Tactical Tuesday presents: Setting up a Base Camp

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Murph
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Tactical Tuesday presents: Setting up a Base Camp

Post by Murph » Tue Oct 19, 2010 5:58 pm

Hey Folks! Today's Tactical Tuesday covers some of the basics to setting up a base camp. There are a lot of things you should be concerned about when selecting a location. While finding the perfect location is often impossible there are things that you can do to mitigate less than ideal sites.

When picking a camp you want to make sure that you are at least 200 feet away from a water source. While this does make it a little more difficult for water gathering, it keeps the water supply from accidentally being contaminated during the course of your stay. Stuff that you take for granted at home, doesn't translate in the woods. For instance, gray water, trash, a fire pit, and using the "facilities."

Speaking of "facilities" when selecting an area for that, many people are first concerned with privacy. However, I would recommend first determining which direction the wind is blowing, and then sending people down wind. Nothing like enjoying your camp, and then getting a whiff of someone else's "nature." Also make sure that going downwind doesn't take you closer to a water source.

Another key to a good base camp is of course selection a place for a fire pit. This is often the general meeting place and also where cooking is done. When looking for a fire pit you want to watch out for dry materials, both on the ground in the area, and also overhead. Dead leaves and branches overhead can easily catch on fire after several hours. Once you've found a good area, collect nearby rocks and form a fire ring. This will help keep your fire contained to the area you know is safe. If you're lucky there will be a dry source of wood nearby to collect from, but not close enough to catch fire.

When you're cooking over or near the fire, you want to make sure it's away from where you are sleeping. Woodland animals could be in the area, smell the food, and come looking for a snack. The last thing you need is to have a bear tearing up your camp site in the middle of the night as you sleep 10 ft away. Make sure to bring trash bags to keep the area clean, and bear bag both the food and trash overnight.

When you're done eating, it's important to wash your cookware. After you're done avoid dumping "gray" water on plants. It is harmful to many different wild vegetation. This also goes for if you wash yourself up or brush your teeth.

Lastly you're need a place to setup your shelters. As said before, you don't want it too close to your cooking / common area in case of wild animals. Ideally, you'll be able to find some flat ground that doesn't have any roots or rocks. However, if you are stuck on a slight incline, it's best to situation yourself so that when you sleep your head is more elevated than your feet. You also want to consider which way the sunrises, in case you want to sleep in or get up early. Likewise, it's good to check the surrounding area for trees. Both for potential shade, but also for danger. "Widow Maker" Trees are dead trees that are near your camp site. If one of these should crack and fall while you're sleeping, you'll soon understand what they're named for.

Hopefully this helps everyone put some thought into base camp selection the next time they are out enjoying the wilderness. Remember to have fun out there and stay safe!
Does your BOB at least have: water, basic tools, fire, food, first-aid kit, and shelter?
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Re: Tactical Tuesday presents: Setting up a Base Camp

Post by Chase The hero » Tue Oct 19, 2010 8:25 pm

As a tip for processing grey water, in the boy scouts we routinely would dig a hole about two feet deep and put gravel and sand in it and we would just pour our water in there. then if it gets full or nasty, just fill it up and its all nice and hidden. And also be sure you set up your tents/shelters on higher ground so you don't get flooded out (Hammocks don't need to worry so much about that). Hanging your packs off the ground can also prevent some ants and critters from getting in your gear.
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Re: Tactical Tuesday presents: Setting up a Base Camp

Post by KYZHunters » Tue Oct 19, 2010 9:21 pm

As tempting as it is, be wary of setting up camp anywhere that appears to have had water in it at one time. In the desert, washes are flat, soft and offer a little relief from sun and wind but a rainstorm miles away could flood you out. In the mountains look for debris in trees, flattened grasses etc. that might indicate that you are setting up a permanent home in an intermittent stream bed. Again, rain higher up or melting snow could arrive at your camp in the middle of the night.
BTW, I've experienced both. The first resulted in a game of "lets get everyone on line and look for the M16" and the second resulted in a very miserable weekend in the Poconos.
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Re: Tactical Tuesday presents: Setting up a Base Camp

Post by AKFTW » Tue Oct 19, 2010 10:18 pm

What about hanging your food up in a tree? I know backpackers do that often, but high-speed types don't bother with that shit. Honestly, I'd like a reason not to have to play pinata with my food storage if for no other reason that it is definitely not a way to go low-profile, more like a flag that says "people nearby!". Not to mention someone intelligent making off with it in the night :lol:
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Re: Tactical Tuesday presents: Setting up a Base Camp

Post by Woods Walker » Wed Oct 20, 2010 1:13 am

Here are a few things I learned over the years.

1. First look for widow makers, flood risks, rock slide potential, drainage issues or anything else that could be a problem. Stop and take the time to look around. If sleeping on the ground I want a flat spot free of rocks etc. Picking a campsite before dark whenever possible is important as no headlamp will ever equal the sun.

2. There are times when I have camped very near water though a reasonable distance is advantageous for many reasons. In the field sometimes you simply do what is needed. I will make every possible effort to answer nature’s call away from water however once again all factors need to be taken into consideration. I have been out in sleet/cold rain and walking farther away from my shelter into the dark dank woods just to take a piss wasn’t an option.

3. As for gray water to be honest unless there is a wash pit I often walk a short distance from my camp and toss it. This is done so my camping area won’t attract critters.

4. I don't use soap when cleaning pots etc if the runoff will enter the local water supply.

5. I often cook in camp but never toss food around nor leave cookware dirty. I will hang my food in a sack over a branch higher up. Some areas require food be placed in the bear box or an anti bear container be packed in. If cooking in my shelter aka tipi I air it out and never store food or used pots inside even those which have been cleaned in the field. The pots are stored with my food away from camp in a tree.

6. I follow the local rules for all of the above.

7. I second the OP’s observation that on less than level ground your head should higher. During the night a person will slide down some and this for me develops pressure on my neck which is uncomfortable.

8. I remove anything combustible around my fire area and look up for overhead branches that might catch fire. Even if using a camp stove yea want to remove any dried grass, leaf litter etc. For a tent stove with pipe the same rules apply. There are times when making a fire ring or even a fire is not practical. If you don't make a ring than take the same precautions as if you did. If the weather is crazy sometimes you must hunker down until it breaks.

9. When setting up a camp especially in winter I look to take advantage of the morning sun. The sun rises in the east, is at its meridian height in the south and sets in the west.

10. If possible during cooler weather avoid areas in which cold air settles. Cold will settle into depressions and valleys.

11. If possible avoid areas which are exposed to wind. For some areas prevailing winds can change but no matter the direction being exposed to the full force can make a campsite rather uncomfortable. On the flip side sometimes a windy spot is great during bug season.

12. If possible look for a shaded area during hot summer weather.

13. I don’t like camping on higher ground such as a ridgeline in summer or anyplace else that looks exposed to thunderstorms/lightning strikes.

14. When looking for a campsite make every effort to setup within easy reach of water. The sooner you take this into account the better. You don’t want to start thinking of this late in the day with low reserves. Anyone who has been in a dry camp thirsty knows just what I am talking about.

15. Balance risks to rewards. Sometimes it’s better to stop and setup camp even if the area isn’t perfect than risk a night hike though unfamiliar terrain or continue on as the weather worsens.

16. If the weather is in question assume the worse. I will setup a shelter with a storm pitch, gather extra wood and water for the night. At times I will setup camp earlier in the day or not break down for a move. There is nothing wrong with ending the trip as well. Once again we are talking about a judgment call. Whatever the decision it should never be made in panic.

17. Don’t walk around camp as if you own the place. By this I mean the environment isn’t 100% under your control. Look before placing hands and feet as you never know what might take offense to being stepped on. You keep an eye out for roots, rocks, mud etc during the day so don’t drop your guard in camp.

Most of all get out there and have a good time. These guideline work for me but naturally everyone has different AOs and experiences.
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Re: Tactical Tuesday presents: Setting up a Base Camp

Post by the_alias » Wed Oct 20, 2010 7:17 am

Good stuff Murph, we needed a thread like this!

Needs moar pics obviously though!
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Re: Tactical Tuesday presents: Setting up a Base Camp

Post by Murph » Wed Oct 20, 2010 7:41 am

Some absolutely great additions! I knew from the start that things would escape my head / post.
AKFTW wrote:What about hanging your food up in a tree?
That's what I quickly referred to as "bear bag your food and trash."

Thanks to everyone for chiming in about more environmental hazards, flash flood, lightining, etc.
the_alias wrote:Good stuff Murph, we needed a thread like this!
Needs moar pics obviously though!
Glad to help!
And here's a picture of "snack time."

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Does your BOB at least have: water, basic tools, fire, food, first-aid kit, and shelter?
"When planning, prepare for the most likely, and then the most catastrophic."
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the_alias wrote: Murph has all the diplomacy of a North Korean warhead, but -he has- a valid point

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Re: Tactical Tuesday presents: Setting up a Base Camp

Post by Thorne » Wed Oct 20, 2010 7:42 am

AKFTW wrote:What about hanging your food up in a tree? I know backpackers do that often, but high-speed types don't bother with that shit. Honestly, I'd like a reason not to have to play pinata with my food storage if for no other reason that it is definitely not a way to go low-profile, more like a flag that says "people nearby!". Not to mention someone intelligent making off with it in the night :lol:
Then get a bear cache, and be prepared to spend half your morning looking for the spot where the bears/raccoons/other critters left it when they collectively realized they couldn't get in to it.

And what prey tell is a 'high speed type'? It wouldn't be one of those people who go into the back country with a day pack and a tarp and count on SAR to pull their beans from teh fire if the situation goes bad would it?

I'm all for reducing pack weight but most of the ultralighters I've known were one bad day away from death from exposure. And forever 'borrowing' the 'totally unnecessary things' that they really enjoy using but won't carry because 'its too heavy'

I modified a camo t-shirt into a cover for my food bag, It's not perfect but it sure doesn't stand out like bright yellow does and it keeps the critters away.

As far as going 'low profile' your camp fire (and it's smoke/the sounds you make prepping firewood) is a much bigger 'people are here' signal then a food hang.
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Re: Tactical Tuesday presents: Setting up a Base Camp

Post by MikeM » Wed Oct 20, 2010 9:00 am

I use a "two room" technique when solo camping. The primary camp (bedroom) is off the beaten path and set up with my shelter system, and the secondary camp (kitchen/lounge) is set up in an established wild site with an existing fire ring.

I do all of my cooking and eating in the kitchen and will hang out in this secondary site, hang my food in a tree at a triangle point off of the line from both sites, and sleep at the primary site.

This provides 3 main advantages:
1-I do not sleep somewhere where the local critters have learned from experience food can be found.
2-I still remain low-impact be using established fire rings.
3-I can feel stealthy and full of ninja goodness while not camping within "bothered by the neighbors" distance of other campers.

Obviously, this only works for 1-2 people, and when camping with large, loud groups (like ZSNY) we use an established base camp, and primarily count on NFA's snoring to keep the bears away. :lol:

-Mike

PS-My bear bag is in MarPat, so I even have trouble finding it sometimes :oops:
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Re: Tactical Tuesday presents: Setting up a Base Camp

Post by AKFTW » Wed Oct 20, 2010 10:54 am

By "high-speed" I mean you don't necessarily hear about bear bags and food hangs in military manuals and the Ranger handbook, But I haven't read them all, so I could be wrong,
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Re: Tactical Tuesday presents: Setting up a Base Camp

Post by lonewolf15002000 » Wed Oct 20, 2010 11:50 am

One thing I would like to add is that not all the times are "Widow Makers" full on dead trees sometimes they can just be either the crown of the tree (the very top) or large branches that have been killed off for some reason. Most recent experience: I had the crown of a Silver Maple come crashing down in a wind storm and hit my carport it took out 4 sheets of plywood with holes in them of various sizes the largest hole was 10 inches diameter. It turns out that woodpeckers had pecked the shit out of the trunk near the top (about 10 feet down) and the wind was just enough to send it crashing down. No one was hurt this time but I wouldn't want it to happen to anyone out in the woods so keep it in mind.
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Re: Tactical Tuesday presents: Setting up a Base Camp

Post by Chef » Wed Oct 20, 2010 3:55 pm

Make sure to set up the kitchen/dining room as far as possible from where the pooping happens. Don't want the same flies visiting both buffets.

Don't set up in a flash flood zone!
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