Finding and Setting Up a Campsite-Panergy

by Regina Wu
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Finding and Setting Up a Campsite-Panergy

Site Selection & Registration

Every campground is a little bit different, but the process is generally the same. Campgrounds have designated sites that correspond to a number or letter (or some combination of letters and numbers). In frontcountry campgrounds (campgrounds you drive to), typically a small card or piece of paper is clipped to a post to indicate the check-out date for the current occupants. Backcountry (campgrounds you hike to) permits are usually a tag you display on your backpack while hiking, and on your tent while camping. Some sites may be reservable, either by calling the campground or through online reservation systems including, while other sites within a campground may be available by a first-come, first-served system.

Before you go, check your park's website for information about passes and fees. Entrance passes are required at most national parks and recreation sites. You can purchase passes in person at most parks or online.

Which Campsite is the Best?

Because most national park camping is done in established campgrounds, picking the right site for you depends on your taste, but there are a few factors to consider whether you're frontcountry or backcountry camping.
  • Be aware of potential hazards like flash flooding, lightning, wind and dead trees/branches around your campsite.
  • In the backcountry, avoid staying on ledges or high peaks where wind and lightning could become a hazard.
  • Look up; if you see dead branches overhead, you should not camp under them.
  • Do you want to be near the bathroom or shower house for convenience, or farther away, where it's quieter and darker?
  • Do you need to park an RV? Do you need electrical hook-ups?

How to Lay Out a Campsite

Most frontcountry campgrounds are well defined. A frontcountry site will usually have a parking space, a fire ring or grill, and a picnic table. You may be able to move the picnic table around a bit, but for the most part, the first big decision upon arriving at your campsite is where to put your tent and your cooking station.
First, walk the boundaries of your campsite to identify the best locations for your tent, cooking station, and eating station. Maintaining a safe distance between these three parts of your campsite will keep your area safer and more comfortable. Keep all food stored away from rodents and other wildlife.
Some parks have designated backcountry camping sites, but some do not. When there are no designated sites, it is up to you to find a spot within the camping area a park has defined. Here are things to consider when picking a spot:
  • Sheltered and away from the middle of a field if there is a lightning storm and from the edge of cliffs.
  • Away from dead trees that might fall.
  • Away from ravines that might flood.
When camping in bear country:
  • Keep 200 feet between a cooking space and sleeping space.
  • Always store food at least 200 feet from your sleeping space.
  • Do not sleep in clothes used during cooking.
  • Check park regulations for proper food storage; many parks require a bear box or bag.
An ideal location for your tent is on level ground, but not a low place, and a safe distance from your fire ring and cooking area. Sparks from your fire could melt holes in your tent (or ignite it altogether), and the stakes and lines coming off your tent could become tripping hazards if they're near a high-traffic area.
Make camp before dark. Learn the terrain during daylight. If you have to leave camp after dark, stay in areas you have seen in daylight, go with a companion, and use a headlamp.
by Regina Wu


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