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How to Pitch a Tent in the Backcountry

Tips and tricks for picking the perfect campsite.


Pitching your tent in the wrong spot is an easy mistake to make. Whether it’s pure exhaustion, bad weather, or just a lapse in concentration, we’ve all been there — and the consequences are high. First, you’re unlikely to get a comfortable night’s sleep. Pitching in the wrong spot can mean more tent flapping and wind noise which will keep you up all night. Second, picking the wrong spot could actually damage your tent which can put a dent in your wallet. Before heading out into the backcountry on your next outdoor adventure, follow a few of these guidelines to pick the ideal location and get a comfortable — and uninterrupted — night’s sleep.

Be mindful of all local guidelines and regulations. Camp only on lands where it is allowed and make sure to be mindful of any restrictions. Many state and national parks have extensive guidelines (for instance the state of Vermont allows you to camp primitively 100 feet from any stream or body of water, 200 feet from any trail or property line, and 1,000 feet from any traveled road) outlined on their websites. Always follow Leave No Trace principals and pack out what you pack in. Breaking camping guidelines ruins the experience for people who come after you.

Make sure you have a potable water source. Before you put your pack down and start unpacking your tent, make sure you know where your water source is, whether it’s a stream, lake or well. Pitch your tent close, but not too close to your water source. This will make it easy to get water when you start to cook or if you need a drink of water in the middle of the night, but will make sure that you don’t contaminate the water source accidentally.

Light Up Your Tent at Night

LED Lenser’s H7R.2 is the perfect companion to help you pitch your tent and find the right spot if you roll into camp after dark. The H7R.2 pumps out a maximum of 300 lumens and also features LED Lenser’s Smart Light Technology that allows you to choose how much light you need at any given time. Buy Now: $90

Thoroughly inspect the ground upon which you’re going to pitch your tent. This tip sounds obvious, but even seasoned backcountry adventurers make mistakes with this. Just because an area looks nice and soft and like a great place to settle down, many hazards can ruin a perfectly good tent site. Grass is the obvious first choice for a material to pitch your tent on, but make sure that no rocks are hiding in the leaves. Also be wary of low spots in the grass. If the weather takes a turn for the worse, these low areas can fill with water and soak through the floor of your tent. Wood chips, mosses and leaves are also good second options if grass isn’t available. Again, be wary of rocks and other hazards that can hide just below the surface and can put holes in the floor of your tent.

Consider where you’re going to do your business. When picking a campsite, it’s crucial to take each and every aspect of life in camp into account — and that includes going to the bathroom. Make sure to find a suitable location at least 200 feet away from the nearest water source as outlined in the Leave No Trace handbook. This will keep the water source clean. Bonus points for a location with a view.

Take wind into account. After finding a suitable pitching location, check the wind direction and forecast. Always pitch the foot of your tent into the wind. This is its most aerodynamic position and will help to minimize noise from wind flapping. If the wind changes in the middle of the night, as much as it sucks, get up and re orient your tent. This will help reduce the risk of the tent ripping in windy conditions.

You’re in the backcountry for a change of scenery. Make the most of it. Taking a little bit of extra time to search out a good view is worth the effort. You’ve hiked, boated, ran and/or biked for miles to get to your camp location, so make the best of it!

For When You Inevitably Do It Wrong

So you picked the wrong spot and ripped your tent? Here’s how to fix it. Read the Story

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