Setting Up Your Site
The 4 Ws
When you are setting up your site, don’t forget the 4 Ws (and the one non-W).
|Wind||Your site should be somewhat sheltered from the wind. Trees and land features like hillsides are great windblocks. Exception: In buggy conditions, a breezy site can help decrease mosquitoes.|
|Water||Camp at least 200 feet from water sources to help keep them pristine. Remember: This isn’t just for you, but for those who will camp in this spot after you.|
|Watchers||We travel into the backcountry to experience the wilderness and solitude. Try to camp out of view of other parties to help preserve the wilderness experience for everyone.|
|Widowmakers||Widowmakers are dead trees or branches that are still standing upright. Camping under these means a risk of being hit by falling trunks or debris.|
|Designated Campsites||Sometimes you will camp in an area where the land agency requests you use designated campsites only. This is usually an attempt to reduce environmental impact on otherwise untouched areas. Make sure you know where you are or aren’t allowed to camp before you plan your trip.|
Just like in my house, I have separate “rooms” in my campsite to help with organization: a bedroom, a kitchen, a dining room, and a garage (the spot I keep random gear). It helps me know where everything is, and it helps prevent animals from getting into things they shouldn’t.
While not all hiking areas are home to bears, knowing the guidelines and rules in your area is important. Do you need to hang a bear bag? Is a bear canister required? The answers to those questions will be on your permit, or you can find it with your local wildlife resource (which organization or resource depends on where you plan to backpack).
If you’re in bear country, make sure you use the “bearmuda triangle” configuration when setting up your camp: Keep 300 feet between your tent, cooking area, and overnight food storage. That way if a bear does show up to investigate your kitchen or your bear bag or canister, it won’t learn to associate those items with each other or with your tent. A bear that becomes trained to associate sleeping campers with food is a recipe for trouble.