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Setting up a camp

Discussion in 'The Learning Center' started by Atlas, Aug 13, 2018.

  1. Atlas

    Atlas Administrator Staff Member

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    There are a million different ways to enjoy the outdoors. For every person that goes into the outdoors there is a technique that has either been fostered over a lifetime of experiences, or is just the beginning of the journey. There may or may not be times when one is better than the other, as it will be totally dependent on the many different variables. This class is not meant to teach you things that you may already know, but instead talk about things that most of us should think about each time that we go out. Since the level of skill of the person reading this will vary greatly, we will assume that this is something new and hope that for those that it is not they will at least have a different look at it afterwards.

    To begin, we must look at why we are setting up a camp before we do anything else. If this is a family trip to an established camp ground we will have one set of guidelines, but if this is a back country trip in a somewhat remote and desolate location there will be others. Setting up a proper camp at an established camp ground is fairly straight forward, and most of the issues we are going to talk about here are already addressed by the establishment. Because of that we will skip further talk of this scenario and move on to camping in a desolate location in an area of your choosing, either by choice or by necessity.

    Let us say that you are traveling along, either by foot or by vehicle, and the time in the day has come for you to stop and get some rest. What should you look for when trying to decide a safe spot that will guarantee a good night's rest? We all have a picture in our mind of the perfect camp spot. A nice level spot for the tent next to the stream and some cover by trees nearby. Why is this a perfect spot? Let's break it down to see why.

    You will of course want to pitch a tent on a nice flat spot so that you get good night's sleep. If the tent is on a slope you will end up sliding down hill through the night and that will make for an uncomfortable night. Another important factor is looking for rocks, sticks, or roots sticking out of the ground below where your sleep set up is. There are few things worse than a rock poking you in the back while trying to sleep.

    The next element in our perfect scenario is the stream. This brings us that life giving thing that we all need. Water. Having a source of water nearby is a really important factor that can make life much easier. When the water is near your camp it makes hygiene, cooking, and refilling drinking containers less of a chore, and when you are tired that is a very important thing. The only issue with being close to water is the bugs. Sometimes the mosquitoes will be there in droves, right in your perfect spot. If this is the case, setting up camp just a short distance away will make all of the difference. Always stop and give the bugs a minute to find you before setting up camp. One last thing to think about when it comes to water. Always set up camp well above the high water mark when camping near a stream. Stream levels can rise at seemingly random times for seemingly random reasons. Always take good care in placing yourself out of harms way.

    The final element in our perfect scenario is the trees. These trees not only provide shade, but they provide fuel for fires and if need be shelter from the weather. Having wood that is easy to harvest for building camp furniture or keeping the fire going is a very good resource indeed. The only down side is the danger of dead wood. Always survey the area to make sure that there are no trees or limbs that are in a precarious position waiting for the first gust of wind to come and take out your camp or cause you harm. The dreaded widow maker has its name for good reason.

    What are other elements that our perfect scenario are missing? Depending on the time of year and conditions there may or may not be other elements. If you are camping in nice weather with little worry of rain or snow things get quite a bit easier. If the weather becomes an element to contend with there are other issues that must be addressed. When camping in rain it is important for there to be drainage away from your tent and any working areas. Sleeping or living in a puddle is not going to be a good scenario. If this means digging little trenches to bring water away from key places, then that is what must be done. Sometimes simply finding a very gentle slope is enough to get away with.

    Another issue is the fire pit. If the weather is cool, fire placement is going to be critical. This is especially the case if you do not have a tent or good sleeping bag and are using natural elements for shelter. Generally, the rule here is that you want the fire three feet or one large pace from your shelter. This is only a guideline however, as wind and types of wood can vary this one quite a bit. The caveat here is that sparks from the fire my burn a whole in your tent or catch your natural shelter on fire, neither of which is a good thing.
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2018
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  2. hypnos

    hypnos Well-Known Member

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    Maybe I missed it, but one thing I've still had some minor issue with is when to start building camp. It's never costed me anything as far as misery, really, but it could. If you can get a good time estimate before sunset, I think a good general buffer is about a 2 hour minimum to twilight. You don't want to be looking for a place to start building a shelter, establishing a latrine, and gathering your firewood 15 minutes before dark. It may take longer than 15 minutes to get a fire started under certain conditions.
    Another thing I had to learn the hard way was how much I needed to get done when the sun was shining. Needing a camfire for warmth, but not gathering enough resources with the sun shining is a poor choice. It could rain tomorrow, there is no gauruntee. Might be obvious to some how simple and important that is, as embarrassing as it is to say I learned some lessons.
     
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  3. Atlas

    Atlas Administrator Staff Member

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    Those are great points, and should definitely be added. The little things like this are what we find make all the difference between having an easy time and not. While there are some things that we cannot control, there are quite a few that we can. The point of this class is to foster that process.
     
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  4. hypnos

    hypnos Well-Known Member

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    @Atlas , thank you! I hope i never come off as a know it all, authority type. And I agree, having as many possible view points drawing from a wide array of backgrounds is a major advantage for a learning system such as this. I don't know how much I mentioned about my personal experience, but over the last 10+ years I have had a roof over my head for about 3-4 of those years put together. I have accumulated allot of experience living in the outdoors due to that.
     
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  5. lonewolf

    lonewolf Well-Known Member

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    personally I like to have the door of my tent, or shelter , facing East so it catches the rising sun, they used to do this in the ancient days in Britain, they would build their round houses so they faced the rising sun.
     
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  6. Atlas

    Atlas Administrator Staff Member

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    That is definitely something to consider, light and heat from the sun will have an effect on living conditions. We also must take into consideration wind, rain and snow. Where they are coming from and how they are coming is very important.
     
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  7. twp

    twp Administrator Staff Member

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    My best camp sites were deep in canyons where the sunlight hit a couple of hours after sunrise. Those sites which had actual sunlight at sunrise were also very exposed to wind and weather. It's a tough call as to which is better.

    I did have a spot where I could go sit in the sun, but it was a couple of hundred feet up the side of the valley. I had to be really cold to seek that comfort spot.
     
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  8. hypnos

    hypnos Well-Known Member

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    20180914_184239.jpg
    My Hennessy hammock;

    Unfortunately, campfires are absolutely banned in my area for the time being. And that is something anyone who might want to "bug out" or avoid detection should consider. If that is the situation, you may have to make decisions about what your meals will consist of, and if you can eat those meals cold to avoid any cooking odors.

    When I select a campsite I am looking for a few prerequisites.

    - available firewood (several downed trees)
    - no "widowmakers" (no nearby unstable limbs or trees that could come down in windy or stormy conditions)
    - natural windbreaks
    - if in hilly terrain, I want to avoid being up too high if possible such as on a hilltop, it will silhouette you, and make you visible from a long distance. Wind becomes a factor at night for cooling at higher topography. You may or may not want that.
    -I don't want to be too low either. Typically lower topographical areas will have more moisture and insects. As temperatures cool, these areas can become like a sump for cold air. If possible, I go for the middle. Not too high, or too low.
    -Near a water source.

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    One thing I absolutely love about a hammock from a "bug out" standpoint is the minimal amount of trace left behind. It doesn't flatten grass or other plants like a tent will. And it certainly opens up your options for potential campsites. It minimizes equipment as well, a ground pad isn't needed.

    20180906_095325.jpg
    20180915_093300.jpg my "tent" packed up. It has what are referred to as snake skins, nylon tubes that slide down either end to the center, creating a coiled stuff sack. Set up, and take down is completed in about 60 seconds.
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2018
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  9. Atlas

    Atlas Administrator Staff Member

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    Hammocks are really good to have in quite a few scenarios. I feel that they are far superior while camping in the rain as well.

    Besides the risk of getting in trouble for starting a fire due to a ban, it is good to think about safety as well as signature. You certainly don't want to start the woods on fire if you are trying to stay low key. It is also very hard to hide the smoke or the scar left from the fire. If you are avoiding others this is an important element.

    It looks like you had a good trip!
     
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  10. hypnos

    hypnos Well-Known Member

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    Just an overnight. but yes, a day in the bush is always good! One thing about this state is what a pain it is to find good free camping on the eastern side of Washington. But, i did find a spot! I'll be doing it again tonight.
     
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  11. Atlas

    Atlas Administrator Staff Member

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    It's like that here too. There are some spots for boondocking left, but they are definitely not obvious. Enjoy yourself out there!
     
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  12. Atlas

    Atlas Administrator Staff Member

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    How'd it go? I'm chomping at the bit to get out and anxious to live vicariously through you!
     
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  13. hypnos

    hypnos Well-Known Member

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    It was ok, but a busy trail nearby. I was out like a rocket at daybreak. It rained a little the first night, and poured last night, but beautiful both days.
     
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  14. Atlas

    Atlas Administrator Staff Member

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    How did the tarp over the hammock hold up? Where you dry under there?
     
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  15. hypnos

    hypnos Well-Known Member

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    I have two, the hex fly is large and perfect for very stormy conditions, the original is fine most of the time however.
     
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  16. jimLE

    jimLE Well-Known Member

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    One thing I noticed. There will always be wildlife. In which the land animals will be seeking water to drink, not only during the day, but at night as well. To me, that means setting up camp, out and away from the waters edge. Not only to give them plenty of room to drink and all. But it also makes things safer for the wildlife and person's as well. Yes a person will have to walk a lil further to it, and back to camp. But yet, better safe then sorry.
     
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  17. hypnos

    hypnos Well-Known Member

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    Being close but not too close will definitely give you some hunting opportunities too.
     
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  18. jimLE

    jimLE Well-Known Member

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    That it will. Especially better if you have a cross bow pistol/rifle with you. Silence and practice is a added plus.
     
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