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Backpackers Etiquette.........

Backpacking and camping basics and other general trip planning discussion for the uninitiated. Use this forum to learn where to look for the information you need, and to ask questions, related to the beginner basics of backpacking and camping, including technique and best practices.
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Backpackers Etiquette.........

Postby Packtofish » Wed Jul 16, 2008 7:35 pm

So....here's a funny little story and an interesting situation I had on a short three day trip recently in the Clark Range.

My girlfriend and I got a late start and arrived at the trailhead around 4pm for a six mile hike into the first lake I wanted to camp at. We double timed it up to the lake and I was relieved to find only one other group at the lake and picked a nice spot on a granite spit between the upper and lower lake. The group of two adults and about six fairly young kids were all the way in the trees across the lower lake giving us each a good degree of solitude. I chose a camp out of sight but, I guess they must have seen us come down off the ridge, because no sooner than I had set up my tent the guy walks right into my camp and says "Great spot, didn't see it before......ya guys campin here?!" :-k

Holding back my urge to issue my best smartass retort, I said yes, and he then tells me he likes this side of the lake better because there are fewer mosquitoes and he thinks he and the kids will move over here in the morning........great......awesome.....I'm speechless.

So the next morning, bright and early, he's setting up his compound of tents not 100yds from my solitary encampment. I grumble and get on with making coffee to see if this will help my mood. It does and I decide that we can deal with it. They are camped close but, thankfully they are out of my line of sight, although I definitely know they are there. We decide to go take a long dayhike to go fish a little lake I enjoy and as we just finish loading up the daypack, guess what?........Three guys (with six more in tow) walk right into our camp and say "Great spot......Ya guys campin here?" ](*,) ](*,) I tell them yes, we are going to go fish somewhere else for the day, and we'll be back later. So they walk about 100yds and right in front of us and proceed to set up their camp. :retard:

At this point....I was about to blow a gasket, so I packed up all our gear and got the heck out of there. We x-country'd up to a little lake that I knew very few people go to and thankfully, had the place to ourselves for the night and next day till we left.

My question is this........What the hell are these people thinking?! I know that we weren't that far back in and I expected to see people, as we were within dayhiking range of the trailhead. I can't be the only one who goes into the backcountry to get away from people and even if I'm not the only one in the mountains, I want to feel like I am.

When entering an area where people are camped, I give their camps a wide berth. I try to keep my voice down and even stay out of sight if I can. I camp as far as reasonably possible from another party, out of respect for their experience and in the effort to preserve mine. If my tent is up, that is the equivalent of me shutting and locking my front door at home. I don't want you and your group to come shoot the **** with me while I'm cooking dinner. On the trail, or if I come across somebody fishing....totally different story. ******** away....have at it.

Damn....I starting to sound like a grumpy old bastard but, after this trip, and one last year where the same thing happened, I am just totally amazed at the lack of etiquette and consideration. Is this the new crop of backcountry users? I know there are probably more users that subscribe to my philosophy than not........I just didn't run in to any of them on this last trip!

Rant over......Thanks for listening, I feel much better now. :D

~D



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Re: Backpackers Etiquette.........

Postby Snow Nymph » Wed Jul 16, 2008 7:45 pm

I'm the same way. When we did the JMT, we always moved on if someone was camped where we planned. We even planned to skip Vermillion to stay away from civilization. We were at a campground once, the only vehicle there, and someone pulled up later and parked at the next campsite! ](*,) Good for you finding another spot, sounds like it was a better place anyway. :D
Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free . . . . Jim Morrison


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Re: Backpackers Etiquette.........

Postby JMat » Wed Jul 16, 2008 9:04 pm

I'm a firm believer that if I get to the destination last it's my loss if I get the crappiest campsite and I make sure it isn't right next to someone else.

A few weeks back I went out with a couple other guys from this site and we had the same problem except these people set up their closest tent not 40' from ours... They were nice enough and all but I thought it was utterly disrespectful. The real kicker on this deal was there were 2 of them and they had seperate tents but there tents were almost farther apart than they were to ours.

It seems we just can't escape the big city at all anymore.

JMat
Last edited by JMat on Thu Jul 17, 2008 7:41 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Backpackers Etiquette.........

Postby Timberline » Wed Jul 16, 2008 9:45 pm

Hey, Packtofish,
I'm not sure what's the best course, or even how to read the signs consistently, although I share your sentiments about unwanted intrusion. =; A little perspective, if I may. . . When my son and I camped at 4th Recess a few years back, a bunch of guys walked, literally, right through our campsite and took up residence next door. A little nonplussed at first, we wandered over to try and offer a friendly vibe by introducing ourselves. :) :thumbsup: Turned out to the one of the most treasured chance encounters I've ever experienced in the backcountry, one that both my son and I remember with great fondness. They turned out to be friendly, warmly generous people who opened their hearts to us, and enriched our backpack experience by doing so. Our simple overture was returned as a real blessing.

Next day, they moved on, and another, solo guy, sure enough, marched through our campsite and set up housekeeping next door. We waited politely a little while, and then, innocently, perhaps, went over to introduce ourselves, like before. The guy gave us a surly look, turned his back, and wouldn't even acknowledge our presence, making it instantly clear he was not interested in ANY contact. :angry: :thumbsdown: :mad: We were totally shunned, and returned to our own camp chagrined. What a contrast! :(

I guess I'm still inclined, if I sense any receptivity, to reach out to folks, but with respect, as I presume you would, too. The folks you describe seemed to have no respect for others at all. [-X Its just that the opportunity to share a wilderness experience with a complete stranger who may become a friend sometimes can be worth the risk, and on balance I've been blessed from these encounters much more than rejected. Your choice of a distant campsite should have been enough to convey the message. You're entitled to your space, and if that's what you want, I'll try to be one of those who does not invade it. That's my position, and I'm stickin' to it!

At least I can enjoy the exchanges here. I enjoy your posts, thanks! :nod:
Let 'er Buck! Back in Oregon again!
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Re: Backpackers Etiquette.........

Postby Greengrassmonk » Wed Jul 16, 2008 9:45 pm

I feel your pain. Twice in the last two weeks I've had people move closer to me after I've stopped to relax at a lake. Its almost like they wanted to join me. I think its very inconsiderate. Playing with my knife seems to help keep them away.
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Re: Backpackers Etiquette.........

Postby caddis » Wed Jul 16, 2008 9:55 pm

Packtofish wrote:My question is this........What the hell are these people thinking?! I know that we weren't that far back in and I expected to see people, as we were within dayhiking range of the trailhead. I can't be the only one who goes into the backcountry to get away from people and even if I'm not the only one in the mountains, I want to feel like I am.
I think the difference is, you are a backpacker, you enjoy the solitude and understand the basic principle of leave no trace(which includes the idea of keeping a low profile and respecting other hikers privacy). They are hiking campers....straight out of the campround, and RV's, generators, parties,... The closer you get to a trailhead, the less people understand with respect to common sense, etiquette, rules, procedures, etc... They are the reason why we get grilled and killed with lectures and rules whenever we get a wilderness permit.....Thank an idiot.
Last edited by caddis on Fri Jul 18, 2008 4:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Backpackers Etiquette.........

Postby Packtofish » Thu Jul 17, 2008 11:21 am

caddis wrote:
Packtofish wrote:My question is this........What the hell are these people thinking?! I know that we weren't that far back in and I expected to see people, as we were within dayhiking range of the trailhead. I can't be the only one who goes into the backcountry to get away from people and even if I'm not the only one in the mountains, I want to feel like I am.
I think the difference is, you are a backpacker, you enjoy the solitude and understand the basic principle of leave no trace(which includes the idea of keeping a low profile and respecting other hikers privacy). They are hiking campers....straight out of the campround, and RV's, generators, parties,... The closer you get to a trailhead, the less people understand with respect to common sense, etiquette, rules, procedures, etc... They are the reason why we get grilled and killed with lectures and rules whenever we get a wilderness permit.....Thank and idiot.


I think that pretty much sums it up.......Although my previous experience was a three day hike in so, distance does not guarantee serenity in the Sierra. Fwiw.....Although I've spent far less time in the wilderness of Montana and Wyoming, I've never had this experience there......There seems to be a different mentality going on up there in the backcountry as opposed to the Sierra. Interesting that it seems to be a common experience in the sierra though. I was beginning to think I was tool magnet. :D

I really enjoy meeting like minded people in the backcountry, although I have to admit, I'm most satisfied when I don't see a soul. Not because I'm anti-social, but because that's why I walk for fifty miles with forty lbs on my back.

Well...back to work.
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Re: Backpackers Etiquette.........

Postby maverick » Thu Jul 17, 2008 12:18 pm

Hi Packtofish

If you really want solitude especially in areas that are easily reached in one
day or are very popular than go cross-country to and un-named lake or stream, you'll
have all the solitude you can ask for.
Most hikers never go off trail or do x-country routes because they there afraid/intimidated
of the unknown and its much more convenient to follow a trail and camp near fellow
human beings.
Otherwise you'll just have to put up with it.
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Re: Backpackers Etiquette.........

Postby markskor » Thu Jul 17, 2008 12:27 pm

Interesting topic, one that touches home for me often.

I usually hike solo - much of it off trail to remote lakes high up, often for 12 days out. I hike for the solitude, and the fishing. When I set up camp at such a lake, I spend much of my non-backpacking time fishing and exploring around the remote lake, and usually see others coming in long before they spot me. I have learned to read others and treat every encounter differently.

Couples or small family groups are different creatures from solo hikers…I usually just say hi to these when passing bye and leave it at that…and stay/ camp far away in my own world. While I would never camp close to another party without being invited into their “sanctum”, many times other solo hikers will let you know if they want company, or if they want to be left alone. Some of my most memorable Sierra adventures start with a chance trail meeting of someone similar (solo), saying hi, hitting it off, and making a new mountain friend. Maybe it is an un-written recognition of like-minded individuals, but I have had some of my best mountain experiences when fishing, spending a day, or a meal with someone equal, equipped, and unknown…15 miles in.

Respect, common sense, and a good attitude…that and 15 minutes of trail conversation before you drop your pack…you can usually tell who likes what. The best part of being self-contained is that the Sierra is vast, and you can always pack up and leave.
Mountainman who swims with trout
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Re: Backpackers Etiquette.........

Postby giantbrookie » Thu Jul 17, 2008 2:18 pm

I've certainly experienced the good and the bad of neighbors at mountain camp spots. Like many I have had some chance encounters with folks off trail (that camped near me) that were marvelous and among the highlights of all my backcountry trips. On the other hand, I recall this time I was camped at a trailless lake in the north Sierra. A large group who apparently didn't really know what they were doing (it took them the entire afternoon to make the final off trail descent to the lake that should take about 15 minutes) arrived at the far side of the lake where there were abundant campsites. Instead of camping there they circled the lake and moved in right next to us (without saying so much as saying boo to us, so they apparently didn't move to our side of the lake to socialize). Adding to the insult was when their rather loud dog (and I do like, dogs, so this isn't an anti-dog statement) walks into the middle of our camp, squats and poops. I agree with what has been said above that the more remote spots tend to weed out most of the ill mannered among hikers, which is why I have rarely had unpleasant encounters like the above. It probably also helps that I have a habit of camping much further from lakes than most people do because I like more open, exposed (and less buggy) campsites.
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Re: Backpackers Etiquette.........

Postby SSSdave » Thu Jul 17, 2008 6:04 pm

In the past I've written about this subject a number of times and could easily fill a small chapter in a book with experience, advice, and anecdotes. Your experience Packtofish is nothing new. I've seen it for decades. Personally I crosscountry into remote areas, often camp away from near water at viewpoints, and tend to find pristine spots away from obvious used camp zones. Those I backpack with have a tradition of spending considerable effort looking for the best camping location regardless of how tired we might be when we arrive. Time and time again that has occasionally given us amazing campspots only because we made the effort.

Groups of people often backpack several miles to a destination lake and then plop down right where a trail meets a large lake where one will find a little town of well used campspots. That is because after the effort and exertion of reaching the lake many backpackers are in no mood to hunt about for campsites. Thus rule #1 for those seeking solitude is to not take a campsite on a larger lake that is where a trail meets a lake.

Another hillarious aspect of that behavior is that people will hike miles and miles through absolutely vacant wilderness backcountry only to arrive at a larger lake where it seems for some reason all groups are tented every couple hundred feet or so along the shore while much of the rest of the lake has no one. And some will be so clueless as to later complain about how crowded it all was? Thus those groups did not bother to really look much. In fact there is a gregarious factor that I would speculate causes some people to subconsciously choose a camp spot near others. You see real wilderness actually scares many people. Now when a lake is small and is popular, it may be impossible to expect to find solitude unless one distances themselves from water. Of course many just cannot bear to be much more than a legal minimum from the amazing magnet of water. And sometimes even if a lake is somewhat larger, the terrain may not allow camping about it's shores because otherwise terrain may not provide any flat camp spots, shade, or shelter. But such situation like Ruby Lake up Rock Creek Canyon are infrequent. Another location about lakes that is the next most likely spot a town may set up especially at fishing lakes is where an inlet stream enters.

Your thread post mentions what happens if someone does move in close to ones camp spot? A couple years ago two of us backpacked into a small remote crosscountry lake at noon where no one was. We took the obvious nice view camp spot under whitebark pines and made camp. By afternoon three more parties had arrived and set up out of sight though within 200 feet of us. We knew the area we chose was the main camping area for the lake so such was to be expected. We looked about and found solitude in an unexpected area so after saying hello to our new neighbors, uprooted our gear and moved a couple hundred yards away.

What about a situation where a lake is large and there are vast areas where another group might set up camp but for whatever reason a group sets up camp right next to you? Well having to complain or ask a group to move a bit further away is certainly distasteful and sets up a bad vibe. Likewise would be uprooting one's gear then moving down the shore without saying anything. If it bothered me, I will likely say hello and then add were planning to move to such and such spot down the shore and then do so. Thus even though the new group has been told they are not the reason for the move, one can be sure they will regardless wonder. Enough so that the next time they choose such a campspot they may be more considerate.
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Re: Backpackers Etiquette.........

Postby hikerduane » Thu Jul 17, 2008 6:43 pm

On one trip, I had taken the last spot above a small lake, ate lunch, washed my socks, set my tent up and had the party next to me say there hiking partner was going to camp there. Fuming, I packed up and hiked a mile to the next spot I could find, by a small pond, which as it turns out, one of the bpers there was the sister of a paramedic I knew by name where I lived. Nice folks.

I tend to wander over to people to talk a little and stay too long I am sure, just like at home. Don't know when to cut the chat and leave. Which reminds me of the horse folks up north in the Marble Mts., I went over to their camp to burn my paper in their fire from my meal and they gave Pooch some pork chop bones and me a mixed drink with real ice.:)
Piece of cake.
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