Selecting a camp site

9:29 p.m. on February 26, 2012 (EST)
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Here is my video on selecting a camp site.  One tip could even save your life.  What tips of your own would you add to mine?  Thanks!

4:08 a.m. on February 27, 2012 (EST)
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Unfortunately you just scratched the surface, regarding camp selection criteria.  More was left out than was mentioned.

For example:  USE PREXISTING SITES instead of creating another scar on the land.   Consider prevailing winds, and preference for early/late sun rise/sunsets; Avoid set up in the path rain run off gravitates to.  Avoid setting up on top of delicate flora.  Scout for nearby cover that can be used cook, repack your pack the next day, or just hang out if should rain.  Food hang location selection criteria, privacy considerations given to others already camped nearby, the list goes on.  And we haven't even considered any of the site selection issues for snow camping, how to deal with camping in the mud, or site selection for special circumstances such as minimizing mosquito problems.   The list goes on and on...

Ed 

  

9:49 a.m. on February 27, 2012 (EST)
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Thanks for taking a look and your reply.  Yes, there are many more tips and you mentioned some good ones too. 

7:24 p.m. on February 27, 2012 (EST)
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Everything covered in 2 minutes and 22 seconds?!!?!?! As Ed Whome says, a bit on the brief side. Mountaineers Press published an entire book titled Making Camp with 219 pages (plus index). Ok, it does cover hikers, mountain bikers, paddlers, and ski/snowshoers. The hiker part is 66 pages. The book was assembled by 4 of the most experienced backcountry travelers in the US, all with worldwide experience - Steve Howe, Alan Kesselheim, Dennis Coello, and a long time friend of mine John Harlin (the 3rd, the son of John Harlin, Jr, who I also knew through climbing).

Oh, wait!! I forgot! This is for the WWW and the current ADD generation, used to 15-30 second commercials and sound bites, so maybe it's too long.

Ok, so I am being a bit sarcastic. But this sort of "electronic learning" really is way too brief. I am on staff for a couple of backcountry courses. We have 2 full days in town before going out for a full weekend, hands-on "intro" to "making camp", with and extended session of having the students look at several campsites that the staff has set up (a mix of "good camp/bad camp", some mediocre, some good with LNT practices fully employed). The students have to evaluate the camps and articulate what's good, what's bad, and what needs improvement.

Gotta wonder about some of your criteria. At about halfway (1m09s), you observe "not too much poison ivy or poison oak"?!!?!?! Umm, there are a lot of people (like me) who really react to that stuff. Any within 100 yards is too much!

You point at the stream, which appears to be significantly less than the LNT-recommended 200 feet (some USFS wilderness areas allow 100 feet, but the stream is closer than that as well). And you came walking down the trail, dropped your pack, and implied in your comments that you would be setting the tent up in what appears to be the middle of the trail. Again, LNT recommendation is 200 ft off trail, and in designated Wilderness Areas, the minimum I have seen is 100 ft, and more common 200 feet (my experience includes New England, Deep South, Smokies, Rockies, Sierra, Cascades, and desert Southwest, among others), if there is no designated, improved campsite). Ed mentions using pre-existing sites, but you also left out the importance of, if you really are going to build a fire, clearing all those flammable leaves and twigs I can see on the ground for fire safety (better yet, cook on a backpacking stove, again with proper fire precautions - if I sound sensitive about this, it's because out here on the Left Coast, we have huge destructive fires every year, some in the 10s of thousands of acres). And if you do make a new fire ring, be sure to scatter the rocks and disperse the cold-to-the-touch, dead-out ashes, so the site looks even more pristine than you found it.

Clearly, of necessity, given the 2:22 min length, you can't say much. But that means much information of great importance is left out. And it comes across as a stand-up version of a "talking heads" "sound bite". Show me what you are talking about. Show a good tent location and why.

In the end, though, no video can begin to substitute for heading into the woods and hills with an experienced mentor to whom you listen, and who you ask intelligent questions about why things are done in a particular way (for understanding, not in the "why in tarnation would you do a silly thing like that" kind of attitude).

4:42 p.m. on February 28, 2012 (EST)
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Bill and Ed are spot on. I would add that just because a tree is alive, does not mean that it couldn't have a dead branch that falls on your tent. That is generally where a lot of the ground wood that you mention, comes from. Making camp involves many things, and selecting a site is always a compromise. Your site was level, but too close to a stream, when it appeared you could have been farther. (On some river trips we are close to the river, such as a gravel bar, but the site meets other criteria.) Often, I select a site that is less than ideal from a level perspective, but meets other criteria. Being near the water and camped in the middle, or even along side a trail, makes it easy for some water seeking critter to step on your tent or trip over your guy lines, moose deer, elk or bear, depending on your location.

Selecting a safe camp means that you have to think ahead on many issues.

1:43 a.m. on February 29, 2012 (EST)
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I like camping along the most exposed ridgeline during summer thunderstorm season, setting up under the tallest, deadest, trees and areas that are highly prone to flash flooding are the most appealing.  LOL.  Really though, as with anything in life, a little common sense goes a long way, even when it concerns picking a campsite.

8:25 a.m. on February 29, 2012 (EST)
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Erich said:

..I would add that just because a tree is alive, does not mean that it couldn't have a dead branch that falls on your tent....

Also worth the mention: Widow Makers can come in the form whole dying or dead trees (better known as snags) that are ready to fall, but remain upright, either because the root system still supports the snag, or it is leaning (snagged) against other trees, ready to fall at any moment.  Thus a radius arounf d the selected site at least as wide as the estimated tree heights nearby should be scouted for dead snags.  Snags are especially dangerous in strong winds!

Ed

12:50 p.m. on February 29, 2012 (EST)
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This should be common sense but perhaps worth mentioning: if you happen to be hiking in a bear reserve (like I do 99% of the time), you should not pitch your tent where you see large amounts of bear scat (especially fresh scat). Or if there is other clear animal sign.

1:27 a.m. on March 1, 2012 (EST)
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Patman said:

This should be common sense but perhaps worth mentioning: if you happen to be hiking in a bear reserve (like I do 99% of the time), you should not pitch your tent where you see large amounts of bear scat (especially fresh scat). Or if there is other clear animal sign.

 True dat!

12:57 p.m. on March 3, 2012 (EST)
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I take a rake

3:42 p.m. on March 5, 2012 (EST)
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rob5073 said:

I like camping along the most exposed ridgeline during summer thunderstorm season, setting up under the tallest, deadest, trees and areas that are highly prone to flash flooding are the most appealing.  LOL.  Really though, as with anything in life, a little common sense goes a long way, even when it concerns picking a campsite.

While I presume you are trying to be funny, assuming that a beginner knows all of this is very naive. People get killed all the time doing things that others don't do based on a lack of "common sense," which, as Voltaire said, isn't all that common.

Flash flooding may not be evident and the idea of setting up camp next to a river is very inviting. However, if the storm that generates the flood is far upstream or hits at night, the unwary could be swept away with little notice. They may not be aware of the danger of trees as well.

As an example involving lightning, in 1985, a party of hikers on Half Dome was hit by lightning from a storm that was miles away. They had no idea what danger they were in until the storm was on top of them and the lightning hit them. It killed two of them and severely injured a couple more.

10:58 p.m. on March 5, 2012 (EST)
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Yes, I was poking fun and point taken. 

3:57 p.m. on March 9, 2012 (EST)
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Tom D said:

As an example involving lightning, in 1985, a party of hikers on Half Dome was hit by lightning from a storm that was miles away. They had no idea what danger they were in until the storm was on top of them and the lightning hit them. It killed two of them and severely injured a couple more.

If I recall this incident was even more notable because the group sought refuge in a cave like overhang; none there  realized lighting sometimes will travel into these structures.  Yea, common knowledge often is not.

Ed

12:20 a.m. on March 10, 2012 (EST)
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Worse - a couple of the group decided to do a "rain dance", with one of the two who got struck then falling over the edge. The other who died was sitting in the "spark gap" at the opening of the cave. Several others were stunned and survived. There are a couple books that were written about this, one of which I skimmed enough in the bookstore to see that the survivors felt they were in the right, that the park service should have posted signs and taken precautions (there are signs that say descend if thunderstorms approach), and it was just bad luck.

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