When surveying a camp area, the most important consideration should be to select a good spot for sleeping. Everything else is secondary. Ideally, you want a flat area that is wind-sheltered and on ground soft enough to drive stakes into. Yeah, and I want to win the lottery, too.

Sometimes, the ground will have a slight slope to it. In that case, always sleep with your head on the uphill side. If you sleep parallel to the slope, every time you roll over, you’ll find yourself rolling down the hill. If you sleep with your head on the downhill side, you’ll get a headache that feels as if an ax is embedded in your brain.

A cat emerges from a tiny orange classic tent in the grass.

Setting up camp at home can help you find your ideal sleeping solution. “Pippy the Camping Cat” photo by Bex Ross, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

A good tip is to dig a slight indentation in the ground where your hip will fit. When you’ve found a good spot, clear it of all branches, twigs, and rocks, of course. A good tip is to dig a slight indentation in the ground where your hip will fit. Since your body is not flat, but has curves and edges, it will not feel comfortable on flat ground. Some people even get severely bruised on the sides of their hips when sleeping on flat, hard ground. For that reason alone, they learn to hate camping. What a shame, especially when the problem is solved easily with a Therm-a-Rest pad, foam insulation, an air bed, or a cot.

After the ground is prepared, throw a ground cloth over the spot, which will keep much of the morning dew off you. In some areas, particularly where fog is a problem, morning dew can be heavy and get the outside of your sleeping bag quite wet. In that case, you need overhead protection, such as a tent or some kind of roof, like a poncho or tarp with its ends tied to trees.

Excerpted from the Eighteenth Edition of Moon California Camping.