ADVENTURE, COMPLETE ULTRALIGHT BACKPACKING GUIDE FOR BEGINNERS

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Campsite selection:

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).
Good campsite selection: A solid internal frame tent will not make up for bad campsite selection. We watched this tent pitched in the open have its poles snapped and be crushed by a strong wind gust in Patagonia. It was only a few, but critical 100 feet from our more protected campsite tucked in at the base of a ridge. Our one-pound pyramid shelter remained solid and relatively quiet overnight, while many 4-6 pound tents in more exposed locations, flapped like crazy, pulled stakes and occasionally failed.
Good campsite selection: A solid internal frame tent will not make up for bad campsite selection. We watched this tent pitched in the open have its poles snapped and be crushed by a strong wind gust in Patagonia. It was only a few, but critical 100 feet from our more protected campsite tucked in at the base of a ridge. Our one-pound pyramid shelter remained solid and relatively quiet overnight, while many 4-6 pound tents in more exposed locations, flapped like crazy, pulled stakes and occasionally failed.
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