How to Choose a Good Camping Spot
Choosing the best camping spot that's off the beaten path involves looking at your personal preferences in addition to making sure that it meets some basic criteria. The first step is to consider where you will be spending the majority of your time on-site so you can be situated as close to those spots as possible. Then, some of the following suggestions may be helpful as you narrow your search.
Obviously, the first thing that you want to look for is level ground that is not in a basin or area where runoff from rain can pool and flood your campsite. The ground should also be as flat and debris-free as possible in order to maximize your level of comfort while sleeping. There is nothing worse than having a stub from some old brush, a divot or piece of rock jutting into your body as you try and get some rest.
Once you've identified a promising spot, take your sleeping mat and lay down in a couple of different places until you've found the one that is the most comfortable. Then, give the area a quick once-over and remove any debris, rocks or fill small depressions in order to make the ground as smooth as possible.
Aside from choosing the right patch of ground to pitch your tent, look for natural cover that can provide shade. You want to avoid receiving direct morning or afternoon sunlight when possible. Tents are like greenhouses, and the brightness and heat buildup can degrade the comfort and quality of the rest that you hope to experience. If you can't place or orient your tent near some shade, consider using a tarp as an alternative.
Be on the lookout for potential hazards such as falling rocks from a slope or falling branches from dead trees. You also want to ensure that you're not putting your tent near snake holes, animal burrows, caves or any other place where you may disturb and invite trouble from local residents. You should also consider how important camouflage or natural cover is in terms of giving you a little bit of privacy and seclusion. If you feel too exposed, don't think twice about choosing another spot.
It's also important to allow yourself some time to scout out the best spot. While there are many times when it will only take a few minutes to find and prepare a spot to pitch a tent, you may end up spending a few hours searching as well. You really want to get yourself established before daylight starts to fade so that you have time to tend to other tasks such as gathering firewood and organizing your gear.
Finally, you may want to take a closer look at hammock camping as an alternative to pitching a tent. All you need are a couple of trees, you don't have to worry about the ground, and you can get yourself set up in just a few minutes. In any case, using these guidelines is a good way to get started, but be sure to consider other factors that will be specific to your needs. Remember that the quality of your time outdoors will depend largely on your overall comfort, particularly when it comes to being able to relax, unwind and get a good night's sleep after a long day.