12 Tips for Camping in the Backwoods
So you want to get away for a bit, get outside of the city, reconnect to nature. I am right there with you. Just don’t leave without reading these 12 tips for camping first.
Normally you would pick the really cool…really crowded park everyone always goes to. But this time, you want to do something different! Forget the fact that the ‘cool’ campgrounds charge upwards $15 a night for a tent site. And an additional fee for extra vehicles, extra tents, etc etc…
Don’t get us wrong, we LOVE state parks and all the people who camp at them and pay those fees. But when we choose to go camping we want to get away from the crowd and in turn we sacrifice amenities like pavement, modern toilets, and dumpsters.
So if you’re brave enough to take it to the backwoods and go camping we’ve come up with a few tips for camping in the great outdoors.
1- Off Roading
You’ll want an ‘off road’ vehicle. This isn’t a requirement but some of the roads leading to the sites get pretty rough and are not for the faint at heart.
2- Find the Campsites
The best place to start looking is http://www.fs.fed.us. Pick your STATE. Then in the left side menu pick RECREATION, then choose CAMPING. Click DISPERSED CAMPING. Here it will bring up a list and map of some of the better known dispersed campsites out there. And shhhhhh….a lot of the sites are fee free! That means free camping! This is by no means an exclusive list. Just about every forest service road we have driven on we have come across some dispersed campsite free for the taking. Sometimes it just takes a little driving.
3-Stay Dry, or un-charred
Whether you live in a rainy area or not…bring tarps! They work great as shelters to keep dry under, or shade to cool off in. Here in the pacific northwest we use them to stay dry obviously.
4- You’re going to want to eat
Bring easy food! Don’t try to get all fancy. Most of the sites only have a ring of rocks for the campfire. No grate, no nothing. If you have a portable stove, by all means BRING IT. But if you don’t, then think about finding a dutch oven and do things like Beef Stew, or Chili. Roasting hotdogs is always a safe way to go. Bring packets of condiments instead of bottles. Go with instant coffee or tea. I did manage to cook pancakes in the dutch oven, so i’m pretty sure anything is possible. But it was lunch time by the time we had breakfast.
Bring it! I have yet to camp at a dispersed site with running water. So make sure you bring enough to drink, wash dishes, wash hands. If you can camp near a fresh body of water that is ideal. Bring along a water filter or a way to purify water if you’re using a local source. But if not grab a couple of the 5gal Culligan containers and fill those bad boys up.
Although not needed…a chainsaw or axe. We’ve come across fallen trees and have moved them out-of-the-way so we could pass. We’ve often thought ‘what if a large tree fell and blocked us in’. Sometimes these roads go weeks without anyone driving on them. The last thing you want to do is be stuck in a primitive campsite for longer than your prepared to do so. A lovely camping weekend turned survival situation, no thank you.
7- Be Bear Safe
If your camping in the backwoods you’re more than likely going to be in bear (or other wild animals) territory. http://www.nps.gov/grte/planyourvisit/bearsafety.htm has some great tips. I’ll add one: if you are able, put your camp to bed before it gets dark. So cook dinner, eat, and clean up the area before the sunsets. It will make your life easier, i PROMISE!
8- Nature Calls
Everyone has to go at some point. Depending on where you are there may be bathrooms. I use the word bathroom very lightly. It is more like a hole in the ground, with a toilet seat, and four walls and sometimes a roof on top. Not glamorous, but hey, you’re in the backwoods. There’s also sites that have nothing of the sorts. So if you don’t want to invest in a portable toilet then you better bring a shovel and start digging. You should dig at least six inches deep and at least 100 feet from water sources, camp areas, and trails. Then pop a squat and get comfy.
9- Fire in the hole
You’ll want to research the park or forest you’re staying in for regulations on firewood. If you can cut your own. If you can used fallen trees. But there will be no ‘firewood sold here’ stands nearby. So your best bet is to grab some at the closest town or campground to you. You want to make sure the wood is local so you are not bringing nonnative pests into forests where they don’t belong.
10- Lounging around
Some will have picnic tables but for the most part plan on rolling up to a designated spot with only a fire pit. So bring your own chairs or lazyboy otherwise you will be subject to finding logs and rocks as your seating.
11- Sharp Things
Have an assortment of knives. Ranger carries a minimum of 3. I’m not going to tell you the exact number because i find it slightly overkill, but what do i know. He has one just for making tender to start a fire. One for carving. One that’s real sharp that could be used for skinning or gutting a fish.
12- Hey Ranger
Visit a Ranger station (or Forest Service Station) in the area for local maps of the area you wish to go. They should have up to date road closures and info they can give you. Make sure you have any passes you may need to park legally. And above all HAVE FUN!
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*most pictures taken at Icicle Creek-Leavenworth, Wa Forest Service