Base camp question

7:11 p.m. on October 6, 2010 (EDT)
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Not sure where to post this, so why not in beginners...

On an upcoming trip I'm taking, I plan on using one area as a base camp to take multiple trips out over 3 days - it's kind of a central area for several mountains. My question is, how many of you have done this, and have you been worried that other people would take things from your tent? The area is typically very busy during peak season, but I will be there after peak season and would be worried that if there are any other stragglers, they might be looking to cause trouble.

I was thinking about getting a small combo lock and putting it on the zipper. I thought maybe it would deter someone if they couldn't simply zip it open to check out what i've got inside even though they could obviously just cut in with a knife.

You guys think that's a waste of time? Should I just carry it all? My only thoughts are that my pack will probably be between 50-70 lbs, and if I don't have to carry that while gaining several thousand feet of elevation over 3 days, I don't want to.

THanks in advance!

7:34 p.m. on October 6, 2010 (EDT)
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Am I correct in assuming the basecamp is not a car camping spot but somewhere you're hiking in to, iClimb?

I think it depends on the area, the people traffic, and what you'd be leaving behind.

Will you return each night or are you going out on overnights and then returning?

If you don't mind my asking, since I'm in the same general area as you, where are you headed?

My initial feeling is that I'd personally consider it only if it was a really quiet area I felt comfortable with, and I wasn't leaving behind anything I couldn't stand losing in exchange for carrying less weight. The zipper might stop the curious, so maybe it would be a deterrent, but I wouldn't count on it.

I like to think most people are honest. Of course, it only takes one jerk to prove that rule.

10:37 p.m. on October 6, 2010 (EDT)
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Yes a spot i'm hiking to, not car camping

Nauman tent site near the Mizpah Springs Hut near the Presidentials. Yes, returning each day/night after going up various mountains.

I'd most likely be leaving behind the tent, sleeping pads, sleeping bag, and the couple of comforts I bring to make nights more bearable.

It's fairly busy during peak season, the hut is typically full - but the hut and care takers shut down on October 16th, which is well before my trip, so I'm guessing the crowds will be well diminished.

2:04 a.m. on October 7, 2010 (EDT)
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I have been a basecamp hiker for 30 years. I go into an area about 3 days to a week from the closest road and set up a basecamp. Then for a month I go on day hikes in like spokes of a wheel from camp. Some days after finding interesting other areas, I will take a smaller lighter tent and my sleeping bag on a dayhike back to that area and set up a second camp so I can further explore that area. Then after a month of doing this basecamping, I will resupply and go into a new area deep away from towns, roads, popular trails and set up a new basecamps to start a new month exploration over up to 30 days of hikes. After about 4-9 months of this I will work for 3 months to save to start new explorations somewhere new. I have spent more than 8000 nights camping in the last 30 years since 1980. And only worked an average of 2700 days in the same 30 years.

4:24 a.m. on October 7, 2010 (EDT)
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I definitely would not place a lock on the zipper. It screams, no one is home! Anyone so inclined to steal will slash their way in with a knife, so you sustain tent damage at a minimum with each such encounter.

I don’t believe trekkers are any more honest than the general population, so I see your concern. But the vast majority of us do not steal others’ property. Thus for every thousand of people who stumble upon your unoccupied camp, one may be inclined to steal, provided they are willing to pack the booty out. I would camp away from huts and other such centers of human activity, regardless of season, as that will further reduce the odds of someone messing with your property.


12:17 p.m. on October 7, 2010 (EDT)
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Choose locations that are not near main trails and towns. Thats why I generally am a few days walk from the trailhead, father than the average weekend hiker is going to come apon. If you plan to leave the camp for more than a day you want to be far from where anyone else will come apon it.

2:19 p.m. on October 7, 2010 (EDT)
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The safety of your base camp depends on the location and the season. For all of my multiday treks in the woods and hills, I pack in to a location, set up camp, then each day climb a peak or route or do a day hike, often a loop. There is really no choice but to leave the tent, sleeping bag, cook gear, stove, etc. at the base camp. In 5+ decades of doing this on my own and a bit of time doing it with my parents, I have never had anything stolen. Thing is, the vast majority of people are honest, and they realize that taking stuff might well be life-threatening to their victim - plus they realize that if they take stuff, someone might take theirs in turn. There is more of a problem with critters getting in to take the food (a reason to use a bear canister even in "non-bear" country).

Having said that, in conversations with rangers, it turns out that there are a surprisingly large number of escaped felons and fugitives in the back country. For the most part, these people want to stay out of sight and avoid contact (they do not want to get caught). Sometimes they will get desperate for food and will take food from a campsite. But again, when they do, it is generally a fairly small amount - make it a nuisance rather than a major big deal that would prompt someone to call in the rangers. Still, I have been told that in some areas, the rangers will pick up a fugitive once or twice a month.

The problem of break-ins at trailheads is a different matter. Some areas are notorious for break-ins to cars. It seems to be somewhat seasonal and shift from place to place. It also seems to depend on the car - what's visible and even what stickers you have on your bumper or window. Some friends in the PNW have warned me that the AMGA sticker I had in the window of my car screamed "there is expensive climbing gear in this car - STEAL ME!" So avoid leaving gear visible or any big red flags that would tempt people. As mentioned earlier, leaving the car empty and unlocked says "Nothing here, just move along." On the other hand, it can make it easier to steal the battery (not common these days with so many different sizes and shapes of car batteries). My practice these days is to take only what I need for the trip and leave only the spare tire (one of those tiny "get you to a repair shop" spares), jack, tire iron, and chains (required in Calif, even with 4WD) actually in the car. Any electronic widgets (GPSR, MP3, ham radio) go into the back country with me (except that my ham radio license plates do scream "there might be an expensive ham radio setup in this car", even if there is no antenna on the car).

Still, I have never had a car break-in at a backcountry trailhead. Closest was at Quincy Quarries, a climbing area in the Boston Area. In that case, a gang went down the line of cars, breaking into each one and taking as much as they could stuff in their car that was driving down the line. When they got to my VW van, I had an alarm that went off. They were witnessed at that point dropping what they had in their hands, leaping into their car and speeding off. As we climbers gathered at the cars in response to the alarm, we found that they had gotten away with a lot of stuff, including one poor fellow's stereo system that he had with all his belongings (he was moving between apartments and had all his posessions in the car).

Don't be too paranoid. But just because you are paranoid doesn't mean there are no bad guys out to steal your stuff. Take sensible precautions. And I do agree - putting a lock on the tent zipper says "valuable stuff here - STEAL ME!"

2:49 p.m. on October 7, 2010 (EDT)
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thanks all, sounds like great advice. Makes sense about the lock, I will avoid putting that there.

Gary, for me things like family, school, work, and friends have kept me from leading such an isolated lifestyle. By "work" I mean that I am a therapist - my work is meaningful to me, and I enjoy helping others. If I'm in the backcountry for months at a time, I can't help anyone but myself. Not to mention I'm incredibly close to my family and my in-laws, and live within 2 hours of each of them. Seeing them is important to me, so I can't imagine being away from my loved ones for that long. To each his own, however, because your lifestyle sounds very interesting!!

6:48 p.m. on October 7, 2010 (EDT)
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As the others have said, location of the base camp is key to avoiding problems. I generally camp in the way you describe, I like to choose a base camp and do hiking trips to interesting areas without having to carry all my gear.

For me the challenge has always been finding a place that is down out of sight, but one that will drain water well, or well enough. Of course the further you are away from trails the better.

Sometimes I put all my stuff in my tent and let the poles down to help keep it out of sight, if you do this don't forget where your camp is at (long story there). I also sometimes hide my stove and other items away from my tent to help keep them safe.

I'm sure you've already thought of this, but don't forget to take enough gear hiking with you away from base camp to keep safe, warm, dry, and fed, in case you get caught out overnight unexpectedly. I always carry "The 10 Essentials" even on hikes, especially when traveling alone.

In case you don't have the 10 essentials list it can be found here. (I've been backpacking for many years and I keep a copy handy all the time)

Have fun, and let us know how your trip goes!

12:07 a.m. on October 8, 2010 (EDT)
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Locate a spot high and dry. Either bury your valuables within a tarp or disguise it with brush. A dry overhand with adjoining rocks to conceal your goods is another possibility. Be sure that the spot is marked well in memory or map. If available, the dry overhang could make a good base-camp, out of the wind and rain . I love the sound of rain on a roof but it can be disturbing to sleep with the sound of hard hits of rain on the tent.

2:14 p.m. on October 8, 2010 (EDT)
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I set up a field of land mines ;)

I will often set up camp at one location and venture out. I have not had anything stolen from my camp, or my car at the trail head either. I will sometimes hide certain items away from my tent as others have mentioned. The instances of theft that I know of personally happened at the trailheads. Friends had their cars broken into, and another had his lugnut covers stollen of his wheels. Talk about petty!

7:18 p.m. on October 8, 2010 (EDT)
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I have never had anything stolen while in the field when away from camp on dayhikes. Not counting the raccoon that ate a whole loaf of bread in Yosemite or a bear in Alaska that stole my spare tire while I watched.

9:22 p.m. on October 9, 2010 (EDT)
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If I were you, I would enjoy the time and use the suggestions above.

Critters are the highest concern. In Ca, it is the critters that ruin the tents - leave it open a little bit to allow them to check it out w/o chewing the tent wall.

Expensive gear - place under the tent footprint or other idea.

Tent and bag -humm - not a problem I have ever heard or seen.

good luck

12:42 a.m. on October 10, 2010 (EDT)
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Nauman tent site near the Mizpah Springs Hut near the Presidentials. Yes, returning each day/night after going up various mountains.

I'd most likely be leaving behind the tent, sleeping pads, sleeping bag, and the couple of comforts I bring to make nights more bearable.

Those are my stomping grounds from my teens and early adulthood. Unless things have changed a lot over the past ~30 years (hmm I suppose that sounds silly) then I find it hard to imagine having a problem leaving that kind of stuff at the Nauman site.

I mean if you were leaving your camera gear, or your gps, (or a pile of cash, hehe) it'd be different. But it's hard for me to visualize someone hiking up the Crawford Path to the site, taking down your tent, and packing it out to steal it... or packing up your sleeping bag, and carrying it out. Most people do well to carry their own gear, not to mention someone else's.

Given The OGBO's comments regarding ex felons in the back country, maybe I (we) should be more concerned. Hmmm, do people hike in to sites specifically to steal gear and pack it out? Yikes!

In my years, like The OGBO, starting with my family as a kid, and then the years as an adult, I've left my camping gear unattended many times without incident. Note: knock on wood!

Oh, I take that back. In the autumn of 2008, I camped at a roadside campground near Lake Almanor in California ... and left a 7gal jug of water at my site. I went off for the day, and when I returned in the evening, the jug was still there, but it was significantly emptied). The definitely jug did not leak.

This was in October, and it was below freezing at night, so the park water was shut off. I guess someone felt it was "ok" to steal someone else's water and leave them without water for their own use.

9:02 p.m. on October 10, 2010 (EDT)
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...Given The OGBO's comments regarding ex felons in the back country, maybe I (we) should be more concerned. Hmmm, do people hike in to sites specifically to steal gear and pack it out? Yikes!...

That was "escaped felons and fugitive felons", not "ex felons". And remember, the rangers told me that such folk are trying hard to avoid detection, so don't steal gear and only when desperate take food - despite movies like Deliverance.

From everything in my experience and what people have told me, people do not hike in to steal gear, especially if it is a multi-day and/or challenging hike to the base camp. They would have to know that there was something there worth stealing. Only thefts in my experience (not personal, but heard about while there) were a couple thefts of food from caches on Denali, and in those cases, the perps thought the cache was intended for them (there was another cache nearby that indeed was for them, but it is illegal to leave caches on Denali for someone else - too high a chance of the cache getting abandoned, so the person leaving the cache got cited and fined), and a case where the cache had been abandoned (again, the cache owner got a citation as well as those who took the cache, since abandoning caches on Denali is illegal). There was also a case of a person who had gone up to the 17k camp (he was solo), placed a cache of food (ok'd by the rangers in this case) which someone took believing it to be abandoned, then in desperation the soloist raided the emergency rescue cache. The rangers let him off, but did cite the team who had stolen the soloist's cache.

Thing is, if you take gear in the backcountry, you have to carry it out. Thieves take the easy way out - steal stuff in campgrounds that is laying around and easy to grab or break into cars at the trailhead where all you have to do is dump it in your own car and flee. While most thieves are stupid, they are also pretty lazy (like the guy here in the SFBay Area recently who demanded the money from the bank teller, then filled out a deposit slip to put it into his own account and handed it to the same teller).

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