Camping Hacks: Tips for Camping on Uneven Terrain

Camping Hacks: Tips for Camping on Uneven Terrain

When camping at a paid campground, the luxury of level campsites is often taken for granted. However, for those engaged in wild camping or backpacking, the quest for level ground to pitch a tent can become a challenging endeavor.

One common frustration arises when a seemingly level campsite turns out to be deceiving, especially when you lay down to sleep and discover an unexpected slope.

Camping on uneven terrain can be an absolute nightmare. The discomfort is apparent, and the slippery nature of sleeping bags increases the likelihood of sliding off the sleeping pad. This inconvenient scenario may result in waking up at 4 am, finding yourself in the corner of the tent, and shivering in the cold (speaking from personal experience here!).

After grappling with slanted surfaces during multiple camping trips, I've adopted some tricks to ensure my campsite is genuinely flat and level. These simple techniques, taking only an extra minute or two, significantly enhance the overall camping experience. Moreover, if finding even ground proves challenging, there are additional tricks to make sleeping more comfortable.

How to Find a Level Campsite for Tent Pitching

1.Lay On the Ground and Spread Your Arms
  • Place the tent on the ground in your chosen spot.
  • Lie on top of it (considering the use of a ground sheet if available).
  • Spread your arms and legs out, resembling a snow angel.
  • This method helps gauge the actual levelness of the ground and identifies any rocky or bumpy areas that need leveling before pitching the tent.

2. The Pole + Water Bottle Trick

  • If laying on the ground is impractical (e.g., due to rain), use a water bottle to create a makeshift level tool.
  • Position a trekking pole on the ground.
  • Place a water bottle next to the pole.
  • Observe the position of the air bubble in the water bottle.
  • If the bubble is in the middle, the ground is level.


What If You Can't Find a Level Campsite?

A common mistake campers make is sleeping with their head uphill. While better than sleeping downhill, this position is still uncomfortable, leading to gradual sliding down the sleeping pad.

Instead, opt for sleeping parallel to the slope. Utilize any available items (jacket, backpack, etc.) to prop up the sleeping pad, ensuring a flat sleeping surface.

If sleeping with your head uphill is unavoidable, try the following trick:

  • Roll up a shirt, jacket, or similar item.
  • Place the roll underneath your sleeping pad beneath your hip.
  • This creates a bump that prevents sliding.

Note: This trick is more effective with foam pads or self-inflating pads and may not work well with thicker air pads or air mattresses.