Choosing a Campsite


What kind of Campsite experience do you want?  Will it be in the backcountry or a public campground?  Also, how rustic do you want your experience to be?

Campgrounds and Parks

Primitive – This type normally doesn’t have running water, electricity, or bathroom facilities.  The location is normally somewhat remote.  These usually have a tent pad, fire ring, and picnic table depending on where you go.  For those that don’t have tent pads, be careful of the vegetation in the area.  Use Leave no Trace Principles.

Semi-Primitive – This type will normally have everything that the primitive campsites do but may also have running water, an electric pole, easy access to bathroom facilities, and showers.  You will still be camping, just with a few convenient comforts.

Cabins – Many parks and campgrounds have the cabin option.  Some are just a roof over your head with a bunk and nothing else.  Some have just about everything that a home would have but on a smaller scale.

Really, you can go as primitive or modern as you want.  The options are out there.  The first time my wife and I took our children camping years ago, we stayed at a campground in the North Carolina mountains.  We had a primitive campsite but there was a nearby restroom and shower.  We stayed in our tent for three nights until it got flooded one day during a heavy rain.  It was an old tent and the sealant had worn off over the years.  After that, we went up to the campground office and rented a cabin for the next two nights.  Our girls were glad to be sleeping on a mattress again so it worked out.

Backcountry Camping

When camping in the backcountry, avoid sleeping or pitching your tent on vegetation.  Set up tents on leaves, straw, or bare ground.  Don’t pitch your tent or hang your hammock under dead or unhealthy trees.  Avoid areas beside dried up streams or rivers in valleys or other low areas.  Heavy rain or rapid snowmelt can travel down mountains quickly, filling the stream or river and sweeping away anything in its path.  Setting up a campsite near water is convenient but it may also draw in insects and other animals.  Before going camping or backpacking, find out what animals are found in the area.  You may have to hang your food in a tree to prevent bears or other animals from stealing it.  If you plan to leave your tent up for more than a day don’t leave food inside it.  Some animals will chew through the tent to get to the food.  Whenever possible, use campsites that are already established.  Make your campsite as small as possible to minimize the human impact.  Before you leave, make sure the ground is restored to the way you found it.

Two holes in the window screen from squirrels


See also – Family Camping: How to Prepare

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  1. There are very few perfect campsites , so when choosing a site you will probably have to compromise to some extent.

  2. Thank you for your effort for your blog on Backcountry Camping. These suggestions are very helpful for new or inexperienced family campers. Your many suggestion s will make camping fun and safe for families.

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