If you’re new to camping you may not know how to pick the perfect campsite or what to look for.
A lot of campgrounds will let you reserve a site and then once you get there you can drive around and look at the unclaimed sites and pick a different one if you want. Others have photos on their website so you can get an idea of the lay of the land.
Here are our suggestions on what to look for when picking out a camp site in a campground.
Lay of the Land:
When tent camping, be aware of the size of your tent and look for a site that has a decently flat spot that’s big enough for your tent. I also like sites that have some kind of trees or bushes between it and the other sites. A good spot for the size of your tent is the most important thing.
You want to avoid low lying areas because if it rains, your tent could end up in a mud puddle and you’ll have to wash it off when you get home.
Be aware of the native plants that may be detrimental to a happy camping experience. In my area, knowing what poison ivy looks like is a must when camping, but there is also poison sumac and stinging nettle.
Most campgrounds will try to take care of these kind of things, but it’s never bad to be able to be aware yourself.
Also look up at trees you’re camping under to ensure they’re alive and not going to fall over at any moment. We are writing this while camped under an oak tree in early fall.
The acorns coming off of this tree are LOUD when they hit the tent or the picnic table. It’s not the worst thing ever, but if we were in a tent without foam pads on the ground, laying on acorns wouldn’t be comfortable. Momma Critter is a little bit of “the princess and the pea”.
Knowing which direction the sun will be rising from is ideal so you can figure out if that site will get direct sun immediately at sunrise or not.
Our goal is to not wake up at the literal crack of dawn, so we look for little shade between the tent and the east. We don’t mind using a few lights in our site, so extra shade doesn’t bother us.
Look at the size of the site. If you have a big tent or multiple small tents you’ll be more limited in your sites.
You don’t want to pitch your tent right next to the fire pit or the picnic table. In some places the tables can be moved, in others they are literally chained to the ground, so look to see if the table can be relocated.
You don’t want to be too far from the bathrooms, but odds are you don’t want to be too close either. Not just because of the possible smell, but most bathroom buildings have lights on 24/7 and doors that slam shut at all hours of the night.
My perfect campsite would be 2-3 sites away from a bathroom facility. We aim to never be right next to the large bathroom/shower building.
We like sleeping in a little while camping and there are always other campers using the facilities starting at 5am. It’s not usually too loud, but eventually all of the squeaking doors and talking wakes us up.
It’s also best to teach your kids to properly poop in the woods if you enjoy a more primitive version of camping.
Staying hydrated, making coffee, boiling water for dishes, water is a very important part of camping.
Many campgrounds have water spigots spaced out around the sites so you don’t have to walk to the main bathroom building to get water. We like to be nearish to a water faucet, but we only get water once or twice a day so a little walk isn’t too bad.
Being very close to a water faucet isn’t too bad, people generally only get water during the day time and early evening, so you won’t have as much traffic near you as you would with a bathroom.
We bring a larger collapsible water jug to make less trips to the faucet.
The first night Momma critter went camping in a tent, we stayed in the first site we were given. It wasn’t bad, but all of the late arrivals that drove by that night caused their headlights to shine right into our tent.
There are worse things for sure, but now I look to see where the road curves and if headlights are going to shine right into our site or not. Also learn basic camping etiquette so you’re not the one shining bright lights everywhere.
The best part of that is that once we were inside the tent, the headlights cast shadows of our camp chairs against the tent. We were giggling to ourselves every time because it looked like the chairs were dancing across the front of the tent.
Roads and Paths
We try to stay on the inside loop of a campsite versus right on the main road. We also try to be aware of any major trails that go through the campgrounds.
Usually walking trails aren’t too bad to be near, but occasionally people shine their headlamps into your site or tent.
Keep in mind you will not likely find “the perfect campsite” or find a site that meets all of these criteria. Choose the 2-3 that are the most important to you and go with those.
If you have small kids, being closer to the bathroom might be ideal and they’re not going to sleep in anyway. If you’re a night owl, maybe you don’t care about the possibility of headlights shining your way because you won’t be sleeping yet.
I’m Molly Foss, aka Momma Critter. I’ve been camping since I was 9 years old and I always wanted to be Robin Hood and live in the forest when I grew up. I’m excited to share my love of camping with my son as he grows up. My favorite thing to do while camping is roast marshmallows over the fire.