by Todd Walker
Ah, the smell of wood smoke on flannel shirts in the morning! You nurse a cup of joe as the campfire licks a pan of bacon. Your dog watches your every move hoping you’ll share. Tonight’s dinner will be rainbow trout from a mountain stream… thanks to your skills with a fly rod. The scene takes you back to days of classic camping!
Pre-planning your camping trip was easy. You left a written itinerary with a trusted friend in case you don’t return on time. Everything is shaping up to be a trip of a lifetime!
But did you pick a safe spot for your shelter? Choose poorly, and your adventure could turn ugly.
Here are four tips to help you select the right spot to bed down.
Set your shelter to take advantage of the prevailing wind direction for the area. In places that allow open fires, shelters should be set so as to allow wind to pass between your shelter and campfire. Check regulations at state and national parks before heading out.
For cold-weather camping, avoid ridges or hilltops. Remember that cold air settles and hot air rises. Ideally, you should locate your shelter somewhere between the ridge and bottom of a hill. Position your shelter door/opening in a southeastern direction to take advantage of radiant energy from the sun’s morning rays.
Somewhere in between a peek and valley, on as flat a piece of ground you can find, is what you’re after. Clear the ground of stick-ups and rocks if you plan to sleep on the ground. Avoid setting up over an indention. If it rains, you’ll understand why.
Choose a spot close to a water source. Not too close. Flash flooding can wash away your good times. Look for signs of previous flooding like debris in trees along side the stream or river bank. Creek bottoms tend to be soggy and insect magnets. Adjust your site accordingly.
Look for an area with plenty of hanging dead limbs or fallen trees. Collect three times the amount of firewood you think you’ll need. It’s no fun at all to wake up cold in the middle of the night to scavenge for wood.
Living trees offer shade, canopy, and can serve as a natural wind break. Standing dead trees are to be avoided… always!
Which brings us to our last W…
D.) Widow Makers
Look up. Scan the tree canopy for dead limbs and trees. Your shelter is no match for a pine branch falling from 31 feet in the air. The same goes for loose rock ledges or possible rock slide paths. Be cautious about what Mother Nature has perched above you.
A local boy scout troop used my shelter last spring. Just up the creek, some of the boys set up camp in the dark under a dead pine tree. Fortunately, the rotting tree held firm. A few weeks later a minor wind storm snapped it in half and splattered the ground near where they had camped.
Paying attention to the 4 W’s will not only increase your safety and comfort, but will fill the family photo album with good memories. Now, get out there… and stay out!
Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,
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