Exploring the wilderness at your own pace has an unparalleled charm. Backcountry camping is a lot more than snapping an Instagram-worthy shot. It is about traversing off the map paths, experiencing the raw nature, and hiking through the trails that have hardly been covered. To get the best out of your wilderness camping adventure, it is important to follow some essential tips. From hiking gear to camping accessories, here are a few tips for finding the best backcountry camping spots.
Before you jump on the bandwagon, do your homework thoroughly. When it comes to wilderness camping, you have to take a lot of factors into consideration. For example, where are you planning to go? What is the weather going to be like? Do you have any backup plans? Do you have all the essential camping accessories and hiking gear? What items should you pack?
Plan Your Adventure
Every country and its states or provinces have a website dedicated to national parks and campgrounds in the area. For instance, if you are in the United States, its National Park Services has all the information you would need to find the best backcountry camping spot across the country. It also provides users with information regarding permits, reservations, fees, and everything one would need to have a perfect camping trip. When you have chosen a location, obtain a detailed map of the routes and campgrounds in that area.
Take timing into consideration when you choose a terrain. How many kilometers can you cover? Intermediate hikers can cover up to 2 km per hour roughly. Elevations, coastal areas, and rockiness can affect the duration.
Have A Backup Plan
Just in case, have a second nearby location in mind too. If all the spots are filled up, you won’t have to clamber hurriedly or give up your plans. To give you an example, Kananaskis in Alberta is brimming with beautiful campgrounds including Big Elbow, Aster Lake, Ribbon Falls, and Jewell Bay. If one of the campgrounds is fully booked, you can easily go to another one as distances are short to cover. Nevertheless, it is better to book in advance!
Read A Few Maps
Topographic maps and Google Earth are a big help when it comes to choosing the best backcountry camping spot. Before you even begin your wild adventure, you will know what to expect. The maps will give you a good idea as to where the water bodies are, whether the area is within the dense jungles or not, and how you can achieve the best views.
Make Sure To Download GPS
GPS is your best friend that will navigate the paths and trails for you. It will also prevent you from getting lost in the wilderness. It takes you through the safest routes, tells you where you are, and how to get to your destination.
Pitch Near The Water Source
A brook rushing right past the camp sounds not only beautiful, but it is quite practical as well. Imagine you are back from a hiking trip all sweaty and out of breath, ready to relish the starry views from your campsite only to find out you are out of water. Avoid the panicked scrambling in the middle of nowhere and put up your tent near the freshwater body. This way, you can have water anytime you want.
Consider The Weather
Before you head out, don’t forget to check the forecast. Is it going to be a sun-drenched day or a rainy evening? Nature can save you from nature itself. During the downpours, avoid hollow areas where water can collect and drench you to the core. Don’t pitch your tent under the tree as water will keep dripping down even after the rain has stopped.
Also, you don’t want to injure yourself or damage your tent in case a heavy branch breaks off. If there is a cave nearby, you can take shelter there until the rain stops. Moreover, a good rain camping gear can come quite handy to keep you warm and dry. During thunderstorms, stay off elevated areas like ridges and peaks. For sunny days, trees are your best friends for they will offer cool shade.
Right Place, Right Time
Seclusion is one of the biggest charms of backcountry camping. Most people desire for a timeout far away from crowds and city streets. Imagine you go on a camping trip and find yourself amidst chaos and people. Time your camping trip right and try to avoid the high seasons in areas that tend to get busy. Some of the best off-season camping spots are:
- Strathcona Provincial Park in Vancouver Island, Canada
- Arches National Park (Devil’s Campground), USA
- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (Namakanipaio Campground)
- Long Key State Park, Florida
- Ash Grove Mountain, North Carolina
Wilderness Camping During The Winter
Going backcountry camping in frosty winters sound crazy, but it is actually quite plausible and fun. During winters, campsites are often deserted, so you can get your full dose of tranquility. Camping on snow has almost zero environmental impact, which means you are leaving no traces behind. Leaving no traces behind is the ultimate rule of backcountry camping. Moreover, nasty critters and bugs are less of a problem. Plus, there is a very low risk of wildfires. To take note of wildlife tracks to avoid troubling the animals. To escape from harsh wind, camp in a higher spot as wind pattern is usually severe in valleys.
Set your camp in the direction of the sun so you receive a good number of warm sunrays first thing in the morning. When the sun goes down, snuggle up in a blanket and gaze at the winter constellation. What’s more, you can even witness the Northern Lights if you are in the right place such as Norway and Finland.
Some of the best backcountry camping spots during winters are:
- Harstad, Tromsø and Alta have plenty of winter campgrounds in Norway
- Carneddau Mountain Range, Snowdonia, Wales
- Niseko, Japan
- Methow Valley, WA
- Jasper National Park, AB, Canada
For wintertime camping, you need to have the right hiking gear and camping gear. Some of the must-have items are waterproof snow boots, thick socks, breathable and waterproof snow jackets, pants and beanies, gloves, ear muffs, plenty of thermals and layers, quick-dry undergarments, insulated water bottles, sleeping bag and pads, compression sack, liquid fuel camping stove, and tarps.
Avoid Unnecessary Encounters With Bugs & Animals
Camping is a wonderful experience, but mosquitoes and wasps have the power to totally ruin it for you. To avoid bug bites and the annoying buzz, set up your camp in an airy place away from the areas with a dense growth of trees, weeds, bushes, and grass.
Do remember to hang your food bag on a tree branch a good distance away from your campsite. You don’t want bears, coyotes, and raccoons to come prowling around your campsite sniffing the goodies at nighttime. That won’t be a fun encounter! Make sure to take necessary precautions while hiking and camping such as wearing full sleeves and long pants and applying bug repellent.
Some Good Company
If you aren’t looking to spend some lone-time, then going along with some friends and loved ones is a fantastic idea. Backcountry camping will automatically become better and livelier. Sit around the campfire, roast marshmallows, and exchange not-so-scary stories. Having a good company is particularly a great idea if you are a beginner to backcountry camping. There will be a helping hand, advice in time of need, and jokes and laughter in case you feel a little homesick. On the other hand, it is best to leave your pets behind if it is your first time camping in the wild.
Consult ‘Experienced’ Hikers
A piece of good advice has never hurt anyone, and when it comes to camping in the wilderness and discovering the best backcountry camping spot, consulting experienced hikers can be rather helpful. From camping gear to off-the-map sites, they can give you a lot of pointers on where to start.
Be Mindful Of Others
Solitude is what most people are seeking when they go into the wild. When you head out to set up your camp, make sure to keep some respectful distance from other campers around you. Find a private spot for yourself to make your wilderness adventure more enjoyable and peaceful without looming shadows and chatter.
You Were Never There
When the parting day arrives and you are all packed up to head home, make sure you leave no trace behind. That is the fundamental rule of backcountry camping and you don’t want to break it. Most of nature is fragile and humans can have a large impact on it. Carry everything out, keep the water bodies you use clean, and bury any compost and biodegradable waste. Keep campfire small and put it out properly. If campfires are banned, don’t break the law. When someone comes along, they should never guess that the spot was occupied.
Other Tips To Keep In Mind When You Go Backcountry Camping:
- It is good to inform a loved one back at home about your itinerary. Exchange emergency contact details in case a need arises.
- Learn basic first aid skills, and carry supplies with you such as pain killers, alcohol swabs, and bandages.
- Don’t underestimate UV rays! Remember to wear your sunscreen.