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Any Rules When Backpacking

Posted: May 19th, 2019, 4:42 pm
by burnside
I've been day hiking the gorge's trails for years now, but wanted to finally backpack under the stars. Are there any particular rules to use when finding a campsite?

I see established campsites right off the trail sometimes, but I also see flat areas a hundred feet or so off trail. Can I camp off trail at non established sites as long as they're not on private property? Any guidance would be much appreciated!

Re: Any Rules When Backpacking

Posted: May 19th, 2019, 7:42 pm
by Aimless
The "rules" are a bit hard to nail down.

Officially, one ought not camp within 100 feet of a water source or a trail. In practice, this rule is very elastic. If there are already obviously well-established campsites that do not fit these conditions few people will frown on your camping there. If you seek a campsite that is not clearly established by long use, then try not to greatly disturb the existing terrain and vegetation. Hacking bushes, digging, or making new fire rings in a pristine site are generally considered to be "very bad form", even if not illegal strictly speaking. The basic rule is to be as unobtrusive as possible, which is almost impossible to describe in legal terminology and is consequently even harder to enforce in practice.

Do the best you can (and don't bring a hatchet or axe, so you won't be tempted to wreck havoc on nearby vegetation). ;)

Re: Any Rules When Backpacking

Posted: May 19th, 2019, 7:53 pm
by retired jerry
learn how to poop in a cathole, for example ... 1782308828

leave no trash

if you see any trash that others have left pick it up and take it with you

Re: Any Rules When Backpacking

Posted: May 19th, 2019, 9:05 pm
by leiavoia
The best "rule" is probably Leave No Trace. When you leave camp, it should appear as if you were never there.

Wilderness and forest areas each have their own rules (posted online and often at trailheads), some more strict than others. In high-traffic areas (Mt Rainer) or sensitive areas (St Helens) there may be rules about camping only in marked, established sites. Most places do not have these rules however. If local rules do not mention "established sites only", then technically anything is ok. Camp site selection should be pretty obvious most of the time (flat bare spot with makeshift fire ring).

I've switched to hammock camping in recent years just to have the flexibility to vanish into the forest. Then i dont need a flat spot, a level spot, a fire ring, a log to sit on, or other common campsite amenities. But most of the time, i'll take the obvious campsite anyway.

To answer your original question: yes, that off-trail flat spot is acceptable (assuming no written rule to the contrary) and even preferred by those who want some kind of solitude.

Re: Any Rules When Backpacking

Posted: May 20th, 2019, 7:14 am
by burnside
Thanks everyone for your help - exactly what I was looking for.

I always leave no trace and pick up trash when I see it. Sometimes I'll see a nice flat spot that would make a great site to camp, so just wanted to make sure it would be alright to make home there (unless there are any restrictions at the trailhead).

Can't wait to make a weekend of it!