How to Choose a Good Campsite

Considerations When Choosing a Campsite

If you've done any camping at all, you're probably familiar with the Leave No Trace principles, which are designed to protect recreational resources on natural lands. If possible, set up camp in an established spot. If you can't find one of those, be careful in creating a new site -- select a durable surface like a rock slab or forest duff, which is the ground cover in a forest consisting of leaves, needles, twigs and bark.

While you're milling around camp, wear soft-soled shoes, not your hiking boots, since those are liable to compact the soil (which makes it hard for plants to grow). It's best to avoid building a fire if there's no established fire ring. But if you really want one, just make sure to collect firewood from the ground, completely burn all the wood, and scatter the cool ashes. Finally, try not to camp in one place for more than a few days. When you leave, pack out your trash and replace anything you moved so it looks like you were never there.

You should also consider how your presence might affect animal activity in the area. Look for natural paths through the forest known as game trails where animals regularly travel. Placing a tent along one of these routes may block nervous woodland creatures from finding their way to a water source or other necessity. Also, nuisances from animals can be avoided if a campsite is properly selected. To avoid pests like mosquitoes, stay away from areas where both water and wind remain stagnant. Occasionally, larger animals like raccoons, possums, skunks, or even bears may wander into your camp, usually just out of curiosity. To reduce the chance of such encounters, avoid camping along game trails and be sure to cook, wash dishes and hang food at least 200 feet (61 meters) downwind from your tent. And remember: Don't feed the animals! When they get used to -- or habituated to -- human contact they can become a greater nuisance or danger to people.

These tips are great for three seasons out of the year, when the temperatures are up and the ground is clear. But what about camping in the snow?