While those Backpacker Magazine and calendar photos of tents at beautiful campsites on the bare shore of a stunning alpine lake, or high on some slickrock outcrop in Utah look tempting… they are horrible places to be in stormy weather—even in a tent. You will be unnecessarily at risk when your shelter is exposed, unprotected to the full force of winds and precipitation of a storm. So pitch your shelter (tent, tarp, or pyramid) in a protected area, a few hundred feet above the lowest area, preferably in trees while backpacking ultralight. Trees do a number of lovely things for you:
- Discreetly camping out of sight in the trees, is a favor to others sharing the area with you—rather than advertising your presence to everybody for miles around.
- Trees provide wonderful anchors for tarps, shelter tie-outs, and hammocks.
- They block the wind, which keeps you a lot warmer (reduces convective heat loss). It also lowers wind load and stresses on your shelter and tent stakes.
- Trees prevent radiant heat loss. They reflect the day’s heat back to the ground at night in the same way that a cloudy sky makes it warmer overnight.
- Camping in the trees is also less prone to the heavy dew and condensation of exposed campsites.The worst place for dew is in a treeless meadow at the bottom of a canyon. The best place to be is in the woods on a flat area a few hundred feet above the canyon bottom (or surrounding lower area).