A few years ago, a handful of friends and I decided to go camping for the night in the Smoky Mountains of western North Carolina. We didn’t make the decision to go until later at night, and chose our location based off of hearsay from of a friend of a friend. We ended up getting lost, and just pitched our tents in the dark at the first open location we came by.
The next morning, we discovered that we had set up camp right next to a few bear trails. Luckily nothing happened, but needless to say we learned our lesson and planned ahead the next time. Since it’s always best to learn from other people’s mistakes, below are some tips on how to choose a safe camping spot.
Go to a Campground
Okay, so it may not be the most rugged, natural or exciting place to pitch a tent, but you’ll have everything you need, and you won’t have to worry about safety. Most campgrounds will provide restrooms and showers, along with a mini convenience store and a support staff. If you’re new to camping, this is a great way to get your feet wet.
Ensure the Location is Legal
The last thing you want to happen while camping out is a police man walking up to fine or arrest you for camping in unauthorized territory. Private property is always a no-no. National Parks and other public locations could go either way – but be sure to look it up beforehand.
Go to find your camping spot at a time that will allow you plenty of daylight to search for a spot & to pitch your tent. I can’t stress how important this is. If my friends and I had gone when we had more than our flashlights and headlamps to see by, we would not have been camping next to a bear trail.
Look for Fire Pits
If people have been able to camp repeatedly in a location before you, it is likely that you will find a fire pit with ash in it. With this, you’ll already have a place to build and contain a fire, and animals in the surrounding area will be accustomed to humans in that area and know to stay away.
Check for Signs of Animal Traffic
If you see a fair amount of animal droppings or animal trails through or around the desired camping spot, you may want to choose another location. Animal trails will look similar to human trails, but you will notice the vegetation surrounding it starts to grow over at about knee level.
While this doesn’t have to do with the location, be sure you know what to expect weather-wise. If it’s going to rain, the winds are going to howl, or the temperatures are going to take a sharp turn to the bottom of the thermometer, make sure you’re either prepared to brave the weather or postpone the trip to another night.