Guide: Choosing The Proper Camp Site

making camp

What To Look For When Choosing A Campsite When Desperate

Perhaps the most important decision you will make in a survival situation is campsite selection. There are 4 main considerations when choosing a proper camp site, referred to as the Four W’s. But there are a few other important factors that will also need to be considered. For example:

making camp

  • For how long do you intend to stay in the location?
  • If staying more then 1 night, are there enough available resources to support you(and your group)?
  • Is the area large enough to accommodate your party(and gear), with ample work space?

Any camp that will be used as a longer term base camp will need to be carefully examined so as to not deplete the available resources prematurely.

The Four W’s:

  • Wood
  • Water
  • Wind
  • Widow Makers

When deciding on a spot to make camp, always ask yourself these questions:


  • Do I have a source of wood close enough to this location to complete the tasks I plan for this camp? This could include making a debris shelter, a raised platform to sleep on, a tripod, tools, for cooking etc.?
  • Is there enough firewood to last the duration of my stay? Look for an area with plenty of dead fall to make your firewood collection easier.
  • Do I have the tools to access the wood?

To get a fire built quickly, you generally want to use a softer wood, such as Poplar, Pine or Cedar. But for a longer lasting fire and for cooking you will want a harder wood like Ash, Hickory or Oak.


  • Is there a convenient water source, that is close to camp?
  • Is the water source a stagnant or flowing? Any ground water will need to be boiled at the least, but filtering prior to boiling is preferred when possible.
  • Is the water source attractive to other game animals? Are fish present? This would provide access to a possible food source.


When selecting a camp, you need to think about wind. In the summer months wind can be leveraged to take advantage of convective cooling. But in the colder months, this same advantage becomes a life threatening disadvantage and may cause hypothermia.

Other factors to consider are the effects of the wind on your fire. Could the wind spread hot coals into the camp, causing a dangerous forest fire? Or is the wind going to blow smoke in your face, and into your shelter all night?

Camping on a ridgeline leaves you exposed to the wind, while camping in low laying areas leaves you dealing with colder temperatures. Remember that heat rises while cold air settles at ground level. Choosing a mid to higher ground camp is the best choice where possible.


Widowmakers are standing dead trees or broken branches that have not yet fallen to the ground. These can be blown over by a gust of wind at any moment and can cause serious injury or death. Do not make camp within the fall radios of a standing dead tree.

This awesome video shows you how to build a simple but sturdy shelter if you absolutely need to stay a long period of time on your campsite.

So I Chosen My Camp Site…Now What?

Understanding how to find or make a simple refuge in a wilderness setting is still another indispensable ability that any survivalist must have.

During a disaster or crisis situation it is possible for entire families to be separated from each other; the splintered part of a household might end up in a woodland setting or any other outside place where there are few modern conveniences.

Understanding how to make a simple shelter may also help improve your odds of survival if you’re stranded in the wilderness with no way to return to the main road inside the day.

Unless you’ve got a GPS device or map with you, it’d be better to let others track you down.

How can you make a simple bed in the wilderness?

This is, in fact, a great question because with no bed, you can not rest properly and you are likely to get stiffness and back aches if you are not accustomed to resting on hard ground with no bed or sofa.

Out in the wild, it’s a frequent practice to make a bed on the floor itself. If you reside in Canada or in the U.S., then you might discover large balsam trees in your area.

Balsam trees (also known as “mountain goose” by outdoorsmen) provide excellent leaves and elastic boughs that are fantastic for producing an improvised bed. These trees are jokingly called “mountain goose” since survivalists often search for them to “pluck” them for branches and leaves.

How can you produce a balsam bed?

A balsam bed is elastic and comfortable since it’s composed not just of leaves but also youthful, supple twigs.

Longer balsam twigs will be set on the floor first and will serve as the base or “framework” for your improvised bed. The briefer boughs will be put on top of the longer ones to function as the cushioning material.

Fashion your bed until you believe the top layer has a sufficient quantity of cushioning. If you do not have any extra bedding with you, this will do. But if you’ve blanket or comforter on you, put it on top of the briefer boughs to avoid the sap from sticking to your clothes.

The sap of the balsam tree will become tacky and then hard after a couple of minutes.

Can half-caves be utilized as shelter?

Half-caves have actually been used as shelters for centuries.

These spacious depressions located in bottom of valleys and cliffs are usually stable enough to be applied as temporary shelter.

Half-caves are usually formed by rain, erosion and the action of plant and tree roots which always dig away at the bottom of natural land formations.

  1. Inspect — Research the half-cave thoroughly before using it as guardian. Be cautious of small animals, snakes and rodents! The existence of scorpions and other harmful critters is a clear indication that it may be risky to use this distance as shelter.
  2. Sterilize — When the half-cave does not have any natural occupants, clean it by removing twigs, stones and surplus dirt to flatten the floor. Cleaning a half-cave will also make certain you could maximize the space inside.
  3. Keep Out The Rain — it is possible to improvise a lean-to doorway to shield yourself from rain and sunlight, should the elements opt to become too extreme at any stage during your stay on your temporary shelter. Just make sure you point all leaves, branches and twigs down so that rain will slip to the floor and not within the cavity, where you are sleeping.

Other considerations when choosing a camp site:

  • Avoid dry wahses or depressions as these may be prone to flash flooding or water runoff in wet weather. Flash floods can occur due to a storm miles away.
  • Don’t make camp on the edge of a water source. Water attracts insects and predators. And there is always the chance of flooding.
  • Avoid areas that could be subject to rock slides.


Following these guidelines for correct survival campsite selection will not only keep you safe in the wild, but will make for a much more pleasant experience.

So carry your proper gear at all times.  Keep a clear head in case of emergency.  Don’t do anything rash that could take you out unnecessarily.

A little common sense, coupled with a little knowledge will keep you safe and ready for the miles ahead.

Copyright ©2018. Created by Meks.