TGO Gear Editor Chris Townsend has some simple suggestions for a more comfortable night’s sleep


FACED WITH A MASS of boggy tussocks on a steep hillside or mounds of bushes on a forest floor, it can be hard to find somewhere comfortable to camp. Yet good sites can be found in most terrain if you look carefully. A great view from your camp is a wonderful bonus but comfort and, in stormy weather, shelter should come first. Here are some tips for finding a good site:

[1] Take your time. If a smooth perfect pitch appears at your feet, great. That’s rare though. Scouting round an area can often come up with a good site. To make this easier, take off your pack so you’re not thinking more about getting the load off your shoulders than finding a site.

[2] Survey the area from above if possible. Before you descend into a valley or hollow, stop and scan it for possible sites. Often patches of paler vegetation can mark grass rather than heather or peat bog. If you have binoculars use these to look more closely at possible sites.

[3] Check the flatness of a potential site. If it’s dry, lie down and see how it feels. If wet, walk round it and view it from every side. A slight slope is bearable – most people prefer their head on the uphill side. You only need a flat enough area to sleep on; bumps and dips elsewhere don’t matter. You do need to ensure the tent is pitched just right when there’s only a small flat area though.

[4] Make sure the site is fairly well-drained. Does the ground squelch and ooze water when you press your foot on it? If so I’d look for somewhere drier. A slight slope is better than sleeping in a bog that could overflow into your tent if it rains. Camping on damp ground also leads to more condensation inside the tent.

[5] Hollows can provide good shelter but may trap water. They also act as cold sinks. A flat terrace a little way up the sides can be drier and warmer than a camp in the bottom of a hollow. The same applies to narrow stream valleys.

[6] In really wet weather when all flat ground is saturated, the tops of little knolls can provide reasonably dry sites. Prospect a few to see if there’s room for your tent.

[7] If there’s a wind, pitch the tent so that the door is away from the wind.

[8] In strong winds look for shelter for a quieter and more secure camp. Grassy banks and little crags can keep off most of the wind. If there’s a forest in sight that can provide a really calm camp. I’d rather walk a bit further for a sheltered site than stop and have a disturbed night.

[9] If midges rather than wind is the problem go uphill and look for a breezy site to keep them off.

[10] Camping by water is convenient but check there’s no chance of a rising stream flooding your camp. If you have ample water containers you have more flexibility in where you camp. Often the best and most scenic camps are away from water. Sometimes steep or boggy banks may mean there are no sites anywhere near a lake or stream anyway.

[11] In forests look up to see if there are any dead branches above a prospective site. Check there are no dead trees leaning towards you too. A strong wind could bring them down.

[12] If there are still snow patches on the hills it’s always warmer and drier to avoid them and camp on dry ground.