Where do you like to go tent camping? In the forest, on a beach, or in the desert? If you go to an established and developed campground, tent sites are on flat ground and designated just for tents. Still, you will need to consider which way to face your tent. Do you want the sun blaring down on your tent all day? Would you rather pitch your tent under a pine tree that drops needles and cones on you all night? Or in a sandy depression that might collect water?
Which directions should my tent face?
The direction that you face your tent will depend on factors such as climate and location. Many camper prefer to pitch their tent facing east, since that is where the sun risies. If you are camping in cold weather or rainy conditions, you will want to pitch your tent facing away from the direction the wind is coming from.
Are you someone who considers Feng Shui or using the energy forces to harmonize yourself with the surrounding environment when you sleep? If so, you may want to use your Feng Shui guidebook to determine which way to face your tent on a camping trip. Otherwise, follow these suggestions made by practiced campers and Scouters who have had experience pitching tents all summer long and sometimes during the winter.
Where to Pitch my Tent
- Choose flat ground.
When searching for the optimal campsite, find flat ground since where you pitch your tent could make the difference between a good night’s and tossing and turning all night. Look for flat rocks and roots laying on the ground; you don’t want to sleep on rocks and roots. When you find the perfect spot, rake away any sticks, stones or tree branches that might poke you in the night. You can use your foot to clean your site of debris or be proactive and bring a small rake. A great tip, check out the condition of the ground by laying your sleeping bag over the area (before pitching your tent), laying down, and testing it for comfort. If it feels, okay, then go ahead and pitch your tent.
If possible, avoid setting tent up on a hill. When you try to sleep on a hill, be it the top, bottom or middle, all these locations do pose a threat to your safety. You could roll down the hill and hit a tree or a rock outcropping. Waking up in a rolling tent is not a positive experience.
Avoid pitching your tent at the bottom of a hill. It may be flat down there, but it’s not a good idea to camp in a valley at the bottom of a hill even if it is protected from the wind and sun. If it rains, you will wake up in a puddle of water or find yourself floating away in a flash flood.
There may be times when there is no level ground, and you might have to settle for sloping ground. Position your head on the uphill slope with your feet pointed downhill. If you lie sideways along the slope, you will roll to one side of the tent and wake up wet from condensation.
- Think about the sun.
Look for an area that is close to a shady spot. A tent that is pitched in direct sun will become almost like a sauna by the end of the day. Some tents can be damaged by the sun’s harmful rays, so check your tent care instructions before you pitch your tent directly in the sun.
- Test the wind direction.
Wind exposure should be a consideration when pitching a tent. A campsite with a natural windbreak would be ideal, and you can find these spots. At the very least, position your tent, so the door is facing away from the wind. Facing away from the wind will protect you from strong gusts and keep your tent from flapping in the wind all night.
Which direction to place your tent?
Many experienced campers say that pointing your tent to the east is an optimal direction to pitch your tent. Why? Mainly because when the sunrises it will shine on your tent, you wake up and watch the sunrise. What a beautiful idea and an idea that could be suggested to the first time or the casual camper.
Another opinion? Pitch your tent, so the door opens to the west. Some people like to watch the sunrise, but others may want to stay in their sleeping bag until the sun is directly overhead. Pitching your tent to the west will allow you to sleep in for a few extra minutes, or in the case of my son, a few more hours. Expert campers advise what direction you pitch your tent, “It’s up to you.”
Camping next to a water source.
Camping next to a water source like a stream, river, or lake might give you great scenery from the door of your tent. However, there are dangers when you camp next to a water source. What if it rains and a flash flood washes your site away? Tents were washed away on a scouting trip when scouts who did not listen to the scoutmaster pitched their tents right next to a picture-perfect river. In the mountains, it rains frequently, and these boys happened to be caught in a rainstorm. The river rose a few inches, and two tents began to float away. Four boys had to be rescued. Hopefully, they learned their lesson.
Campers and forest rangers suggest that you pitch your tent and set up camp at least 200 feet away from a water source. The reasons are safety and contamination. Safety includes giving room for animals to walk to their water sources without stepping around your tent.
Contamination means doing your business in the water source since at night when you get up, it is too dark to go too far.
Securing a tent.
Camping in the forest is the ultimate in recreation, and many developed tent sites are flat and designed to pitch a tent. Backcountry sites that are not developed may have soils that are hard to penetrate with tent stakes, or they may have soils that are loamy and will not hold stakes. Soil issues show up all the time in backcountry settings. Do a bit of research on what type of soil you will encounter in the backcountry so you will carry the right tent stakes.
Be aware of your environment and follow the Leave No Trace rules. The best practices to preserve camping spaces include how and where to set up your tent. Follow these guides:
- When in well-traveled areas, find existing campsites. Don’t go off in the woods on your own and set up your camp. A group of campers in Yellowstone Park decided that they knew where to camp and it wasn’t in established campsites. They pitched their tent in a green valley that had flat ground, and it looked perfect for camping. In the morning they woke up to a herd of buffalo chomping away at the grass just inches from their tent. Not only did they invade the buffaloes eating grounds, but what they did was illegal. The fine for camping there? It was hefty.
- You need to camp at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
- Keep your campsite small. Stay in areas where vegetation is sparse.
Snow camp is great right after a fresh deep snowstorm. Avoid choosing a campsite near trees that are laden with heavy snow loads. These loads may drop off in the wind or during warmer daytime temperatures, and your tent may be the victim of a snow load. Avoid bowls and slopes that are prone to avalanches. Stay upslope from the bowl’s base.
When you find a suitable spot to pitch your tent, use your skis or snowshoes to tap down the ground to create a solid surface. Winter weather conditions will vary from place to place, so do be careful. Purchase a winter tent for proper protection against snow and high winds when in exposed sites. Make sure if you are camping in deep snow, you have a snow stake.
Which way you pitch your tent is totally up to you. Do, however, follow the rules of camping away from water sources, pitching your tent in established campsites or on flat ground, and avoid hills or the bottom of hills. Do enjoy your camping experience and remember to “leave no trace.”