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Stealth Camping

Rating: 2 votes, 5.00 average.
Quote Originally Posted by Tron-Life View Post
Before entering a National Forest, Wilderness Area or new state, there is usually a covered bulletin board that has the local regulations and other helpful information.

As far as picking a spot, I think Another Kevin's 5 Ws guidelines are great but I wanted to add a thing or two.

I try not to camp near water if I can help it. Starting at around 5 or so, or anytime I'm thinking of stopping, I look around and see where I am. Am I up high on a windy ridge? If so, I look for a flat stretch with good wind protection with plenty of coniferous trees for a nice clean pine needle bed. I also try to camp high rather than low as cold air pools in pockets and in the valley. If I have an elevation map, I use it to find a little sub-hill by a larger one which will place me high enough to avoid pooling water or cold air, but will place me below the really strong gusts of cold air. I don't want the air to be too still though, as this can be an area with high mosquito activity.

If I'm low in the valley with alot of deciduous trees, I pay very close attention to the smell of the air. Does it smell damp and heavy? Is there alot of water nearby? If so I climb up till I find what I was looking for before. Once I start seeing the type of area I want, I stop at the first water source and use my extra platypus bag (2.5liters) and fill it and my other bottles for dinner/hygiene/breakfast. Campsites too close to water are buggy and cold so should be avoided if possible. I've found that the best places to find sites is towards the top of a small hill that the trail is contouring around toward the next big climb. If you see trees of there, just start walking up the hill till you find that perfect spot.

Finding good camps sites is not that hard but you need to give yourself ample time; don't try to find one when your tired and its getting dark.

I wanted to talk a bit about the possible advantages and disadvantages of staying at shelters.

Shelter Advantages Over Stealth Camp:

Quick no nonsense setup; just makes some room and fall out.

You can meet some great folks there and have a really fun time.

Shelters are predictable and allow you to measure your progress slightly better because you know exactly where you are.

Shelters usually have water and a privy close at hand.

Staying at shelters focuses environmental impact in one area.

Stealth Camp Advantages Over Shelters:

Privacy. Which Includes not having to be quite at night or feel bad about waking up to pee or bother people with you nocturnal activities.

Warmth. The wooden planks of the shelters can be awfully cold at night and the fact that they are usually wide open to wind doesn't help. Think about it, in a shelter the walls are too far away from you and don't reflect your heat back as they would in the closer quarters of your tent or tarp.

Comfort. The wooden planks of the shelters are HARD. This alone keeps my from staying at shelter very often as I am a side sleeper and after sleeping in a shelter I wake up sore as heck.

Solitude/closer connection to nature. Especially with a tarp, waking up in the woods by yourself without any reminders of human activity has its own magic associated with it, and for me, makes the experience all the more enjoyable. I also think that being by yourself in a stealth camp is a bit more challenging and increases self-reliance and self confidence.

That being said, I do use shelters for lunch and sometimes dinner if I get bored or lonely and want to socialize. One of the best parts of the AT hiking experience is definitely the you meet!

Hope someone finds this useful,
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