Setting up camp in the backcountry is among the finest moments of a day in the mountains. You prepare for the evening's rest, all the while thinking of the little pleasure that food, warmth and shelter bring in the wilderness. But camp setup is not an entirely simple task. As with any backcountry experience, you must remain aware of your surroundings. Take special care when setting up for the night to ensure a safe, relaxing experience.
Choosing a Site
Obvious necessities should drive the decision, like the availability of water and shelter from strong winds. When choosing a place to pitch your tent, examine any overhanging tree branches. Rotting or dead tree branches can be broken in a breeze and endanger campers sleeping below. If such branches overhang your site, or if other similar dangers are near (rock slide areas, flood plains), choose another location.
Most national parks require campers to cook and sleep at least 100 feet from a water source. While this arrangement is not always possible, you should follow it as closely as you can. Pitch your tent 100 feet away from your cooking area, as well.
Hang or otherwise protect your food and toilet items in the backcountry. Special bear cans may be used, or you can hang these items in two stuff sacks or your pack.
To hang food, choose a solid branch at least 15 to 20 feet from the ground. Tie one stuff sack to the end of a rope and toss the sack, with the rope trailing, over the branch. Pull the sack up to the branch, but not off of it, then tie the other sack onto the rope. The higher up the rope it is tied, the better. Then toss or push the sack so that the two weights are hanging evenly from the branch. Both sacks should remain at least 12 feet off the ground in bear country--if your food is hanging below 12 feet, find another, higher branch and try again. Use a long stick to push your food off of the branch.