Camping Info

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Though there are various types of camping such as car camping, RV camping and emergency camping (when you are day hiking and get lost in the woods or when some catastrophic event occurs and you are forced to survive overnight in the woods) I'll focus mostly on backpack camping in this area.

There is a link to a Backpacking Checklist at the end of this series produced by REI. I think that it is very good and should be utilized before you set out on the trail. Below are some things that I have learned after twenty plus years of backpacking:
  • Always research an area that you are going to backpack in throughly before you set out. Get the latest maps or apps that cover that area. Call the organization that manages the area and ask questions such as is a permit needed, is there a limit on the number of backpackers that can hike that trail or area at a time, are there any current trail closures or recent reroutes that you should be aware of. And verify the distance. I once had an older map of a trail that I wanted to lead a hike on. Some of that trail was on an old road. It was about 10 miles. I ordered a new map and right before our group was supposed to do this hike I got the new map. The trail had been re-routed from the road onto trail and was now close to 23 miles long in that section. So we picked another area at the last minute to hike.
  • Always try to 'recon' the area that you are going to hike. It's not always practical to go to the location and hike the trail itself in advance. But I have driven to the trailhead before a scheduled hike and checked out the area. And if there is a ranger station or park office nearby, stop by and talk to the authorities there. They are usually very friendly and will be more than willing to give you all the information that you will need for your hike. Even if you have hiked a trail in the past, recon it again as conditions change. I had hiked a trail with a group in 1996. When another person and group wanted to hike the same trail in 2015 no one ever reconned this trail before the hike. When the group again hiked this trail there were massive blowdowns from a recent storm and the trail was impassable. They had to call someone to come and pick them up at the nearest road crossing.
  • Water sources are covered in a later article. However, when it comes to having enough water during your hike, make sure that you check on water sources along your hike beforehand. Check the maps, consult various online forums or the web site for a given trail in advance. If there are drought conditions or you know that water will be an issue on the trail that you are going to hike, you should plan to carry more water. My general rule is to carry seventy ounces for every 10 miles hiked. However, if it is a hot day or the terrain on the trail is rough, I have carried up to one hundred ounces or more in a day. You should also carry enough water for your overnight and next morning use. Some suggestions for vessels to carry water include the Camelbak 70 oz Antidote Replacement Reservoir or a Nalgene WM 1 QT Woodsman Bottle, 32 oz . I once led a hike where I consulted a map beforehand that said that there was a spring near the shelter. When we were very close to the shelter we crossed a dry creek bed. I joked that I hoped that this was not the water source. It was. We had to ration the one liter of water that we each had until the next morning. Springs and creeks are usually flowing well in spring due to snow melt and abundent rain. But by fall, a number of springs and creeks in high elevation areas tend to dry up because the water table, due to lack of rain, falls during the year. I also remember hiking a trail once and seeing a mountain where the top third of the trees on this mountain appeared to have brown leaves. The bottom two thirds were green. I attributed this to the water table falling within that mountain.
  • Be careful where you pitch your tent. I once pitched a tent in a bowl shaped area at a campsite. It rained during the night. The next morning I woke up and my tent was foating and the floor was partially submerged in water. Pitch your tent on high and gradually sloping ground. And do not pitch your tent in a stream bed. If it rains during the nght, the stream may swell and you may be swept away and/or drowned. When it comes to large rivers do not camp close to them either. Especially if they are dammed rivers that are subject to flooding when it rains and water is released over the dam. Camp at least five hundred feet from dammed rivers. An example of a moderately priced backpacking tent is an ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 1-Person Tent.
  • Food storage is also a major issue when camping. A number of trails now require that you place your food in a bear canister like the Backpackers' Cache - Bear Proof Container before you hike it. In the back country it is advisable to hang your food in order to avoid having your food stolen by an animal. I once tested a bear canister at a state park that was close to the AT that I knew had bears in the area. So I camped in that park and utilized a bear canister. No bears that night but the next morning the bear canister was knocked over and there were muddy raccoon paw prints all over it. So I guess the bear cannister worked. And I car camped with someone once the night before a backpacking trip that leaned his back pack with food in it against a tree near his tent. During the night raccoons made a ruccus getting into his backpack. This person had to shew away the raccoons. The next morning there was a trail of food packaging leading into the woods. And we had to go and buy him more food for the rest of the trip. So please hang your food or use a bear canister to avoid getting your food swiped. The closest that I have come to having a bear encounter occured while car camping the night before a backpacking trip in WV. A number of us brought steaks with various vegetables wrapped up in aluminum foil. We cooked these over an open fire. They smelled really good and they tasted really good. However, the smoke from this dinner also smelled good. And it floated in my direction as I was cooking. I was concerned that a bear may smell it on me and my clothes later that night. Sure enough, in the middle of the night I awoke to the presence of something right on the other side of the tent wall where I was sleeping. It was belching, snorting, it's stomach was growling and it was passing gas. Immediately I started making noise and shooing it away. Thank God, It did go away. I think it smelled the steaks that we made earlier that evening. And I believe that one reason that it did not more aggressively persue that smell was that I had pee'd around the perimeter of my tent that night before retiring. The animal (I think it was a small bear) probably smelled that as well and thought that I had marked my territory. I was lucky.
Know of any other useful camping info that you would like to contribute? If so, please Contact Me and I will add it here and give you credit for that contribution.

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