Camping Skills

Selecting A Campsite

Wherever you are car camping in Montana selecting the right campsite makes a big difference in the enjoyment of your trip. Just like Selecting a Campground, selecting a campsite uses your personal preferences to determine what you are looking for. Remember that what one person finds desirable another might find uncomfortable.

That’s what’s great about looking for the perfect Montana campsite, trying to find a site that offers you the most of what you think is best in a site. Montana offers it all; just figure out what you like in a campsite and select the ones that are best for you.

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The advice that follows presumes that you will have a number of sites to choose from. However, this is not always true. During peak season many campgrounds fill completely and the best time to find empty sites is mid-morning to mid-afternoon. It is often advisable to reserve in advance to insure that you will get a site.

Most private and many public campgrounds in Montana take advance reservations. In many cases, you can tell a lot about a campground you have never visited by carefully examining the maps on the reservation website. You can never really know what a particular campground or campsite will be like until you see it yourself but it is often better to reserve in advance and be sure of a site when you arrive.

Judging a Campsite

Bathrooms and water — the location of the facilities, bathrooms, and water, are very important to your selection of a campsite some of us find it important to be as close as possible to these facilities while others will prefer a site that’s located further away. Note the locations of bathrooms and think about that as you select your site

 Sun and Shade — pay attention to the physical layout of the campsites. Typically, they have kitchen and tent areas, a picnic table, and a fire pit face in various directions meaning that each site has its own unique shading. A little bit of thought about sun and shade and where the sun may be at the times when you’re in the camp makes a big difference.

 A good tent site — one of the most important things is to select the site that has a good tent site. If you don’t have a good place to start from you cannot set up a tent that you will sleep well in. Look for a site that is level and flat make sure there are no roots or rocks poking up because they will bother you at night. Check to make sure the site you select is not on a main pathway or trail. Also, don’t set up in low spots or places where water runs during rain.  Learn more about selecting a tent site.

Campsite layout — most campsites include similar things – a picnic table, a fire ring, and usually a tent site. However, the way these are laid out makes a big difference in how you will enjoy your camp. Do you enjoy sitting around the campfire? If so, a primary concern should be the fire area surrounding seating and the fire pit. If there are prevailing winds at the campsite, be sure to account for them. Before selecting a site think about where you will set up your stove, where you will put your cooler. Will you be stringing a clothesline? Do you have kids who need access routes through various camp areas, etc. All of these things combine to determine whether the physical layout of the campsite is best for you.

Neighbors — what kind of person are you? Do you like to visit with others or do you prefer to be left alone? As you look for a good campsite look at the surrounding campsites as well what kind of neighbors are there right now. If the sites are vacant imagine them occupied. Also, be sure to look for paths and trails. In many campgrounds, footpaths are well-traveled between sites. Sometimes a trail to the toilet will run through the center of a campsite.

Be Prepared! Searching for a great campsite is often not an option. If you are in a crowded campground or arrive after dark you will likely have to take whatever is available.

However, when you have time and the luxury of choices spend a few minutes making your selection. It is well worth the time it takes. When possible, secure your campsite early in the day and then go out to explore the local area.

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