Ok, this is a bit of a silly question, but I think it's worth the possibility of getting laughed at to have an answer.
I haven't been able to find any sort of information about the expected noises I might hear in the middle of the woods at night while solo camping in my tent.
Ie, the difference between me being able to say, "Oh, that's just the wind," and me curling up in the fetal position positive that a mountain lion is about to rip through my tent and break my neck. (Though I doubt I'd actually *hear* the mountain lion...)
Is it common for small nocturnal animals to make a lot of noise, for instance?
Haven't actually done any camping in the woods yet, so I'm just trying to cover all my bases to make sure I don't chicken out and run back to my car. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
You don't say where you're from, so that limits what we might tell you.
You may hear owls. You might hear coyotes, even in the east (exciting sound!). You may swear you hear footsteps close by even if there's nothing there. Or you may just fall asleep listening to the music of chirping crickets.
In the west, at least the Rockies or Cascades, in the fall you'll hear bull elk bugling. This noise ranges from a grunt to a loud squeal. One time a bull elk started bugling really close, in the meadow between my camp site and the lake. This was really exciting, until about the 5th or 6th time that he woke me out of a sound sleep. About that time I started contemplating elk stew!
If you're near a swift-running stream, you may swear you heard human voices. There's something about running water that does this to the human imagination.
If you hear a roaring, there are no waterfalls nearby and you're not at an ocean beach, it's probably the wind in the trees. If your tent is properly staked down and you haven't camped under dead trees or big dead branches (look up when selecting your tent site), just go back to sleep.
If you're visited by a mountain lion or bear, you probably won't hear a thing. If you find tracks in the morning, consider yourself privileged! The possibility of a cougar's attacking you in your tent is pretty much nonexistent. If it should ever happen (also unlikely) it will be out on the trail, especially if you're biking or running (fast-moving = prey to a predator). With a bear, you won't hear him walking but he might snuffle a bit. Hopefully you will have properly secured your food, high in a tree or in a bear-proof container away from camp, and definitely not in your tent! Last time I had a bear in camp, the only way I knew was because my dog was growling with all his hair standing on end. If you do hear a 4-footed animal, it's most likely a deer. Generally, predators have soft padded feet; prey have hard hooves. So you won't hear the predators, just their potential dinner. In lots of places, deer will congregate where people have urinated, looking for salt. It's therefore a good idea to perform that function well away from your tent, on bare ground or rocks so they won't tear up the vegetation.
If you're in an area where there are skunks, (1) hang your food and (2) don't go out of the tent at night without a light. You won't hear them, but you don't want to trip over one in the dark!
I'm usually awake a lot the first night out because I'm excited about the night sounds. After that, I sleep just fine. I did two back-to-back one week trips last month, and it was several days afterwards before I could sleep in a bedroom--I missed the fresh air and soothing natural night noises!
The only time I remember being worried about animals stepping on me was on Isle Royale. Every morning at about dawn, the moose began moving. They make a lot of noise and they think nothing about walking through a campsite with tents. And there were a lot of them. Very disconcerting to hear such heavy hoof beats a few feet from your head.
By the third morning, I was accustomed to it. By the end of the week, it was welcome and kind of reassuring.
Not having camped back east, I don't know exactly what you might hear, but out here I've heard:
1) deer footsteps - pretty loud and solid, depending on what the ground is like of course
2) wind blowing leaves and stuff - sounds like something creeping along if your imagination is overactive
3) rodents moving through leaves - see above
4) owls hooting
5) birds/rodents chirping or squeaking
A friend heard a mountain lion screaming repeatedly near her camp; it eventually unnerved her enough that she packed up and rode back home on her bike (she'd ridden out to camp for the night at Point Reyes). That's probably pretty rare.
I recommend getting some good (comfortable) earplugs. That way you can ignore all those things that make your imagination work overtime. Works for me!
Loc: Fredericksburg, VA
Earplugs! I always bring them. Though I usually put them in around false dawn when critters start getting animated. Sometimes though I just can't nod off without them, not so much out of anxiety over the noises, but just because they are so LOUD.
Northeast Penn, huh, not that far from me!
Enjoy your trip! Keep me in mind if you want get together on the trail.
Why am I online instead of hiking?
You will hear EVERYTHING! <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" /> <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" /> Even things that aren't there. You've got two strikes against you....1. never been camping in the woods and 2. going solo your first time out. But not to worry......
There is a bit of a 'confidence' curve you'll have to get past at first. Your senses will be 'full tilt boogie' the first night out. Things sound much closer at night. Silly things like car headlights or flashlights a mile away will light up the tent wall, making you think your camp is being invaded. A bright moon rising will do this too. After about night three, you'll settle in and care less after you learn more, and become comfortable with your surroundings. When I take folks camping for the first time, especially kids/teenagers, we usually lay out under the stars, no tent or tarp, on a ground cover. That way there is not much mystery about "whats on the other side of the tent wall?" Plus, they really enjoy the night sky. I've not slept in a tent in over ten years, and prefer hammocks...you can see! <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smirk.gif" alt="" /> You might consider a night in the backyard, under the stars, it's nice...and will do wonders for your first night in the woods. You'll hear things like bucks snort, raccoons sneaking around, night birds, lots of things. Here in Texas we have armadillos that root around all night long. Try and enjoy the night music, instead of worrying about what might 'getcha'. Seriously, there is very little out there you can actually consider a threat. Your own fear is probably your biggest enemy. So....lay awake, be very still, and listen. You'll probably be asleep in 20 minutes. I think you'll do great and we all are expecting a trip report!! <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />
abp you need a pair of peril sensitive sunglasses like Ford Prefect. When yer in real peril, they turn completely black so you can't see it. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" /> Jim <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/cool.gif" alt="" /> like these <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/cool.gif" alt="" />
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.
Loc: Portland, OR
The other replies have mostly covered it, but I will mention a few of the other animals, besides deer, you might hear poking around at night, just so you can see how harmless they are:
- opossums - porcupines - raccoons - mice
Hearing these animals waddling around in dry leaves in the dark can trigger a quick adreneline rush that, even after you know it's 'nothing to worry about' could leave you as wide awake and fretful as if you'd been chugging espresso drinks with supper.
Over the long term, the antidote is familiarity. You learn the sounds. Now when I hear a deer in my campsite (hooves make a distinctive sound) I just tell it in an irritated voice that I'm trying to sleep and to please go away. Then I turn over and go back to sleep. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />
At one point in my spike camp in the fall I had a pair of barred owls (yes, wrong time of year, they were dumb because of the length of day) braying away all night. If you don't know what a barred owl sounds like, imagine a loud donkey with the hiccups that can talk screaming "who cooks for you.. who cooks for you alllllll" all night. By 2 am, I got up, hollered, threw sticks. nothing helped. They were determined to sit in the poplars and serenade...
You'll hear things running around. nothing will bother you. Most likely, you'll hear mice and rodents in the leaf litter. You have to just trail your rational brain to overcome the fear of it. I've gotten to where it doesn't bother me, up to the point where the mice are running over my face while sleeping under a tarp (don't like that). or my favorite, was deciding the skritchy noises were too close and looking out of my hammock to see a porcupine rummaging around under it looking for salt (sniffing and licking my trekking poles). Fortunately my boots were hanging on my hammock strap so he didn't chew 'em up
I've heard and seen moose walk through my camp. deer many times. nothing that walks around at night will bother you, unless you go about slathering yourself in dead fish before you go to bed or something.
"unless you go about slathering yourself in dead fish before you go to bed or something."
Does this fall under the category of "lessons I learned the hard way"? Possibly using the first line of most of the college stories my son-in-law tells: "This one time, when I was drinking..."? <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />
I will say, the scariest thing I ever heard in the woods, which also happens to be about the least dangerous thing out there, is a screech owl. Seriously... first time I heard one of those I nearly jumped out of my sleeping bag. Was terrifying.
Still, once I figured out what it was, not scary, just loud.
Oh boy... try raccoons squabbling through your camp in the pitch black.
There was an overnighter in Sequoia NP I did when something with heavy footsteps went by, then there were crashing noises that sounded like rocks being overturned, then something wood being torn into... the bear didn't bother my canister or me but it was sure having fun with downed trees. That was the trip I got up the next morning and discovered bear scratches on the tree next to the tree I tied my hammock to.
The most annoying and consistently bothersome noise was a guy in the tent near where I camped in a Yosemite backpacker's campground - he had somehow not brought a sleeping bag, and was using a space blanket. Every hour or so there was about ten minutes of rustling as he tried to get comfy. (We won't talk about the other noises he made. Darn Mountain House!)
No laughter here. Listening to a bear ripping up stuff is darn scary, as is listening to any footfall or rustle you haven't heard before. I talk to the critters - they go away. Heck, I was talking to the full moon one night, thinking it was a backpacker wandering up the ridge with a Maglite, it was so bright!
Don't be too startled about falling branches or pine cones if you are in forested areas. That freaked me out for a good while and started me looking up before I pitch camp. As long as you are under young green trees nothing too heavy will fall on your tarp/tent.
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki
No. closest I got was automatic transmission fluid after wrapping the tranny cooler lines of my truck around the driveshaft on the bottom side of a through to-another vehicle hike. So before starting out I had basically taken a bath/shower in tranny fluid. I ducked my head in puddles with a little campsuds but I still left a sheen everywhere...
And in case you're wondering why I say that's close - I've seen black bears in the old hinton garbage dump take half full cans of motor oil and just drink them - like a beer.
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