By Cameron Ownbey

Believe it or not, there is an art to selecting a tent spot out in the wilderness. If you are accustomed to car camping at those lovely state campgrounds where RVs and stereos reign supreme, then your selection criteria will be different when picking a backpacking tent spot. Or perhaps you haven’t been out with your tent at all yet. Here are some key things to consider when pitching a tent in backpacking country.

©Erika Klimecky

1) Know your tent. Set your tent up at home so you will be able to do it when you are cold, wet and tired.  Note the amount of space it takes all the way out to where you peg down any guy lines.  Visualize it. If you have tricky poles or an unusual configuration, consider setting it up a second time in your yard at night for extra practice.

2) Look for a flat spot that will accommodate your tent. You shouldn’t need to do a full excavation to accommodate your tent, but don’t let a few logs, sticks or rocks stand in your way.

3) Evaluate the quality of the spot. Consider the elements and nature in your immediate vicinity.

a)  Look up in the trees.  Do you see any widow makers?  Don’t tent under dead or broken limbs that could fall in the night. (Widow makers are tree branches that would potentially fall on you while you sleep. Hey, they have that name for a reason!)

b) Is the flat spot flat because it is where water settles during a rain storm?  Don’t tent in a potential mud puddle.  Use a bump, rise or little hill if you can find it.

c) If it rains will your spot potentially turn into a stream? Are you below the tide line? Sometimes it’s not immediately obvious!

d) Dodge prevailing winds. Which direction will the wind come from at night? Don’t tent in a wind tunnel if you can help it.

Example of an awesome spot with room for 2 tents and a view! ©Orion Ahrensfeld

3) Position your tent.

a) Match the access path to your tent entrance to minimize tripping over guy lines. This is especially important if you wander around your tent after dark. Place rocks and sticks next to your tent pegs at the end of guy lines to increase visibility.

b) Work every angle! Regardless of how flat your tent site is, it is almost never level. Find the slant and pitch the tent so your head will be on higher ground.

That’s it! Happy ‘packing!


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