Posts Tagged With: 4 w’s of campsite selection

6 Life and Survival Lessons Learned from Backpacking

by Todd Walker

6 Life and Survival Lessons Learned from Backpacking - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

I flipped to “Fat Guys in the Woods” on The Weather Channel last night as DRG was reading her book. She glanced over the pages and asked…

“Is that Fat and Afraid?”

I belly laughed!

After climbing that first mountain, the name fit me.

6 Life and Survival Lessons Learned from Backpacking - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Are we there yet?

My brother’s boys and I drove eleven hours to tackle Eagle Rock Loop in the Ouchita (pronounced wosh-i-taw) National Forest in Arkansas. Our map called the mountainous section of the loop “vigorous”. Understatement of the year! Brutal was more like it for this old man.

This wasn’t a self-imposed survival adventure. We backpacked and camped with modern gear. Here’s what I took away from our journey.

Lesson #1: Fitness Matters

The only way to train for mountains with no switchbacks is to climb mountains with no switchbacks. Baseline fitness is helpful but may not be enough.

6 Life and Survival Lessons Learned from Backpacking - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Jake got the last laugh with his light pack

We parked at 4:30 P.M, strapped on packs and hit our first mountain 50 yards from the truck. Jake, the youngest of our trio, was point man. And perhaps the smartest. His pack weighed 15 pounds! He’d seen what heavy could do to soldiers patrolling mountains in Afghanistan. And his buddies were fresh out of boot camp and physical specimens.

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Car camp!?

Had I reduced my pack weight by half, I still would have struggled to climb the mountains. I won’t lie. I secretly contemplated turning back halfway up and car camping. My young, strapping hiking partners were patient with their old uncle with frequent stops for me to catch my breath and cool the burn in my gluts and thighs.

6 Life and Survival Lessons Learned from Backpacking - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Kyle instigated this trip

If you subscribe to the popular bug-out-on-foot theory, have you tested your load out and physical abilities on the terrain you plan to walk?

Lesson #2: Water Matters

Bring more than one method to obtain potable water.

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Water Filters: Kyle carried a Katadyn filter which he and Jake used. I used my Sawyer Mini, which weighs 2 ounces, to fill my 2 liter bladder in my backpack. A small 16 ounce Sawyer mylar bag was my backup when I sucked the hydration bladder dry. I consumed about 4 litters per day due to the strenuous activity and summer heat.

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Around morning and evening campfires, I boiled water in my 64 ounce bush pot for cooking, hot cocoa, and coffee. Boiling was impractical on the move. Water filters are the way to go on rest stops.

Lesson #3: Feet Matter

When your only means of conveyance is your feet, take good care of them.

We crossed 3 mountains on our first full day of hiking. I noticed a hot spot on one of my toes going down the last mountain. Upon inspection, I had forgotten to trim my nails which turned out to be the source of the toe pain. My Swiss Army Knife scissors quickly solved the issue.

6 Life and Survival Lessons Learned from Backpacking - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

River crossings were unavoidable. At low water levels, we rock hopped. A few crossings ended in wet feet. I carried three pair of wool blend socks. One for wearing, one for drying, and one as a spare.

Cooling off with my Five Fingers

Cooling off in my Five Fingers

Also consider packing a lightweight pair of camp shoes or sandals. I wore my Five Fingers around camp and for protection while exploring the rivers. Even though I run barefoot at home, I couldn’t afford a wound to my only means of wilderness transportation.

Take time to keep your feet dry, clean, and protected. Always break in new boots or shoes well ahead of your journey.

Lesson #4: Sleep Matters

“One of the hallmarks of the veteran woodsman is the way he contrives to make himself comfortable in camp”. ~ Warren H. Miller

Follow the 4 W’s of campsite selection when choosing your spot to bed down… remember to look up. We had to fell a 5 inch dead standing oak on our last campsite. It may not have caused us problems but you never know how the wind may change. It provided ample firewood for us and to the next pilgrims who find our site.

6 Life and Survival Lessons Learned from Backpacking - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

All three of us prefer hammocks to tents. Hammocks not only offer comfortable bedding they also serve as a camp recliner by sitting perpendicularly like a swing.

You need good sleep hygiene to restore the body. Six to seven hours is about all I get at home. For some pleasant reason, I typically sleep a good 8 to 9 hours in the woods… barring abrupt disruptions from wild visitors.

I don’t worry too much about large animals. It’s the little critters that bug me… mosquitos and no-see-ums being the main culprit.

Use bug netting or insect repellent.

6 Life and Survival Lessons Learned from Backpacking - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

All Natural BugShot

I’ve just discovered a natural bug repellent called All Natural BugShot that kept the biting insects and ticks away. If you’re not crazy about applying DEET based repellents to your skin (or melting your plastic gear), check BugShot out. I shared my thoughts in a short video review on our trip. I recommend it!

Lesson #5: Bears and Bacon Matter

I was flip-flopping about whether to bring the dry cured bacon into bear country.

On this special trip with my brother’s sons, I went with bacon. One and a half pounds in fact. That amount gave us 2 thick strips each morning to get our day started. We also cooked a dozen dehydrated eggs in bacon grease over two days. We were smoothing it over the campfire kitchen!

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We never sighted actual bears but did walk over scat on the trails. Carry bear spray.

Here are a few bear precautions to take. I found this research site, North American Bear Center, interesting and informative in addressing commonly held myths about bear-human encounters.

A bear’s sense of smell is over 2,000 times better than humans. Knowing this, take precautions and practice good camp hygiene. Place all food and cooking utensils in a bear bag and hang it at least 10 feet off the ground and 4 feet from the nearest tree trunk.

My bear bag system contains the following:

  •  30 liter dry bag, 50 feet of paracord
  • One carabiner
  • Finger size stick off the ground

All food and cookware go inside the sealed bag and is hung 100 yards down wind from camp. I use the PCT (Pacific Coast Trail) method to hang the bag. I’ll show you this trick in a later blog.

I know this about my body but I over packed food anyway. When hot from physical exertion, I don’t eat much. We stopped for lunch breaks but never ate a meal just a few snacks of dried fruit or trail mix. And very little of that. Our largest meals were in the evening after cooling off.

Lesson #6: Family Matters

Though I’ve known Kyle and Jake since their birth, I never had the chance to connect with them as I did on this wilderness adventure. We connected by being disconnected.

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Kyle made slate name tags for us

We lost all communication with the outside world miles before we reached the trailhead. No phone calls, texts, social media stuff, or blog reports. And not one among us frowned.

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Welcome to Camp Walker!

We embraced being off-line and soaked in all nature could offer. We ate snake pan-fried in coconut oil, dined on homemade bacon, told campfire stories, laid still watching moon beams pour through leaves overhead, dried our wet bodies on rocky sandbars warmed by campfires, found the richness of life in our adventure, and confronted our fears and fatigue to discover how little it takes to make us happy.

6 Life and Survival Lessons Learned from Backpacking - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Going primal, gig in mouth, in search of bullfrogs

That, my friends, was the most valuable lesson of all!

Get out there, and, as always…

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network. P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there… 

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Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Potable Water, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Water | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

The 4 W’s of Wilderness Campsite Selection

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!

The 4 W’s of Wilderness Campsite Selection | TheSurvivalSherpa.com

Rainbow trout on a fly rod!

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.

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A.) Wind

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.

B.) Water

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.

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C.) Wood

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,

Todd

P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at our Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright © by Survival Sherpa: In light of the recent theft of all my content by a pirate site, my sharing policy has changed. I do not permit the re-posting of entire articles from my site without express written consent by me. My content on this site may be shared in digital form (200 words or less) for non-commercial use with a link back (without no-follow attribute) to the original article crediting the author. All photos, drawings, and articles are copyrighted by and the property of Survival Sherpa. You are more than welcome to share our photos and articles on social media for educational purposes as long as you link back to the original article/photo with credit to the author.

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Preparedness, Self-reliance | Tags: , , | 18 Comments

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