When I chose 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 that could be helpful if needed or perhaps harm you? 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 will camp on a place I’ve been at before and know that there will be a fire burning tonight or that I want to start a fire, 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 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 a rainy day.
A last thing to reflect upon is whether the campsite you choose today will be a good choice in the future? What can change and how or why would that affect things?
Keep it beautiful
A beautiful campsite is most often used a lot and all kind of people will be there. There is a saying that you should leave a place cleaner then you found it and I most often 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 is not 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. Is it 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 work, but twice I got 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 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 will this be important?
If you had 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 mountain of half burnt things in it is not honourable. When I was young I sometimes peed at the fire before leaving – not nice! The fire pit is a place to gather, talk, cook food and keep warm.
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. Did I or anyone else forget something? Any garbage around that I could bring with me?
When I’ve walked out of camp I often look back for a while. I thank for the possibility to stay there and think back for a while before walking further.