Alpine Readiness Tips

7 Tips – Selecting A Perfect Campsite – How To Thru Hike ep6

Campsite selection is by far one of the most important things when it comes to backpacking and remaining dry, warm, safe, free of animal visitors, and free of bugs. It is the sole reason I am able to carry so little backpacking and still remain comfortable and happy every single night while out thru hiking!

I normally go for a more extreme ultralight outlook on my gear selection, most of my thru hikes with a sub 6lb baseweight. If it weren’t for taking the extra time each night to find a good spot to camp I would surely be screwed. Whether you’re on the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, Arizona Trail, Florida Trail or any other long distance trail… I hope these tips help you as well!

My tips:

1. Look for areas that are more wooded, and have a lot of tree cover – This will help mitigate wind, help disperse rain, keep you warmer as the heat is reflected down on you instead of evaporating into the sky, and help to prevent condensation / morning dew.

2. Avoid camping by water – Cold are usually sinks into low depressions and draws, and especially lingers around water. Because of this these types of campsites will be a lot colder, requiring you to carry more gear to compensate. Bugs breed in water and your pretty spot during the day, may in the evenings and mornings now be real trouble when it comes to hanging out, making food, or using the restroom at night. Animals also frequent water sources, so not only will you potentially be blocking their access but you are also bringing your chances up significantly of running into unwanted visitors in the night. Get your water late in the evening, and keep going a couple miles!

3. Look for plushy ground to sleep on – Find a spot with a lot of grass, leaves, pine needles and natural duff. These things will help cushion you as you sleep making for a more comfortable night. These things will keep you warmer, at least compared to sleeping on hard compact ground. And these areas in the rain, allow the water to percolate down into the natural material and freely run well underneath you, instead of pooling where you sleep, or running over you.

4. Avoid windy and exposed areas – Not only do you run the risk of breaking your shelter if the wind is strong enough (I’ve seen it happen multiple times!) these areas will also be significantly more cold with the wind. So I look for trees to shelter me, rocks, natural features, anything to cut down on the wind. However if it is hot out, a nice wind can be preferable. Wind can also cut down on condensation since your shelter is getting more air-flow, and wind can also blow away bugs. So this tip can go in either direction depending on the current conditions of where you are.

5. Avoid popular campsites – The last thing I want is to sleep on ground that has already been heavily impacted by thousands before me. Even worse would be sleeping at a campsite with 30 other people, some who may not be so fun and savory. I try to avoid popular campsites whenever I can, and ESPECIALLY avoid campsites close to roads, as who knows may come visiting in the night.

6. Leave no trace – The most important aspect of hiking. You want to be a ghost. Not leaving trash, avoiding making fires if you can, leave the plants and animals alone, and keep your impact to a bare minimum. The idea of stealth camping or dispersed camping is that you don’t want anyone to know you were ever there. As you pack up in the morning look back on where you slept and ask yourself if you’ve left any sort of an imprint. Always follow rules when they are in place.

7. The prettiest campsite isn’t usually the best campsite – As pretty usually might mean near a river, lake or stream. Pretty may mean on the top of an exposed mountain. Pretty may mean you’re out in an open field with great views. I try to avoid these spots for more sheltered areas unless the weather is perfect.

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