Choosing your tent spot

We’re all different when it comes to how we choose a tent spot: some scout for hours for the perfect spot, whilst others go for the first and the best. How you choose the spot is up to you. We’ve gathered some tips to think about before you pitch your tent – for all seasons!

In this video Inge and Markus Wegge gives us a lecture about the three Ws (wind, water, wood) to help you pick out a good tent spot.

Spring

It’s easy to get excited after a long and cold winter. The sun starts to shine and the snow melts away. However, it’s important to remember that spring weather can be unstable and change rapidly, leading to surprises for the unprepared. The first snow-free spots you find are often the most wind-exposed, and beautiful sunny days in the spring can easily turn cold overnight, or ice melt can lead to frequent flooding.

Avalanche danger is also a risk factor in the spring. The sun heats the snow and creates naturally-arising avalanches, of both rock and snow. Slush slides can also occur in the spring, usually after heavy rainfall. These tend to follow the lowest terrain contour, so be aware of where you pitch the tent. Try not to set camp in narrow valleys or close to sun exposed faces. Remember that, in the northern hemisphere, southern faces get more sun exposure.

Summer

Summer can also bring changeable weather requiring sheltered spots from wind and rain, but the sun and bugs are also important factors to consider when setting up camp. Areas with swamps and slow-flowing streams are often invaded by mosquitoes, so make sure to keep away from swamps and seek spots in drier areas with moving air.

Waking up in an extremely hot and sweaty tent can be unpleasant, so place your tent properly so it’s in the shade for the morning sunrise. Look for trees, boulders or similar that can shield the tent from east. If there’s nothing available, try and pitch your tent with the foot end oriented towards the direction of the sunrise, or use a tarp or “fjellduk” as additional sun shelter.

Autumn

Whilst mosquitoes and other insects can make camping in the summer a small nightmare, insects leave us in the autumn, and the sun becomes less searing. But autumn has other challenges, and people camping at this time of the year often experience accelerating winds and more frequent changes in the weather. Shelter from the wind therefore becomes an important factor when choosing a camp spot. Autumn can also bring cold or frozen ground, making it hard to set in pegs correctly. Try to find camp spots close to trees or rocks, as the ground tends to be less frozen in these areas.

Unlike in the summer, the autumn sun is welcome for warming the tent in the mornings. Consider this when you’re pitching the tent.

Winter

Camping in the winter can be very challenging, with wind, snow, and avalanches all significant risk factors to be aware of. It’s extremely important to consider all elements of safety when choosing a camp spot.

 

Avalanche

In addition to determining the avalanche danger when choosing a camp location, you also have to consider the potential of being weather-bound for several days in the same spot. Even one night with blizzard conditions can change the avalanche situation dramatically.

When camping in areas with avalanche danger always select sites that do not pose any risk from avalanches. Remember that an avalanche slide length can be three times the height of the face it came from. Calculate the best safety margins you possibly can.

Wind

Avoid narrow valleys, ridge tops, mountain passes and other places where the wind often hits. What looks like a perfect and sheltered campsite can quickly turn into a snow hole because of drifting snow, and small avalanches can be triggered from a height of only 2-3m. In the winter, avoid finding shelter from the wind under trees; these are often covered with heavy snow that could fall.

If you use a proper winter tent you shouldn’t need to build additional walls for shelter, but these can add to the comfort of your camp if you plan to be there for several days. One of the most important things when pitching your tent or lavvu is to make sure it’s pegged out securely. Take the time to do it properly, and remember that the wind might increase during the night. Combine snow pegs with skis, poles, sleds etc.