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Leaving your gear at camp - theft concerns
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Kathleen B

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Leaving your gear at camp - chocoholic concerns on 09/30/2009 13:23:52 MDT Print View

I worry about theft, too, and take everything with me on the day trip except the tent, bag, and insulation (now a pricey Neoair). I also usually leave the Ursack foodbag tied up a few hundred feet away from the campsite.

First problem I ever had was a few months ago on the PCT north of Stevens Pass - someone had untied the Ursack, gone through it, took only the chocolate pudding, and then did a really lousy job tying the Ursack back to the base of the tree. In this particular case, we had taken down the campsite and had actually forgotten the Ursack (long story) and came back for it the next morning. The plentiful huckleberries kept us alive. I was more upset about the lousy re-tying job than the theft.

Moral of the story - your down bag is probably safe, but by golly, hang onto your chocolate!

Lori P
(lori999) - F

Locale: Central Valley
re: safety of leaving camp on 09/30/2009 13:40:19 MDT Print View

I don't tend to worry unless I'm staying in a high traffic area where there is potential of dayhikers who are not "hikers", ie tourists. Hikers are generally good folks who recognize they are endangering a backpacker's life by walking off with gear; people who drive up to Yosemite to sightsee aren't necessarily in the same category, and I've heard of tents being taken from the campground in Little Yosemite Valley (this is the most impacted camping other than car campgrounds, being on the way to Half Dome, the mist trail being the most hiked trail in the park). I am proportionally less concerned the further I get into the backcountry.

In the park, I have broken down the hammock and quilts and stashed them in a friend's tent, simply because of the attention an unusual shelter draws - don't want someone to notice the underquilt is down and easily fits into a daypack.

In car campgrounds in national parks, I'll put the hammock/tarp in the car, not because of theft but because rangers tend to get up in arms due to me hanging it "not in an approved tent site." Doesn't matter that I thoughtfully left the flat spot for my friends with the tent, or that I'm tied off to boulders and trees and not impacting the ground in any way.

Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Leaving your gear at camp - chocoholic concerns on 09/30/2009 13:57:32 MDT Print View

Kathleen- you might be mistaken- someone might have thought you were leaving a food cache for anyone passing by. They were being nice by leaving everything else for the next hikers coming by?
Just a thought.

Kathleen B

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Leaving your gear at camp - theft concerns on 09/30/2009 14:58:41 MDT Print View

It was obviously not a trail angel supply spot. I had the bag well-hidden and way away from the trail.

A reasonable reaction might have been it was an abandoned or forgotten food bag (rightfully so!), and they just went through it, took what they wanted, and didn't want to bother packing out the whole bag. I was rather insulted they bypassed the Mongolian Beef dinner I had made from a recipe posted here on BPL.

But, gosh darn it, they could have tied the Ursack back up instead of leaving the tie just draped around the tree! The bear would have made a big mess of it if he'd gotten there before we did.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: Leaving your gear at camp - theft concerns on 09/30/2009 15:20:58 MDT Print View

A thought about leaving your tent unattended if you are in bear country...

On a recent trip, a black bear checked out my tent while I was inside it quietly lying down on my back. I saw the bear's silhouette on the vestibule of my tarptent. The bear ran away when I made noise turning around.

I reported this a few days later at the Great Smoky Mountains N.P. Backcountry Office. A ranger said a bear had trashed two tents at the same campsite recently.

Roleigh Martin
(marti124) - MLife

Locale: Moderator-JohnMuirTrail Yahoo Group
Are packs save at Whitney Summit Junction? on 09/30/2009 16:43:38 MDT Print View

Jack, I saw your comment about trail camp at near 12k below Whitney, what about packs that are left at The mt Whitney Summit Junction? Ever hear of theft of items at that junction?


sheila o
(bumpass) - F

Locale: The Far Left Coast? : /
Re: Are packs save at Whitney Summit Junction? on 09/30/2009 17:26:27 MDT Print View

Its the Main Trail side that has all the tourist traffic. The back side (Guitar Lake side near the junction) tends to have the thru hikers. Here you can take your summit bag and safely leave your pack. Clear food out of pockets so vermins don't chew through.
Also check the whitney portal site for latest info.

Regarding car safety: Open interior compartments for viewing. If nothing looks of potential value, less theft?

Bob Bankhead
(wandering_bob) - MLife

Locale: Oregon, USA
Leaving your gear at camp - theft concerns on 09/30/2009 17:30:42 MDT Print View

Marmots have been known to chew into your pack at the Mt Whitney / JMT trail junction unless you leave it open.

This is a common spot for hikers to leave their packs. I've not heard of theft issues here, but anything's possible. How many bad guys do you think are willing to walk up those @#$%! switchbacks, over Trail Crest, and down to the Whitney/JMT junction just to rob packs? I was more worried about leaving my gear back at Guitar Lake for my up and back to Whitney, but no one bothered it even there.

Also, the pack drop location is around a blind cornor on the trail from Trail Crest and directly opposite the JMT junction. A thief could never know when someone was going to walk up behind him. Try to watch three different directions at once while rifling through someone else's pack; not really conducive to theft.

Edited by wandering_bob on 09/30/2009 21:46:01 MDT.

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: Are packs save at Whitney Summit Junction? on 09/30/2009 17:34:09 MDT Print View

Are you referring to Trail Crest? As in on the ridge? Or is Whitney Summit Junction down by the meadow below Guitar Lake? Either case... I'd leave my stuff. Heck, I'd leave my stuff almost anywhere as the alternative, carrying useless stuff uphill, is something I try to avoid.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: On car prowls on 09/30/2009 17:52:19 MDT Print View

In Washington and Oregon a real issue of car break ins isn't for what most would think - they are from witness accounts done often by organized groups looking for:
cell phones
credit cards
and last of all, your car registration so they have your address.
Extra points if you leave your house keys in the car.

Please, please - be UL and all, but DO NOT leave your ID behind!!!!

Todd Forbes
(TF) - F
Leaving you glove box open on 10/01/2009 12:23:55 MDT Print View

I have also heard that leaving you console & glove box open to show there is nothing worth breaking in for works, some even leave their car open.

Another suggestion was to leave a few empty beer cans & shotgun shells on the front seat in plain view!

Michael Crosby
(djjmikie) - MLife

Locale: Ky
Re: "Leaving your gear at camp - theft concerns" on 10/01/2009 12:41:27 MDT Print View

"Another suggestion was to leave a few empty beer cans & shotgun shells on the front seat in plain view!"

I like it.

Art Sandt
(artsandt) - F
gear in camp on 10/01/2009 13:57:30 MDT Print View

My experience has been like most here. I've left my camp set up near areas where I know other people saw it and never had anything stolen. The average thief just doesn't want to work so hard to get your down sleeping bag or tent that may not be so easy to re-sell (unless they know about the Gear Swap here), and the average backpacker (or day hiker or horse packer) who would be willing to steal your stuff (if there is such a thing) would likely only look for small valuable things like cash and credit cards. Just keep that stuff with you at all times (or hide it really well) and you probably won't have problems.

On the other hand, know your vicinity. If there's a rural town within a few miles, ATV trails that pass nearby, and the probability that unscrupulous recreationalists might discover your camp and take it as an excuse for drunk target practice, then don't leave your campsite unattended.

Kathleen, my own reaction to seeing a bag hung up in the tree with no campsite around would be that it'd either been cached or forgotten or both. It'd be hard to imagine a backpacker actually forgetting their food bag, though! Although it's really only my own laziness (and trying to find an excuse not to carry out somebody else's trash), I'd leave it as I found it.

Edited by artsandt on 10/01/2009 14:04:50 MDT.

Justin McMinn
(akajut) - F

Locale: Central Oklahoma
Re: "Leaving your gear at camp - theft concerns" on 10/01/2009 14:35:55 MDT Print View

The places I bp don't see near the traffic that many of the national parks and California areas see so I am never concerned about tourists. The only people I have been concerned with are local fishermen who hike up to a lake to fish for the day and are looking for a bonus. Particularly if they are young without adults. There is one trailhead in the Pecos Wilderness that is well known for people coming back to cars that have been robbed and vandalized. A friend of a friend had to have his brother drive many miles to pick him up because the car was undrivable. I usually have my fingers crossed the last quarter mile on the way back.

Diplomatic Mike

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
Re : Leaving your gear at camp - theft concerns on 10/01/2009 14:50:18 MDT Print View

I've only ever had one incident. I carried in 6 heavy cans of beer to a weekend camp. I was pitched about 4 hours in from my car, by a nice little stream. It was a very hot day, and i put them in the stream to cool, weighted down by a rock.
I had a hard 10 hour hike the next day, and i could see my tent in the distance, coming down from the last peak of my walk. My tent was in view for the last couple of hours, and i was dreaming of that first can of cold beer when i reached my tent. I could almost taste it, and could feel it flowing down my dry throat.
Needless to say, some a******e had spotted my stash, and they were gone. :(
Nothing else was touched.

Kathleen B

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Leaving your gear at camp - theft concerns on 10/01/2009 15:08:05 MDT Print View

I'm going to have to 'fess up sometime or other. Normally, it's not hard to remember the food bag, which I tie at the base of a tree. One of the beauties of the Ursack is I don't have to entertain the locals with my ridiculous attempts to bag a tall tree limb. We get up, we eat, we pack up, including the Ursack. Easy.

But in this particular case, we had eaten breakfast, and instead of breaking camp, attempted to summit a nearby peak. This particular bag was about 100' away from the tent site, out of sight, and apparently out of mind.
The route didn't go, so we came back, broke camp, and left to try another peak. Umm, without the foodbag, as it happens. What can I say? I'm 62 and forgetful? Thank goodness for the huckleberries.

By the way, good idea about not leaving the register in the car. I hadn't thought of my home address on it pointing the way to easy pickings.

Elliott Wolin
(ewolin) - MLife

Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
Re: Leaving your chocolate at camp - theft concerns on 10/01/2009 15:26:12 MDT Print View

No sympathy for those who leave chocolate back in camp...if I saw or smelled some after a few days in the woods my auxiliary chocoholic nervous system would take control and I'd be powerless to stop myself from gorging on it. Think hungry bear seeing honey after a long hibernation. ;-)

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Leaving your gear at camp - theft concerns on 10/01/2009 15:50:57 MDT Print View

Good post, Sarah! In the Portland area--especially the Columbia River Gorge--just about everything has been stolen from cars. You may remember that a couple of years ago, a hiker from Seattle had all his overnight gear stolen while parked at the Eagle Creek trailhead for a dayhike. A lot of tourists park in the Gorge for short dayhikes leaving all their luggage in the car, so it's a fertile field for car clouters.

I always take my car registration and any other clue to my identity. I've been known to leave my cellphone hidden in the car, though. It does have a locking feature which would give a thief a bit of difficulty calling anything except 911. With enough persistence I suppose he'd eventually work out the password to unlock it. It's an old phone, though, that basically just makes phone calls.

One problem with many newer cars is the electronic chip system hidden inside the car key as part of the security system. It makes the key a lot heavier, and you certainly can't drill holes into it!

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Leaving your gear at camp - theft concerns on 10/01/2009 15:51:57 MDT Print View


One friend of mine had his car broken into and they took his car insurance card, registration and his spare house keys. His wife and son were home during that time. Fortunately nothing came of it, but talk about scary! The car was most likely broken into in the early hours and he came out within a couple hours after - had it been multi days out, who knows....
Still he fared better than our other friend on that trip, whose nearly new car was ripped up - they cut the fuel line and other things, liquids everywhere and fully undriveable. It was just mean spited vandalism.

Justin McMinn
(akajut) - F

Locale: Central Oklahoma
Re: Trailhead Break-ins on 10/01/2009 16:05:41 MDT Print View

Almost makes you want to get a motion sensing hunting cameras to monitor the car.