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General National Camping Etiquette

Old 12-31-19, 07:23 AM
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Aznman
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General National Camping Etiquette

Not really related to cycling, but I figured that tourers should be one of the most familiar with hiking and camping.
I've never really camped except in the pre-built location several years ago by the name of Camp Curry, Yosemite, CA.

I have some scenarios that I am curious about. These scenarios may never happen within a lifetime, but I just like to prepare.

1. Say that you have found your perfect spot that is already far from any trails. However, there is already a group of people camping in the area. They are not hostile and do communicate with you but don't seem to completely appreciate the stranger (you). Assuming that you still want/need to camp in the area, what is the minimum advisable distance that your camp must be from their immediate camp?

2. Say that you are a light packer and are proficient at building comfortable shelters out of dead woods and other natural material. You've built one shelter on a spot that you really love returning to. You've returned several months later and it looks like a person has camped in and added to the structural remains of your dead-wood shelter. Given that you have no problem building another shelter far from the site, would you approach the person for a friendly, small talk about ownership? Assuming that the person is not hostile but believed that he now owned the shelter, the current camper/squatter is now legally considered to be the owner, correct? Keep in mind that your shelter was not in use for several months and you've not left any personal items in the camp, only the dead-wood structures.

For both of the scenarios, assume that you have already clearly detected that the other campers are not criminals operating in meth labs (or participating in any other nefarious activities).
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Old 12-31-19, 07:47 AM
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If I plunked down in a spot that was perhaps a bit too close to an existing and already established group or individual, I would maybe move on, especially if I wasn’t given any signs of acceptance. Hard to say though, if there were other sites nearby I would move. If sites are far and few between, the other group should be aware of that and be accepting that they need to share a site. The sites are all public land ?, thus everybody is welcome but first come, first serve. The Appalachian Trail might be an example where the available sites that are near a water source means that others may be camping near you, get over it. I would not be popping down a tent in a site already occupied just because there’s room for one more tent.

As to to the built shelter ?, you own nothing. There’s nothing to say to somebody using a shelter you set up a day before and came back to. You move on as it’s public land and as stated, you own nothing,
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Old 12-31-19, 07:50 AM
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Interesting problems!
For the first one, you camp as close to or as far away as comfortable for you. Welcome to anarchy!
My preference would be that I'm far enough away to not be confused as part of the encampment; no rule of thumb, just what seems to work.
For the second, you have no right to an abandoned shelter that isn't on land you don't own, even if you built it. If someone's living in your unpermitted squatter shack/hobbit hole, you could talk about sharing, like adults. If they tell you to 'make like a tree', you can escalate, or not. Again, welcome to anarchy. You're already proficient at making these shelters, so make another and destroy it when you leave. Ask some homeless folks what they do in their camps, that's the closest analog to your questions.
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Old 12-31-19, 07:55 AM
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1) It depends on the situation. How many campers? Is it pretty remote? I'd give as much space as possible/practical. If you are camping at a small remote mountain lake, the is it possible to camp on the other side of the lake? In some cases, terrain may dictate camping in the same general area, and people should understand that.

2) JUST NO! Unless you own/lease the property, or have some kind of reservation, then you don't own a campsite.
Pack it in, Pack it out. Clean up after yourself.
We always had camp fires when I was younger, but even that is less common now. There was some debate about leaving established camp fire pits vs tearing them down. But in today's society, even the camp fire pits should go away in many remote locations.
I always found it extremely aggravating to hike into a remote area and find cans, garbage, plastic tarps, and other trash left behind by previous campers.
There might be 2 exceptions. Well established camp sites might have a few things like a couple of logs moved to convenient sitting spots. Still, nobody "owns" the campsite. First come...
The second exception might be certain established group sites, for example elk hunting camp sites. They can be a bit of a mess from "developments", but should still be left clean. Again, nobody "owns" it, and I've camped in them during the off-season. But, I might leave the large camp sites to the packers and guides during the hunting season.

Be considerate of people's needs, and perhaps overall impact on the wilderness and forests. So, if simply a place to pitch the tent, then it would go on a first come basis. But, say for livestock or a large group, I might consider moving if I found myself in the only place that would accommodate the livestock or group. That is, if the move is reasonable.
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Old 12-31-19, 08:00 AM
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1. Just ask them, or ask them if they know of any other places in the area where you could camp without intruding in "their" space. Most reasonable people would say "oh, just camp here."

2. Don't build shelters. Leave the place as you have found it, or cleaner. "Leave only footprints" could be expanded to bike tire tracks, but ideally those should be invisible too.
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Old 12-31-19, 08:39 AM
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IT depends on the area. Some backpacking areas don't see a lot of people, and you can pretty much camp wherever you want within a few rules - 200 ft from water bodies and streams and trails, an acceptable distance from others (judgement call), and not in restricted areas (some hi-altitude meadows come to mind). Other areas are almost overrun by backpackers so the local oversight agency set limits on how many people can start up a trail each day, where you can camp, and have rules regarding trash and poo disposal (the heavily overused Mt Whitney area in California's Sierra Nevada Mtns is a prime example of this) Check with the local agency running the area (national foest, national park, or the state equivalent of each of those), they usually have an internet site and have the basic regulations/rules on that site.

Like others said above, don't even think of building shelters. A lot of natl forests/state forests and parks prohibit building shelters except in emergencies. Bring a tent or a tarp so as not to disturb the local ecology. Leave the area looking like no one was there.

Also of note: A lot of areas prohibit campfires and have some pretty stiff fines for starting a campfire unless its an emergency situation.
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Old 12-31-19, 11:28 AM
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The Oregon beach seems to be one exception that nobody really cares about driftwood construction, although please keep it clean... no trash inside.

Some people like the wind shelters. I assume it is poor etiquette to hop into a shelter that someone is currently occupying, but go away for a few weeks, and it is free game for use, or for disassembly for raw materials.

I presume most of it gets washed away with the next winter storm.

I haven't watched a lot of survivalist shows. The team shows tend to make base camps for a few weeks. But, I don't think they ever show any cleanup and remediation efforts... which I hope is done. I haven seen some of them cheating, and hunting domestic pigs, for example.

Do the more individual outdoors shows also show camp teardown and cleanup?

Homeless Camps? They create a number of unique challenges. By definition they don't own the land (either public or private). One might recognise the ownership of the tent, but it might be considered abandoned if not occupied for a week.

Issues with the homeless camps may not be as much the campsite, but rather the horrible mess many of them frequently leave around them, and leave behind when they move. Obviously unique issues to deal with, but it doesn't include trashing the site they are staying on.
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Old 12-31-19, 12:35 PM
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Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post


The Oregon beach seems to be one exception that nobody really cares about driftwood construction, although please keep it clean... no trash inside.

Some people like the wind shelters. I assume it is poor etiquette to hop into a shelter that someone is currently occupying, but go away for a few weeks, and it is free game for use, or for disassembly for raw materials.

I presume most of it gets washed away with the next winter storm.

I haven't watched a lot of survivalist shows. The team shows tend to make base camps for a few weeks. But, I don't think they ever show any cleanup and remediation efforts... which I hope is done. I haven seen some of them cheating, and hunting domestic pigs, for example.

Do the more individual outdoors shows also show camp teardown and cleanup?

Homeless Camps? They create a number of unique challenges. By definition they don't own the land (either public or private). One might recognise the ownership of the tent, but it might be considered abandoned if not occupied for a week.

Issues with the homeless camps may not be as much the campsite, but rather the horrible mess many of them frequently leave around them, and leave behind when they move. Obviously unique issues to deal with, but it doesn't include trashing the site they are staying on.
Humans trash stuff, it's part of our nature as an organism here. Blame materials science for creating stuff that doesn't rot in a few months or years. Without middens from prehistory, our knowledge of our ancestors would be so poor! That said... Leave No Trace, for the benefit of those who will come after you.
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Old 12-31-19, 01:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Unca_Sam View Post
Humans trash stuff, it's part of our nature as an organism here. Blame materials science for creating stuff that doesn't rot in a few months or years. Without middens from prehistory, our knowledge of our ancestors would be so poor! That said... Leave No Trace, for the benefit of those who will come after you.
Good point.

One must save everything for the future archaeologists. Soiled undies and all.
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Old 12-31-19, 01:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Aznman View Post
Not really related to cycling, but I figured that tourers should be one of the most familiar with hiking and camping.
I've never really camped except in the pre-built location several years ago by the name of Camp Curry, Yosemite, CA.

I have some scenarios that I am curious about. These scenarios may never happen within a lifetime, but I just like to prepare.

1. Say that you have found your perfect spot that is already far from any trails. However, there is already a group of people camping in the area. They are not hostile and do communicate with you but don't seem to completely appreciate the stranger (you). Assuming that you still want/need to camp in the area, what is the minimum advisable distance that your camp must be from their immediate camp?

2. Say that you are a light packer and are proficient at building comfortable shelters out of dead woods and other natural material. You've built one shelter on a spot that you really love returning to. You've returned several months later and it looks like a person has camped in and added to the structural remains of your dead-wood shelter. Given that you have no problem building another shelter far from the site, would you approach the person for a friendly, small talk about ownership? Assuming that the person is not hostile but believed that he now owned the shelter, the current camper/squatter is now legally considered to be the owner, correct? Keep in mind that your shelter was not in use for several months and you've not left any personal items in the camp, only the dead-wood structures.

For both of the scenarios, assume that you have already clearly detected that the other campers are not criminals operating in meth labs (or participating in any other nefarious activities).
  1. Elevator Etiquette, or https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proxemics (Proxemics) are interesting topics. When we backpack and come across a lake we intend to camp at, we camp out of earshot / visual line of site of the nearest campers, or across the lake (where we may be visible but are clearly not encroaching on their area). In public organized campgrounds it's different; you get packed in like sardines. In real nature, you give as much space as is practical.
  2. If you build a shelter, take it down when you leave. You should leave no trace. You don't own the land, you are a guest. How would you like it if you invited your aunt and uncle over to your house to stay in the guest room, and while they were there they built a blanket-fort on the dining room table, piled pillows below, and then left things that way when they left your home? When you arrive at a place you would like to camp, you appreciate its pristine nature. And you should leave it as close to that as possible. As for who owns the mess you left behind, it's certainly not you, but you own the cleanup. The fact that someone else move into the thing you made on land you don't own, and enhanced it further, just emphasizes the fact you should have left things in a pristine state. Now you've initiated blight, and it's taken on a sort of life of its own that is out of your control.
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Old 12-31-19, 01:38 PM
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Have to admit, I'm in the 'leave no trace' camp (pun intended).
There is a certain pride in leaving in the morning, knowing that in 48 hours, no one could tell you had been there
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Old 12-31-19, 02:24 PM
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Originally Posted by daoswald View Post
  1. If you build a shelter, take it down when you leave. You should leave no trace. You don't own the land, you are a guest. How would you like it if you invited your aunt and uncle over to your house to stay in the guest room, and while they were there they built a blanket-fort on the dining room table, piled pillows below, and then left things that way when they left your home? When you arrive at a place you would like to camp, you appreciate its pristine nature. And you should leave it as close to that as possible. As for who owns the mess you left behind, it's certainly not you, but you own the cleanup. The fact that someone else move into the thing you made on land you don't own, and enhanced it further, just emphasizes the fact you should have left things in a pristine state. Now you've initiated blight, and it's taken on a sort of life of its own that is out of your control.
I'm not so worried about a blanket fort.

I draw the line when they start sawing off legs from the table for firewood, leaving their open food tins around the floor, and perhaps nailing a stump to that dining room table.

And, then they want it to look the same whenever (or if) they drop in unannounced someday. And, the room to always be available to them?
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Old 12-31-19, 03:20 PM
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1. Camp as far away from them as you can, unless they invite you in. Most everyone is there to enjoy nature and its serenity.

2. Most (Forest, NP, BLM, etc) places do not allow for "permanent" man made structures to be built. Regardless, you build it and leave...it's not "yours" anymore.
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Old 12-31-19, 03:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Aznman View Post
1. Say that you have found your perfect spot that is already far from any trails. However, there is already a group of people camping in the area. They are not hostile and do communicate with you but don't seem to completely appreciate the stranger (you). Assuming that you still want/need to camp in the area, what is the minimum advisable distance that your camp must be from their immediate camp?
It depends.

There are several assumptions I would need to sort out. For example are there particular constraints that make this space desirable/constrained? E.g.
- Access to water?
- Places to shelter from the wind?
- Restrictions on camping elsewhere?
- Designated camping areas such as on GDMBR?
- Official campgrounds with spaces?
Assuming there are some restrictions such as the ones above that promote clustering, then I'd make a friendly wave but I would camp far enough as practical so it wasn't like we were in the same camp site. Some of this might be to avoid imposing on their "space", but some is also that I don't know how disruptive the other group might be, e.g. staying up late making lots of noise when I am trying to sleep. As an example, camping in municipal campgrounds in Argentina I had some instances where what I thought were a few campers were just the advance guard of a much larger (and louder) party of people from nearby town.

If there weren't these types of constraints and I knew I could as easily find another spot for wild camping down the road, I might very well go a few kilometers further where I could camp without being close to anyone.

Often it is something in-between where I have a few candidate places to camp - and I'll make a choice depending on time of day, how tired I am and how constrained those choices appear to be.
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Old 12-31-19, 09:14 PM
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All great and entertaining answers so far. Have a great New Year, guys.
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Old 01-01-20, 10:44 AM
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Originally Posted by mev View Post
It depends.

There are several assumptions I would need to sort out. For example are there particular constraints that make this space desirable/constrained? E.g.
Other issues in the wilderness include:
  • PETS
  • FLAT LAND
  • Brush?
There are some places where there just isn't an alternative camp site.
  • Long hikes, and arriving at dusk? Safety?
In some senses, I might prefer keeping campsites consolidated, so one isn't indiscriminately clearing tent sites.
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Old 01-03-20, 06:02 PM
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I will join the cornfuzed masses.

Def. cornfuze - to fuse corn kernels.

Now back on track - I am gathering from the OP that the frame of reference here is to backpacking, not cycling, even though it is posted in a cycling forum.

I started backpacking back in 2008 or so when I was in college. I've been in a lot of places from southern IL to the Carolinas. A lot of places that I have been backpacking are state forests that have designated trails and designated "camp sites". These locations usually have some type of amenities - down trees as "benches" surrounding a camp fire ring, for example. In these locations - you absolutely do not "build shelters". It isn't good camp etiquette. You bring a shelter with you - tent, hammock, tarp, what ever you want. The idea is you set up camp and you break down camp. The site is not "yours" to do what you want with. In fact, most of these state forests require a permit. In Ohio the permits don't cost anything - you fill out a piece of paper and drop it in a box at the trailhead. However, you are not allowed to stay in the state forest "area" for more than so many days.

Moving on to national forests - those areas have varying regulations by state. I will use the Monongahela National Forest as an example. They have (at least had, haven't checked in the past couple years) had very loose regulations. It is considered "wilderness" and to that point there are no designated "camp sites". You can hike the trails, you can bushwack, you camp in sites already there, or you can make your own camp site (so long as it is 100ft from a marked trail). In this type of area you "could" build a "shelter" as you describe - bushcraft style.

However...

And this is a big "however" in my book, experience, and I presume others' as well -

It is not good outdoorsmenship to "build a shelter" in these types of places. Even though, in my Monongahela National Forest example, the land is largely "wilderness" good outdoorsmenship is to "leave no trace" (look that up - that is a big deal in backpacking practices) and building a shelter to return to is the exact opposite of "leave no trace".

I am a firm believer that leaving the land cleaner than when I arrived is the best thing for all that enjoy the great outdoors - to what ever capacity they do. To that point - I pack out trash left behind in the camps I stay in, pick up trash on the trail, and don't leave anything else behind that contributes to the "problem".

Going back to not having much of a frame of reference to the 2 scenarios the OP laid out - I can only assume that these questions are coming from more populated areas that are also dealing with a higher level of homelessness. That is not a factor in the experience I have because I have never been in areas that fit that "mold" - I get the heck away from them and get to the "wilderness", and by "wilderness" I mean not within short mileage of a population density of any size. The places I go backpacking are easily hundreds of miles from "population density of any size".

Another factor I want to bring up -

Going back to the idea of bushcraft style encampments - these are really cool. If you are in to that sort of thing that's fine. However, in the vast majority of the lower 48 US states the general idea is it is not good outdoorsmenship to build shelters like this. For survival purposes (actual dire situations) it is fair to say anything goes - you do what ever you can to save your arse, I'd never argue any way differently. And part of "saving ones arse" is the mental side of survival - and bushcraft is an excellent mental exercise that keeps your mind in a higher place and assists the mental aspect of "saving ones arse". There are few places in the lower 48 US states, however, where camping "bushcraft style" should be accepted. I wouldn't think anywhere it is the usual method. Considering modern shelter technology (tents, hammocks) the amount of effort it takes to build a bushrcaft camp vs putting up a modern shelter is largely why. That doesn't mean people don't still do it, but again - coming from the perspective I outlined in this post so far that I have - it is not good outdoorsmenship.

Now, if you have access to private property on which to camp and build shelters, and you have permission from the land owner(s), or you are the land owner, then do as you please with one caveat - it is still best to be conservative and eco-friendly in what you do. For example - it is good practice in any camp to burn down wood for camp fires as opposed to cut live wood. Same goes for your shelter. That increases the challenge of the "game" of bushcraft, but it is being more responsible with nature.

To wrap things up - be responsible in the wilderness. For information on ways you can be more responsible in the wilderness reference the following webpage and the LNT practices:
https://lnt.org/?gclid=CjwKCAiA6bvwB...RoCHzoQAvD_BwE

Most of all - enjoy being outdoors and when you get the chance to bring someone along and are able to open their world to being outdoors also - do it. Just keep in mind your "outdoors" is everyone's "outdoors", that is unless you are on private property... Keep it clean.
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Old 01-03-20, 06:16 PM
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One other comment -

On a lot of the TV shows you see pertaining to wilderness, survival, and the like - you do see people making bushcraft style camps.

Take the trappers in northern Canada or Alaska for example. This level of wilderness, trapping, and their methods of camps, shelters, hunting cabins, what have you are a "way of life".

Consider the expanse of land that these people live in vs the population density. You don't find that in the lower 48 except for around the Rocky Mountains (thinking Idaho, Montana, Wyoming here). No where in the Appalachian Mountain region compares geographically.

The "ways of life" that lend themselves to doing things in the old-school bushcraft ways have largely disappeared in the lower 48 except for those pockets around the Rockies etc. If you are in Alaska or northern Canada it is a different story, however there are also very different regulations for land usage depending on the area.

For example - if you get to certain parts of Canada and want to go fishing a fishing license does not legalize you to fish. You need to have a fishing license AND be accompanied by a native guide. If you are caught fishing without a guide you are fined quite heavily - including confiscation of vehicles (boats, motors, trucks, trailers).

Being a local/resident in certain areas of the world makes a huge difference in how land usage laws/regulations pertain to individuals - or not.

There used to be a regulation of the sort in Alaska where you were allowed to build a cabin on federal land. By building a cabin you were granted residence of some form. That cabin could be passed down to your kids and grand kids. Your family had rights to that. However, that went by the wayside. The regulations stopped allowing for that "passing on" of property/cabins and those outposts that have existed are being taken back over by federal land regulations.

My point is - there is a lot to consider by state, country, etc as for proper land usage regulations. As one of my points was in my previous post, though - it isn't good outdoorsmenship to "build shelters" in today's day in age.
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Old 01-09-20, 07:03 AM
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I kinda think that if you need this kind of advice then you should be camping far far away from others.
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Old 01-09-20, 07:32 AM
  #20  
Wildwood
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Too many campers are exercising their 2nd amendment rights.
Avoid contact.
Remain safe.
You are in the USA - the most gun violent Nation on Earth.

And for building shelters on public land - that's not permitted. As a Wilderness Ranger for the Forest Service, I spent many hours disassembling and scattering improvised wooden shelters. Rules in National Parks are even tighter, and every Ranger is a police person.

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Old 01-09-20, 07:59 AM
  #21  
Unca_Sam
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Originally Posted by Wildwood View Post
Too many campers are exercising their 2nd amendment rights.
Avoid contact.
Remain safe.
You are in the USA - the most gun violent Nation on Earth.

And for building shelters on public land - that's not permitted. As a Wilderness Ranger for the Forest Service, I spent many hours disassembling and scattering improvised wooden shelters. Rules in National Parks are even tighter, and every Ranger is a police person.
There shall be no "Ewok villages" on Wildwood 's watch!
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Old 01-09-20, 09:13 AM
  #22  
Wildwood
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Originally Posted by Unca_Sam View Post
There shall be no "Ewok villages" on Wildwood 's watch!
Disassembling makeshift shelters wasn't a big deal really, and only a summertime, 1st retirement activity. The harder part was hauling all those nasty, shredded tarps for miles, out to the trailheads.
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Old 01-10-20, 05:12 AM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by Aznman View Post
Not really related to cycling, but I figured that tourers should be one of the most familiar with hiking and camping.
I've never really camped except in the pre-built location several years ago by the name of Camp Curry, Yosemite, CA.

I have some scenarios that I am curious about. These scenarios may never happen within a lifetime, but I just like to prepare.

1. Say that you have found your perfect spot that is already far from any trails. However, there is already a group of people camping in the area. They are not hostile and do communicate with you but don't seem to completely appreciate the stranger (you). Assuming that you still want/need to camp in the area, what is the minimum advisable distance that your camp must be from their immediate camp?
Because I don't like staying too close to people when I'm travelling if possible, it would be my choice to move far enough away that I can't hear them.



Originally Posted by Aznman View Post
2. Say that you are a light packer and are proficient at building comfortable shelters out of dead woods and other natural material. You've built one shelter on a spot that you really love returning to. You've returned several months later and it looks like a person has camped in and added to the structural remains of your dead-wood shelter. Given that you have no problem building another shelter far from the site, would you approach the person for a friendly, small talk about ownership? Assuming that the person is not hostile but believed that he now owned the shelter, the current camper/squatter is now legally considered to be the owner, correct? Keep in mind that your shelter was not in use for several months and you've not left any personal items in the camp, only the dead-wood structures.

For both of the scenarios, assume that you have already clearly detected that the other campers are not criminals operating in meth labs (or participating in any other nefarious activities).
Ownership? Neither of you own the shelter!
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Old 01-10-20, 09:52 AM
  #24  
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This is a really odd thread, but its been entertaining. The questions are just so out there and only someone who is seriously socially inept would need guidance as an adult. But they are hypothetical so my insult isnt actually directed at anyone. I do enjoy hypotheticals!

I wanted to comment on the 'leave no trace' points that are continually made thru the thread. I get it and agree with the desire to have a low impact to help ensure the beauty is retained and that man limits the damage he does to the area. Totally get it and totally accept it. Collecting 30 branches and stacking them up though...it isnt something that I could bring myself to condemn another person for doing. In most cases, that isnt going to negatively impact an environment. Dead branches are already fallen and they will continue to decompose whether spread over a 400sqft area or balanced vertically. Will knocking down the shelter so the branches are back on the ground actually do anything more than just keep the random next person passing by from knowing someone stacked some sticks in the distance?
We, like wildlife, use what is around us and destroy it. We do have the ability to destroy in greater amount and faster rate though, I completely recognize that. Is hanging a hammock from 2 trees worse than deer tearing off the bark of every young tree within a mile of them? Is stacking 30 branches vertically worse than beavers creating dams that affect the habitats of dozens of animals for miles?

Anyways- I get the idea and follow it, but like many things in life I often question the effectiveness and necessity of some parts of the rule. I follow the rule in part because I see that it is beneficial in some instances and in part because it isnt worth possibly irritating an evangelist. Social peer pressure is a powerful tool to shame people into certain behaviors, even if those behaviors dont always make total sense when applied to the goal of the initiative.
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Old 01-10-20, 09:54 AM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by Wildwood View Post
Too many campers are exercising their 2nd amendment rights.
Avoid contact.
Remain safe.
You are in the USA - the most gun violent Nation on Earth.
You make it sound like camping is inherently dangerous in the US.
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