Back Country Camping

The reasons we camp are all different.

Some may be going for the whole Ray Mears experience and others may just be trying to get away from the city for a weekend.

Camping is a source of enjoyment but also a means to an end.  The outdoor activities that we enjoy happen to be, well….in the outdoors.  This makes camping a great affordable option for overnight stays away from home.  It can also extend your time out under the sky.

There are different types of campers that seem to be well defined.  The categories range from “car campers” to “ultra-light campers.”

It seems that the amount of “stuff” you bring with you has a direct correlation to the level of camping you do.  It is easy to get caught up and pass judgment on others on the type of camping they do.  We have all looked over and seen neighboring campers complete with a T.V. and comfortable beds and thought, “That isn’t camping.”  In the end, it is a matter of choice on how we wish to partake in the great outdoors.

However, the reliance to society’s amenities may be holding us back from all that nature has to offer.  The more I broke away from this reliance, the more freedom I had to move and explore as I wanted.

The idea of camping is to be free.  It is to be in nature’s wilderness and solitude.  I found that to get even a sample of that experience was quite difficult at paid and public campsites.

My first experiences of camping ended with enforced lights out and/or quiet time.  I soon began to feel as if I was at a pre-teen slumber party.  There had to be another way.

I soon found that there were many designated wilderness areas throughout America, that offer primitive camping.  (These places can be found on the local Department of Environmental Conservation websites)   Many of the sites that allow primitive camping are; states forests, forest preserve lands and multiple use areas.

The general rule is to make your site at least 150 feet away from any trails or water.  This must be checked for each local area that you are going to visit.

Even among primitive camping there are different ideas of what constitutes as “necessities”.

Once again, this is a matter of preference and personal opinion.  You do end up bringing less stuff and your back will thank you for not bringing that extra pound of gear.  However, just because you bring less doesn’t mean that you lose out on all the creature comforts.

The less gear you bring the more packable and specialized your gear does become.  I myself always bring the following personal essentials:

Shelter – one man tent or hammock

Sleep system – sleeping bag, sleep pad

Food – dependent on if the cooking will be done on open fire or on a portable burner

Saw – Sven saw to cut fire wood

Miscellaneous survival gear – knife, flint, cord, headlamp, water filter

Two of the heaviest items that you end up not needing to carry if you plan correctly are wood and water.

It is best to plan your adventure around water and to be sure you will have a drinkable source (after filtration of course).

Fire

When camping in the backcountry, we try to stay away from making big fires that many people can enjoy at paid campsites.

The main reason for this is to be conscientious campers.  Our goal is to make as little impact on the environment as possible.  The second reason being, that it saves us from having to lug heavy bundles of wood through the forest.

Most of the wood that is burned is twigs, branches and smaller pieces of wood that come from dead fallen trees.  Many times searching under pine trees and looking on the banks of small creeks will get you a good amount of dry wood.  Where there are fewer trees finding wood to burn can become a challenge. Unwieldy and larger pieces of wood can be sawed down with the highly portable Sven Saw.

When building a fire, you should try to build a small fire.

In this way you can conserve your wood while having continuous heat and a more manageable fire if you wish to cook over it.  Once the fire is burning strong, we can now concentrate on preparing our food.

Food

Food in the backcountry many times needs to be packable, as it requires too much energy to carry heavy and awkward bundles.  I find dehydrated foods or MRE’s to be a great option.  Cliff bars for snacks are also a delicious treat on the trails.  The dehydrated foods made for backpackers can be a hit or miss.  Some meals are delectable with others being more of a chore to eat.  As this is a matter of taste, it is best to try a variety, and see which ones you like best.  You can either use a stove to boil the water for the dehydrated food or heat the water over a flame.  The stove provides a cleaner and quicker way to boil water.

Shelter

Your shelter should already be set up as you will be much happier not to be setting up a shelter in the dark when sleepy.

There are various shelters covered in different postings.  I will mention that, you must choose your shelter according to your environment.

For example, in many of the Northeastern woods, it is difficult to find even ground.  Also, much of the forest floor is made up of sharp rocks that are deeply embedded in the ground.  During these times, I have my hammock in my backpack.

In another situation, we were planning a trip to Chile and there were very few trees to hang from.  This led me to bring my one man tent.  There are many options on the market for extremely packable shelters.

Some provide a complete enclosure and others only provide protection from above and the sides.  All shelters have their pros and cons and these must be weighed according to your needs.

Sleep System

Temperature is the major factor in deciding which sleep system to use.  If you plan to do three seasons or four seasons camping, you should prepare for the coldest weather you will encounter.  Some systems can be more flexible and pieces can be added or taken away according to how cold or warm the weather is.

Starting from the bottom of the system, you will need a sleeping pad.  Sleeping pads are essential for keeping you warm by stopping convection.  It also provides cushion from the hard ground.  There are various pads that differ in size weight and portability.  Sleeping bags are rated according to the lowest temperature you can use them.  Once again, you should prepare for the coldest temperature you will encounter.  Otherwise you can buy as needed if you have the disposable income.  You can choose between synthetic or goose down.  The more amount of fill the warmer the bag. However, you pay for the extra fill. High fill bags can cost quite a bit more.  Mummy bags are a good idea, as it saves space and weight while providing more warmth.  It is a good idea to research your sleeping bag carefully and see what other consumers say about the product you are considering.

There are various other necessities needed that should not be forgotten.  One should always plan for the weather.  Dry clothes or rain gear is always recommended.  Also, a good knife and various survival tools can go a long way in the wilderness.  These topics will be covered in more depth in later posts.

The cost of all items related to primitive camping can vary greatly from product to product.  If you keep researching however, you can find what you want and need for a reasonable price.  If you find yourself in the outdoors often, the investment can soon pay off.  We have even adopted the method of camping when visiting foreign countries, to keep boarding costs down!

All items brought in to the wilderness must be brought out.  Some of the environments can be fragile and we must take careful precautions to make as little impact as possible.

Fly Fishing the West Delaware Branch from Roamads on Vimeo.

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