How to Pitch the Perfect Camp

Never choose between comfort, safety, and views again. Here’s how to have it all.
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A southeast-facing campsite in Gothic Basin in Washington’s Alpine Lakes Wilderness

Allow plenty of time. 

Plan your day so you start looking for a campsite at least an hour—preferably two—before dark. Tired? Drop your pack before searching; you’ll be less likely to settle for the first spot. 

Prioritize water. 

Yes, you can haul water if necessary. But a perfect site will have easy access to a creek or lake. (Always camp at least 200 feet from a water source.) 

Scan for hazards. 

Avoid camping under dangling dead branches, in flash-flood zones, and where rockfall debris collects. 

Stay high in the mountains when weather is good. 

Five reasons: Cold air collects in valley bottoms, breezy sites have fewer bugs, wind reduces condensation, the view is better, and you’ll get sunshine earlier. 

Think: camp furniture. 

Boulders and downed trees make good tables and chairs. 

Face the sun. 

Pitch your tent door toward the east, if conditions allow, for morning light. 

Be choosy. 

Make sure your tent is on a level surface where water won’t collect.