How to Choose a Good Campsite

These people have the right idea: a flat spot with a view, near a water source. See pictures of national parks.
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It's 4 p.m. and you've been hiking with this 35-pound (15.8-kilogram) backpack for six hours. Too exhausted to trudge another step, you decide to pitch your tent ASAP -- on the slope right next to the trail. Because, I mean, why not? At dusk, you realize you're nearly out of water and you've no idea where to find a stream. Without filtered water, you can't boil your food on your camp stove, which means you'll be eating energy bars for dinner. In the night, you hear a tree fall even though there's no wind and wonder whether the others will follow suit. At one point you're sure a wild animal is sniffing through your backpack for the energy bar wrappers you didn't put in the bear canister you should have placed 200 feet (61 meters) from your tent. As if that isn't enough, it seems some loser (you) pitched your tent on a bed of rocks on a hill that your sleeping bag keeps sliding down.

As you can see, choosing the wrong spot to set up your campsite can lead to a miserable night in the dark. It can also be dangerous (read: never ever pitch your tent near a dead tree, or worse, a group of dead trees, as they may fall). So, what should you consider before you set up camp? Comfort, solitude, scenery and environmental impact are a good place to start. Ask yourself: How level is the ground here? How might my being here disturb others? Is the view spectacular? How will my activities impact the landscape around me? Some locations might fit the bill in every way, but often there are trade-offs. For example, perhaps you decide to hike past a location with a panoramic view so you can be closer to a water source. What else should you consider?