I was sitting here at work, and outside the office window I saw a huge gathering of Boy Scouts enjoying their annual Camporee. Many of them pitched tents and camped the night in the grassy areas that surround OPUBCO’s north Oklahoma City office complex. Dare I say, it got me thinking about camping!
There are times when I’ve thoroughly enjoyed camping. Then there’s other times when I’ve been pretty miserable. When it’s the latter, is usually has something to do with overnight temperatures or heavy rain. But there’s been plenty of times where less-than-ideal campsite conditions have made life hard on me or the people I’ve camped with.
Again, with the help of sectionhiker.com and a few of my own observations, come some ideas when it comes to backcountry campsite selection:
- Be near a water source. But not too near. You don’t want to be forced to haul in all your water for drinking or cooking if you can help it. So a campsite with a nearby stream or clean lake – combined with a good water filter – is a must. Be sure not to camp too close, however. Stay about 100 to 200 feet away so as not to accidentally pollute it.
- Stay clear of natural hazards. You don’t want to be in the fall line of loose rocks or potential avalanches. Likewise, you also don’t want to hunker down in a place prone to flash floods or, in seaside locations, vulnerable to high tides.
- Look for a debris-free site. Protruding rocks, roots, branches or other debris can make for a rough night. Nothing worse then trying to sleep with a rock jamming into your back. Clear the site as best as you can.
- Camp as level as possible. If you can’t find level ground, find the gentlest incline you can. Sleep with your head at the high point.
- Consider wind conditions. If you’re out in the open, you may be exposed to high winds. If your shelter is sturdy and you think you can ride it out, give it a shot. If not, seek shelter from the wind.
- Lastly, consider water runoff. In the event of heavy rain, a dry-looking campsite could collect standing water and flood your tent. Ever try sleeping in a soggy sleeping bag? Don’t. It’s not fun. A few years ago, I was with a party of 10 in the backcountry. Two sets of people camped in what turned out to be a bit of a gully. When the rains persisted for much of the day, it made for a wet evening for those four guys.
Not that I had great sleep. My brother and I were camped right over a previously unseen rock which rose right in the middle of my back.
I’ve had better luck lately, and in some cases, I made hard ground softer by moving dead leaves and pine boughs over the place where I chose to pitch my tent. Now if I could just figure out that whole sleeping in the cold thing…
Anyone interested in doing an Out There meet-up for a hike? Let me know. Message me here or e-mail me. If enough people want to give it a go, I’ll work something up.