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Leaving your gear at camp - theft concerns
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Greg Foster
(thefost) - MLife
Leaving your gear at camp - theft concerns on 09/29/2009 20:11:21 MDT Print View

I know theft is a common problem at trailheads, but what about out on popular backpacking trails?

I'll be doing a short overnight trip this weekend. Leaving my gear at my campsite halfway up the mountian and heading for the peak with the bare essentials seems pretty tempting. I'm fairly new to this backpacking thing, and now that I have a bunch of unnecessarily expensive gear (darn you BPL =) I'm really hesitant to leave gear behind like I used to do with my cheap car camping junk.

Do you guys leave your gear behind while you climb peaks? Do you think there is any reason to be concerned?

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Leaving your gear at camp - theft concerns on 09/29/2009 21:24:48 MDT Print View

I admit we usually cache the stuff a short distance away.


Jeff Antig

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Leaving your gear at camp - theft concerns on 09/29/2009 21:33:30 MDT Print View

Where are you hiking? I'll be there.

Jason Klass
(jasonklass) - F

Locale: Parker, CO
Re: Leaving your gear at camp - theft concerns on 09/29/2009 21:36:20 MDT Print View

You pose a GREAT question that I've thought about a lot. The conclusion I've come to is that most backpackers are cool and you don't have to worry too much about it. I feel safer leaving my campsite "unlocked" in the woods than my car in the Target parking lot. But, on the off chance, what I do is to make sure that when I do a dayhike from base camp, I always bring the essentials: wallet, car key, etc. I can buy another tent or sleeping bag but I would be SOL if someone took my wallet and keys. Those are my main concerns. I'm curious to hear other people's concerns/strategies.

Chris Wilson
(kinkbmxco) - F
Theft Concerns on 09/29/2009 22:01:08 MDT Print View

I share your same concerns, and have asked the question to fellow backpackers myself. The general consensus seems to be, your gear will be fine, but of course there is the still the unlikely chance someone could take your stuff.
I set up a base camp and did some day hikes for the first time a couple weeks ago. My brand new WM ultra lite was on my mind the whole time, I considered taking the extra weight just to keep my mind at ease but in the end decided to leave it.
From my experience, when I am out on the trail most of the people I run into are polite and kind and don't seem like the type of people to rob a vacant tent.

Sean Walashek
(caraz) - F

Locale: bay area
outdoor people aren't terrible on 09/29/2009 23:20:04 MDT Print View

I think of theft more in leaving a rack at a climb than a bag at a campsite. The camper people have to know that taking your gear would potentially be very dangerous if, say, you were to be caught out without it. I feel though in some areas theft would be a greater concern, places close to the border or when camping in the southwest in reservation lands are where I imagine my belongings being the least safe.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Leaving your gear at camp - theft concerns on 09/29/2009 23:39:57 MDT Print View

I leave my stuff, and have never given it a second thought. The best people you can usually meet are on trails. Of course, I don't lock my house either.

hunter nelson
(hunt4car) - F
i hide it on 09/30/2009 00:12:47 MDT Print View

i have a camo bivy and in no time i can put my stuff im not bringing in it and hide it all in a good bush.

i usualy do this, in a realy crowded camp we left our stuff all day when we climbed half dome and nothing happened to it.

Denis Hazlewood
(redleader) - MLife

Locale: Luxury-Light Luke on the Llano Azul
Re: Leaving your gear at camp - theft concerns on 09/30/2009 01:12:31 MDT Print View

I've been leaving my camp for day hikes for more than forty years and have never had anything disturbed. I always clean up my camp and put everything except my "kitchen" in my tent, with the fly zipped.

My car was burgled once, at Bayside Campground (Lake Tahoe) in 1989. Oh, and a Golden Manteled Ground Squirrel chewed his way into my Evolution 2P, at Lake Aloha, three weeks ago.

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: Leaving your gear at camp - theft concerns on 09/30/2009 01:36:18 MDT Print View

I leave my stuff in my shelter and I've never had anything stolen. And I do it without worrying 90% of the time. Mainly because most of my camps are a little farther afield and what other hikers are around are also experienced and "cool". But I've heard of people having things stolen, the one location that I can remember being Trail Camp which is the crowded high camp on Mount Whitney. I'm a little worried at sites like that where a wider spectrum of humanity visits.

Steve Robinson
(Jeannie) - F
gear theft on 09/30/2009 08:25:40 MDT Print View

The only thing we've had taken was a water filter that we left adjacent to the creek running along our camp rather than stowing it in our campsite. Usually we zip everything up in the tent and haven't had any problems otherwise. Do feel better when we've gone in a ways before setting up camp and leaving stuff.

Thomas Tait
(Islandlite) - F

Locale: Colorado
Leaving your gear at camp - theft concerns on 09/30/2009 08:36:12 MDT Print View

My experience (~ 30 years)

Trailhead car break in - 2
Gear stolen at climbing area - 1
Backcountry camp - 0
Car camp - 0

Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
depennds upon the camp location on 09/30/2009 08:48:53 MDT Print View

I would probably worry if my base-camp was in a high-use area full of tourists (as opposed to backpackers- if you catch my drift). I've rarely met a backpacker with whom I didn't feel a certain camaraderie and wouldn't trust. Your average tourist, on the other hand...

In a high-use area I guess I would pack it all up and cache it if I didn't want to carry it, but truth is I don't generally do base-camp style camping. If I'm in one of my more typically remote areas then anyone who comes along is highly likely to be just as fanatical as I am, and I wouldn't worry.

Edited by acrosome on 09/30/2009 08:52:27 MDT.

Richard Lyon
(richardglyon) - MLife

Locale: Bridger Mountains
Theft issues on 09/30/2009 09:43:28 MDT Print View

It's never happened in 35+ years, and I'm a frequent base camp backpacker. I have worried about it when in high-use areas. If terrain and regulations permit it, I try to set camp as far off the trail as I can. I heard that Yellowstone Park had a rash of burglaries this past summer. There you are required to camp in established sites so a thief knows just where to go. It's true that nearly all backpackers are trustworthy (especially toward their own breed) but it only takes one rogue.

Elliott Wolin
(ewolin) - MLife

Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
RE: Leaving your gear at camp - theft concerns on 09/30/2009 11:06:13 MDT Print View

Many years ago two friends of mine left a backcountry camp (in an isolated area of Washington state) to climb a peak, and upon return found everything of value missing: tent, sleeping bags, etc. Fortunately they came down relatively early so they were able to walk out. The theives never considered their theft might have put my friends lives in danger.

I've heard of many trailside car breakins, and indeed this is the norm at a number of parking areas in Washington state (or at least it used to be...I moved away many years ago).

Personally, I've never lost anything.

Thomas Burns
(nerdboy52) - MLife

Locale: "Alas, poor Yogi.I knew him well."
Thefts on 09/30/2009 11:19:25 MDT Print View

How interesting it is that most of the trail thefts reported seem to occur at climbing base camps. I've never heard of a theft from a trail campsite in Ohio.

However, we get plenty of trail-side parking-lot break-ins. The smash-window-and-grab approach even has a name: "treasure hunting."

The problem has gotten so acute that rangers at the Shawnee State Forest, the most remote BPing trail in Ohio, now recommend that BPers park at the ranger station and hike the mile or so to the main trailhead.

At least around here, I'd worry more about my car than my camp.


Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
On trail, no problems on 09/30/2009 12:19:31 MDT Print View

Like most others here, I've had no negative experiences with theft while on the trail. Car break-ins are much more of a problem!

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
RE: Leaving your gear at camp - theft concerns on 09/30/2009 12:36:16 MDT Print View

I don't leave behind my keys, cell phone, wallet, camera and other small items of value (such as my prescription meds). Everything else I can replace.

I also don't leave anything of remote value in my vehicles. I carry my insurance card as well as my registration. I am paranoid for good reason due to the high level of car bashing.

Thomas Burns
(nerdboy52) - MLife

Locale: "Alas, poor Yogi.I knew him well."
Car bashing on 09/30/2009 12:56:48 MDT Print View

I've heard of one BPer who leaves his car doors unlocked with the glove box open and literally nothing of value in the car. A sign reads something like: "The door is unlocked. There's nothing in the car. Please feel free to go ahead and check."

At least, nobody's ever smashed his window!


Edited by nerdboy52 on 09/30/2009 12:57:20 MDT.

Erik Graf
(Van-Go) - F
Never on 09/30/2009 12:59:28 MDT Print View

I've been hiking over 20 years and I've never had a thing stolen. I've been on popular routes where a dayhiker could have passed my camp I've broken it down and stashed it - especially if it was a park and I had a permit for the next night. Otherwise, you could lose your site.

As mentioned - most people out there are fine. They don't want to carry their own stuff - let alone yours. I wouldn't leave a GPS, cell phone, wallet, keys, etc. in my tent unatended for that long though.