Here’s how to look for the ideal camping spot in the backcountry.
You have trekked for over eight hours in a demanding terrain. The dry heat and unforgiving ascent has left you exhausted. The thin, cold air at higher altitudes is not making it any easier. And then you have to set up camp before nightfall.
For the seasoned trekker, instinct and experience take over and your shelter for the night is in place in no time. For the uninitiated, here are a few things to keep in mind, before you pitch up the tent and set camp for the night:
Look around and select a good spot
One of the most common mistakes is to drop your backpack on the ground and start pitching a tent right away. Always take some time to walk around the area and explore possible spots where you can pitch your tent. Select a good spot and pitching the tent will then become merely procedural.
One of the main considerations while selecting a spot is the source of drinking water – pitch your tent close to a source of water, but never camp right in the river bed (even if dried up) or in the immediate vicinity of a lake or stream.
Check for impending dangers
Always inspect the surrounding terrain as well. Avoid rock-fall, landslide prone areas and minimise exposure to strong winds. While a rocky cliff can help block the wind, camping near it should be avoided if there are signs of loose boulders or imbalanced rocks visible higher on the cliff.
One should take into account the weather conditions as well. Always bear in mind the possibility of rain, lightening and thunderstorms and related dangers. Camping atop an exposed ridge brings in the danger of a lightening strike, while depressions should be avoided where water can collect easily in case of a downpour and flood your tent. Shifting a tent in the cold of the night during an unexpected downpour is not something that you would like to get out of your warm sleeping bag for!
Pitch your tent on soft ground
Once you have selected your spot, ensure the surface is level, preferably soft, grassy ground without any protruding stones. If it is not level already, spend some time levelling the surface and removing sharp, edgy stones. This will ensure a good night’s sleep while protecting the ground sheet of your tent from wear and tear. Also check if the tent pegs can be inserted easily and will hold firm, else rocks just below the surface might prevent the pegs from gaining any purchase.
Keep in mind, however, that grassy patches close to a lake or water source, though soft, allow water to seep into the surface and can prove to hinder camping.
Always ensure the entrance to your tent faces the leeward (as opposed to windward side). Remember, in normal weather conditions, the wind typically blows up the valley during the day and down the valley at night. Even better if the entrance is pitched eastwards, allowing the early morning sunlight to warm up your tent and wake you up early in the morning.
If you are pitching multiple tents, they should be close to each other – preferably in a straight line or horse-shoe formation.
Enough vacant space on all sides
This is an added advantage. It helps to have space to move around the tent, spread out your trekking gear under the sun, in case of clear skies, designate a cooking area and set up your stove easily in open surroundings. There is place for a campfire too, if you have access to firewood and wish to spend a few hours by the warmth of the fire before retiring for the night.
This article written by WildBoots team first appeared on RedBull website courtesy The Outdoor Journal