, you may have to make do with what you get, like it or not.
After camping at state parks, national parks, and even a few Canadian provincial parks, I can tell you that it's not always easy to find a good spot to pitch your tent, or even park your car.
But not to worry, there are a few things that you can do in the meantime to make sure that your camping experience is a good one for everyone involved, and one that will keep you coming back in the future. Getting to your campsite is only half the battle; getting comfortable to the point where you can stop thinking and start having fun is the real idea.
Some of these ideas are more specific to frontcountry campground camping, but most of these can be used for the park or the backcountry.
Use the Trees
Some may want shade while camping, and some may want more sun, but the bottom line is that the trees can be your friend in more than one way. Most of the time I take tarpaulins (tarps) and rope to set up a combo laundry line and tarp line between the trees. That provides protection from the sun and from a heavy rain.
The trees need to be a reasonable distance apart to do this without being so far away from each other that it gets very difficult to do. The tarp can cover both the picnic table and the fire ring to keep them useful during a rain.
High winds and large trees don't mix so take care to look closely at the situation, and make sure there are no large limbs or dead branches hanging directly over your tent or camper.
We all want a site that is nice and flat, but since not all campgrounds and backcountry spots with a beautiful view will allow for that, we're going to have to make do. In fact, a bit of pitch to the site where you will be staying can be a good thing as it will tell where not to put your tent.
It is a fact of life that you will encounter rain at some point while you are camping, and if you pitch your tent in an area that is below the high ground, you're going to encounter water. A site with a slight tilt can actually be beneficial, since it will be a simple matter of eyeing the spot best suited for tent placement, clearing the area, and then setting up for your time there.
The Water Source
The best way to make normally yucky-tasting campground water taste good and run clear is by using an RV water filter...
Whether you are in the backcountry or the center of a busy campground, you are going to need water to make everything work. Whether it's for cooking, cleaning, or drinking, water is essential. For campground campers or primitive campers, there are a couple of things to think about before you "hook up."
First, not all water sources are potable. Usually, campgrounds mark their water spigots clearly as to whether or not it can be used for consumption, particularly for cooking. Water may need to be boiled first, and sometimes it cannot used for anything but cleaning and bathing.
The biggest matter is finding out how far it is needed to get to the water, and obviously, the closer the better.
Campers would benefit by getting well acquainted with today's modern portable water filter systems, especially for emergency use. We should all know by now that it isn't usually safe to simply dip a cup or other container into the nearest creek or lake and slurp it down. Filters can address this issue.
Electricity Hook Ups
Electrical power is back on at the Tomlinson Run State Park Campground. Come check out our Yurts!
Just for the record, even backpacking campers can take some "juice" with them in the form of solar powered gear to keep their phone charged or their GPS aligned. For the rest of the camping crowd, it is simply a matter of finding the electrical hookup on your newly rented campsite, but does it even have one?
Here is where you will need to do your homework ahead of time. Some campsites offer electrical hook ups and some do not. A campsite with an included power source is usually more expensive, but that's the cost of camping.
For campers with kids it's a moot point: get a site with an electrical hookup.
Bathrooms and Showers
Backcountry campers have their work cut out for them, but then they already know that and should be prepared. For the rest of us, knowing where the facilities are is the best way to make a good camping trip into a great one, especially with kids.
However, there is such thing as being too close to campground restrooms, especially if they operate with a septic system. If you find yourself downwind of the bathrooms, you could be quite aware of it for your entire trip.
As far as the showers go, the best situation is one that you feel comfortable in. There are usually fewer shower facilities than toilets, so knowing where they're located ahead of time can really help
You'll probably recognize a theme emerging already: the more you know before you go, the better. I have found over the years that one of the best ways to get the best campsite at the best campground is simply by doing my homework.
Most campgrounds have reasonably good websites with reasonably good photos of the area, but they don't always tell the whole story. Until you actually visit the area, things may not be exactly as they seem.
Here's the best advice: be aware of ways you can use the area in the future. Make notes of what campsites look best, and which ones to avoid. Remember the info when you book your next trip reservation.
Make It Happen
Camping has grown into an industry that has created a lot of great interest and a lot of new products to keep folks forgetting cooped up inside of their homes and out into the fish air. Sure, a lot of people want to get away from the crowds, and that's great, but for many, camping is a social experience in like-minded camaraderie in which is meant to create a way to get to know other folks and share our experiences.
Because of this, outdoor manufacturers have given us many choices to make our lives a little easier while taking a trip that shows the kids it's okay to use a public washroom with a lot of noise. There will be campfires for sure, but also a campstove, solar lights, headlamps, the newest tents and sleeping bags for our comfort and many other things that were thought of by other campers who just wanted to have more fun without some of the hassle.
The perfect campsite may never be found or it may be a getaway that you just haven't found yet. When you're laying there in the middle of the night you want to be thinking about what you are going to do the next day, not if you have easy access to the restroom or if the critters are getting into the your garbage.
A good campsite is one that gives you a good night of sleep, accessibility to the outdoors, and helps you to leave no trace after you leave.
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