Choosing a Campsite

Part 2
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Part 1 of this column covered choosing a campsite for comfort and safety. Part 2 looks at minimum impact skills that will help ensure you leave no trace.

Campsites and water. Be sure your campsite is at least 200 feet from water to prevent inadvertently contaminating the water or scaring wildlife away from their nightly drink. Also, avoid game trails: animals might not be willing to approach a campsite, and that could mean they'll go thirsty if you're camped between them and the water on which they depend.

Avoid fragile areas. Don't camp on meadows, especially in alpine areas, where several years of growth can be destroyed by the stomp of a Vibram sole.

Use established sites when possible. It's more aesthetically pleasing to come to a lake with ten or twelve heavily used sites than it is to come to a similar lake with signs of a hundred different sites scattered every which way.

Practice leave-no-trace. When camping in pristine areas, remove all traces of your camp so the next party that comes through sees no evidence of your site.

Campshoes. Once you choose a campsite, change into campshoes right away. It's easier on your feet and on the earth. DON'T go barefoot.

Avoid making fires. In fragile country—alpine areas, deserts, and the like—avoid making fires entirely. They leave scars and remove wood that is used for shelter by animals. In forests, fires are okay in areas of abundant downed wood. Use only dead, downed wood, and always use existing fire rings. Making a new fire ring creates an impact that may last for generations.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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