When I choose a place for my tent I search for flat ground, or as flat as possible. Most of the time I sit down and get to know the place before deciding to stay. Are there any people around, houses, trails or anything else of interest? Any feelings regarding the place or the stretch just before arriving? Wilderness vibe, industrial, colourful? Still, sometimes I just put up my tent, crawl inside and don’t really care, too tired!
Is the camp up high or down in a valley? Where will the sun go up? Usually it will be really warm if the sun is shining directly on your tent, so depending on whether you want to sleep in or if you want the sun rays on your tent early, this might or might not be the right spot. Is it really windy or is the weather forecast telling you something, providing a reason strong enough to put your tent in a special direction? Next to a lake it would be more damp but up on a hilltop more windy. Be aware of the surroundings and make decisions thereafter.
If I camp at a place I’ve been before and know that there will be a fire burning or that I want to start a fire later on, I usually collect firewood the last stretch before arriving as a gift to the people already there or simply because there usually is a lot less to be found around that location. Sometimes I take one or two pieces of wood from home with me. It’s dry and much easier to start off with than damp branches on a rainy day.
Keep it beautiful
A beautiful campsite is most often used a lot and all kinds of people will be there. There is a saying that you should leave a place cleaner than you found it and I try my best to do so. Some people tend to wash pots and pans directly in the water leaving food visible along the waterline for a long time. This doesn’t look nice, the place doesn’t have the feeling of being untouched and we definitely did not respect the surrounding nature and the next people to arrive. Instead dig a hole and wash everything there. Put the dirty water and the rest of the food in the hole and cover it. Same procedure while doing number two. If you can pass over it or walk next to it without noticing you’ve done perfect!
I’m also searching for some kind of water source close to the campsite. Is the water running, smelly, what is upstream, does it look dirty in any way or is there anything that makes me reluctant to drink it? “Big bubbles, no troubles” usually works as a guideline, but I have twice become ill from bacteria. Do you have the possibility to filter the water, or perhaps bring water from home? If you take water from the stream, do you tell your friends that it is pure enough to drink, or do you just tell them that you will drink this water and leave them to decide for themselves? If you’re guiding a group can this choice of words be important?
If you had the pleasure to enjoy a fire make sure you put it to rest in a honourable way before leaving camp. Adding a lot of firewood and garbage at the fire and then pour water over it leaving a big pile of half burnt things is not honourable.
When my backpack is on I sweep over the area one last time before leaving. Going back and forth looking for rubbish and other stuff not belonging there that I could bring with me. Did I or anyone else forget something?
When I’ve walked out of camp I often look back for a while. I am thankful for the possibility of having stayed there before walking further.