News & Updates

Selecting a campsite

Guest - August 9, 2013

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces involves making the best decision you can to lesson the impact your campsite will have on an area. You want to make sure that you are 200 feet from water and trails in the Backcountry, when selecting a site. In the Frontcountry you want to camp in designated areas, and stay within the boundaries of the designated campsite.

Use your best judgment when selecting a backcountry campsite. Select an area that consists of durable surfaces, such as rock, sand, dry grass, or compacted dirt. Decide if your group would be better off in a pristine campsite, or an already impacted campsite. (See below) While it may seem undesirable to camp in a site that has a lot of compacted dirt and visible impacts, by camping in the impacted spot you save the pristine areas around you from being impacted. After about 15 days of impact on a site, the impacts plateau and the site cannot be impacted much more than it already is, and will not recover.

The campsite below is an example of a pristine area that can handle a small group or one night of camping until impacts start to show.


The campsite below is an example of an area that could recover as long as nobody camps at it for a season.


The campsite below is another area that could recover if left alone, but could also be a better place to camp at if you want to save the surrounding pristine area. 


The campsite below is an example of an area that can handle a large group and multiple nights of camping. The impacted soil cannot get much worse.


When camping in a Frontcountry area, stay within the boundaries of the site to reduce site creep. Site creep is when a campsite grows year by year because people slowly but surely camp on the outside of the boundaries.

Thanks for reading and remember to be like Bigfoot and Leave No Trace.

Pat and TJ

Leave No Trace’s Patrick and Theresa Beezley are part of the 2013 Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Program that provides free, mobile education to communities across the country. Proud partners of this program include Subaru of America, Coleman, Hi-Cone, The North Face, REI, Smartwool and Yakima.



Let’s protect and enjoy our natural world together

Get the latest in Leave No Trace eNews in your inbox so you can stay informed and involved.