Newbie: planning where to camp

Posted by: murrayof

Newbie: planning where to camp - 06/26/19 10:36 PM

Hi Backcountry Forum folks,

I'm looking for help understanding what and how to plan regarding where to overnight when backpacking.

I live in Somerville Massachusetts, and I am thinking about trying some backpacking in the White Mountains, NH.

I have a pretty good amount of experience with both camping and hiking.

It seems pretty easy to find guides for how to pack and be prepared. But I am confused about the campsite part. I imagine it depends on where you are. I'm sure there are places out there where you just look for a good spot to make camp. In the White Mountains, would I be expected to reserve a specific site along a route? If so, I haven't cracked the nut of how to plan for that.

Thanks for your help.
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: Newbie: planning where to camp - 06/28/19 02:42 PM

Search engines are your friend! Here's the first item I found on searching "Backpacking White Mountains New Hampshire," in the reputable SectionHiker blog I check regularly even though I live at the opposite end of the country:

backpacking-in-the-white-mountains-a-quick-and-dirty-guide It has links to more detailed info sources. For the specific info you want, page down to "Permits and Regulations" and "Camping and Shelters," although the entire article is well worth reading.

Most trail guides will have camping suggestions for individual trails. The article above recommends guidebooks and maps.

Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: Newbie: planning where to camp - 06/29/19 02:26 PM

In addition to the specifics for the area, as listed above, here is a good general article on selecting a campsite, from Andrew Skurka's excellent blog:
Five-star campsite selection

Unfortunately the rules and the ideal usually don't match, so you do the best you can!
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: Newbie: planning where to camp - 06/30/19 09:49 PM

I was hoping someone else would respond by now. I hope the above sources have led you to the information you need!

If the Whites will be your very first backpacking trip, I have some doubt that rugged mountains featuring the worst weather in the country (although high altitudes in the Rockies, with which I'm very familiar, come really close) is a good place for a first-timer. Maybe a few short trips at lower altitude closer to home, and some practice staying dry in bad weather? If you've already done these preliminary steps, though, enjoy your trip, but be careful out there!
Posted by: BZH

Re: Newbie: planning where to camp - 07/01/19 12:15 PM

OM, I think your first post answered the OP's question.

Mike, Do you have more questions on how to put together an itinerary or how far apart to plan stops? From OM's links what appeals to you more: staying in huts/shelters/designated campsites or wilderness spots?
Posted by: murrayof

Re: Newbie: planning where to camp - 07/05/19 07:19 PM

Thank you responders! (I'm new to the forum and thought that I would get an email when someone responded, and I just came back to the forum to check.)

I'm going to dig into what you provided and see if I come back with more questions. I was envisioning traveling with a tent and using either wilderness spots or designated campsites.

update: The quick and dirty link is really helpful. It looks like you don't have to reserve the backcountry campsites, you just need to be able to find them.
Posted by: murrayof

Re: Newbie: planning where to camp - 09/22/19 03:43 PM

Any suggestions as far as keeping food from bears in the white mountains while backpacking? Canister? Bag? Apparently there are also set locations at sites in the mountains. What do you recommend? Thanks.
Posted by: balzaccom

Re: Newbie: planning where to camp - 09/23/19 12:28 AM

This completely depends on where you are camping--not only because local regulations will apply, but also because bears will have different behaviors and in some cases different species.

In the Sierra Nevada in California, bear canisters are required in all the national parks. Only a few backcountry campsites have bear boxes for use by hikers. And we are dealing with black nears there.

I would imagine that in Glacier it's a different scenario with the Grizzlies there.
Posted by: BZH

Re: Newbie: planning where to camp - 09/23/19 12:16 PM

Here are the regulations for that area:

Either a bear canister or hanging is allowed. Hanging is much lighter, but the only place I've seen the perfect branch to hang food is on the brochure showing you how to do it. Canisters are more foolproof but are heavy (and they seem to get heavier the farther down the trail you get.)

You mentioned some places have bear boxes available. That is a great option, but unless you have a reserved campsite (not very common in the back-country) you may not be able to count on it. If your planned trip has bear boxes at all of your planned stops, I would still bring the ability to hang food in case the bear box is full when you get to a location.

I recently bought a bear bag kit from these guys:

Kind of pricey for something you can easily put together yourself, but it is extremely light and it is a complete kit with everything you need. I am happy with it.

If you decide on a canister, do note that I believe the BearVault is still not allowed in the Adirondacks due to a bear (now deceased) figuring out how to break into them and then teaching her children ( frown ).

I know I am not giving you straight answers to your questions, but like lots of things in life... it depends. Give us more details perhaps we can give you a more refined solution. How many days with how many people will you be out?
Posted by: murrayof

Re: Newbie: planning where to camp - 09/23/19 08:29 PM

Thank you. This was helpful. I was just going to try one night for a first time. It might be solo, or a friend may join me. I have quite a bit of experience hiking, and quite a bit of experience camping. I just haven't combined the two into backpacking as of yet.

Actually, I think I did a backpacking trip as a boy scout a long, long time ago. -But not since then.
Posted by: BZH

Re: Newbie: planning where to camp - 09/24/19 05:58 PM

If you live close by a ranger station, I would go and rent (for free) a canister from them to check it out. Learning to pack a bear canister is an art form. That packing efficiency is a good lesson to learn. People pack 7 days worth in the standard 10L bear canister. See if you can fit all of your overnight food into 1/7th the canister!

From a quick scan of the links above, its not clear to me where exactly the bear boxes are located. If you have picked out a trailhead with a campsite with a bear box 5-10 miles from the parking lot, then I would recommend planning to use that and be prepared to hang food if needed. Otherwise try out a bear canister from the rangers. They will probably give you a Garcia canister. If you like this hobby I wouldn't buy one of those. There are better lighter options IMO. Rangers give out Garcia's because they are heavy duty.

Even if you bring a bear canister maybe give hanging a try to see how you like it.
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: Newbie: planning where to camp - 09/24/19 08:46 PM

Of course you never know when a "smarter than the average bear" will learn to overcome a canister, which will put it on the no-no list for that area. There's a reason these containers are called "bear resistant" and not "bear-proof."