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site selection
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Joseph Scalia
(jscalia) - F

Locale: NorthEast
site selection on 11/25/2009 10:23:57 MST Print View

I have favored hammock shelters for several years now simply because of the difficulty in finding adequately flat sites to put my tarp/bivy. Even the slightest incline will cause me to fight gravity all night. How do you manage to find adequate flat sites?

Nate Davis
(Knaight) - F

Locale: Western Massachusetts
Inclines on 11/26/2009 05:53:15 MST Print View

I'll probably never go the hammock route because I tend to sleep in the same shelter as my wife and dog, and I like it that way.

I did take the advice of painting some stripes of thinned-out seam sealer on my Tarptent floor, and it's definitely helped prevent my sleeping pad from sliding around on those slight inclines.

I still look for the flattest spot available of course, but if there is none, then I'm generally able to make do. It's usually not too hard to find something adequate.

Mina Loomis
(elmvine) - MLife

Locale: Central Texas
slight inclines on 11/26/2009 11:58:03 MST Print View

If the best spot we find is still slightly inclined, first I make sure my husband is positioned below me because he is an active, and sound, sleeper and won't awake to fix his position if he slides somewhere. Next, and also when I am alone, I take something from my kit--shoes, the big first aid kit if I am leading a group trip, or even the little personals ditty bag, or a food bag (assuming it doesn't have to be sequestered elsewhere)--and tuck it slightly under my torso on the low side. This is not uncomfortable and provides just enough leverage to keep me from sliding. Once I tried a partially full Evernew (soft) water bottle for this, but it seemed to make a chilly spot. I am a back and side sleeper, and use a short ridgerest pad, and usually a tarp so I have lots of room to work with.

As far as finding the flattest spot, remember it's hard to tell just by looking. Before setting up your shelter, lie down on the ground to test it for subtle slope, and orient yourself the most comfortable direction for you. Most people seem to prefer their head at the upper end but some people (including the nurses at the health center where I went to college) recommend elevating your feet slightly if you have been on them all day. Also pay attention to what's on the ground. Pine needles are slipperier than broad leaves or grass.

george carr
(hammer-one) - F - MLife

Locale: Walking With The Son
re:slight incline on 11/26/2009 21:52:39 MST Print View

>As far as finding the flattest spot, remember it's hard to tell just by looking.<

Ain't that the truth! I remember scoping out a spot behind Long Pond Stream shelter in the 100 Mile Wilderness and thinking it looked pretty good. By the time I started dinner and got to pitching my tarptent it was growing dark. By the time I settled in it was dark and I didn't discover just how much of a slope there was until that moment. I was too tired to bother repitching, so I would wake up every couple of hours against the one side. I'm just glad it didn't rain :)! Ever since then I check out my site with a more critical eye.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
site selection on 11/26/2009 22:13:22 MST Print View

My most important criteria are (1) no depressions in the site that might become a lake in heavy rain, (2) not within reach of any dead trees or under any dead branches ("widow-makers"), (3) legal distance from water sources, (4) on bare but not too rocky ground, if I can find any, (5) out of sight of the trail, (6) not too much slope, (7) under a tree, assuming the tree is alive, to prevent condensation, (8) legal distance from the trail, not always possible where most of the trees have been killed by bark beetles. Somewhere in the higher priorities, not on top of any rodent holes!

I have slept on pretty sloping ground, where I've had to climb back up all night, but since I wake up every couple hours anyway this is not a major deal.

Matthew Swierkowski
(Berserker) - F

Locale: Southeast
Re: site selection on 12/07/2009 10:58:40 MST Print View

Lay on the proposed site to see if you can feel any slope to it, and in what direction it is sloped. I usually do this by laying down my ground sheet, and then laying on that (since the ground is usually wet). You'll feel if there is a slope and how much of one there is right away. You can also use this method to determine the direction of the slope so that you can align your shelter in the preferred direction if you choose to use the site. One other thing to knock out while you are lying down is to check for dead branches above the site.

If it's raining I usually just squat down and eyeball it from a couple of different vantage points (as if you were eyeing up a green for a put like a golfer).

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: site selection on 12/07/2009 20:44:22 MST Print View

I don't seem to have much difficulty finding flat places to sleep. Maybe it's cheating, but I usually just sleep somewhere someone else has slept before. It's easy to see such a place. There will usually be some large rocks that obviously didn't land there naturally. If I sleep somewhere unused, I usually test it first by laying down. I rotate until I find the direction that won't have me rolling side to side. Slipping down is easier to deal with if it's not flat.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
site selection on 12/07/2009 22:30:13 MST Print View

Per the LNT folks, we are supposed to use previously used sites, so you have it right, Diane.

My main difficulty is remembering that with a Squall Classic, the back end is the low end and should be into the wind, while the front end is where my head is. That's probably because I grew up with a tent that was just the opposite. It doesn't really matter if my feet are a little higher, though, as long as I don't slide out the front door while asleep!

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
site selection on 12/08/2009 02:01:44 MST Print View

I often wondered how my carefully chosen flat spots develop a slope between the time I see them and when I lay down on the mat after I have the tent fully set up...
(my previous conclusion was that it had to do with the earth's rotation)
Anyway , putting some clothes under the mat on the lesser flat part does help (if you have striped or dotted the floor) .

James Byrnes
(backfeets1) - M

Locale: Midwest.... Missouri
site selection on 12/08/2009 03:22:50 MST Print View

I prefer a slight slope feet to head to avoid water run off and since I use a short NEO pad my feet drop lower off the end, result is almost level sleep position.

Sanad Toukhly
(Red_Fox) - MLife

Locale: South Florida
Re: site selection on 12/10/2009 18:31:56 MST Print View

Just move to Florida, it's flat everywhere.


Willie Evenstop
(redmonk) - F

Locale: Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
site selection on 12/10/2009 19:09:36 MST Print View

If you carry a hard sided water bottle, it makes a fair approximation of a bubble level.

Art Sandt
(artsandt) - F
Re: site selection on 12/11/2009 01:16:13 MST Print View

I often sleep on lumpy sites so maybe I'm not one to talk. I used to hate slight inclines just like you, but I got used to it. In any case, laying down on the proposed sleeping spot before pitching the tarp/tent is the easiest way to tell if you'll be able to sleep on it. More elaborate ways may include, but are not limited to: bringing sophisticated surveying equipment, packing a set of box levels, using a plumb line in conjunction with a square and straight rod, and rolling marbles on the proposed surface.

It's not that hard to find a level spot to sleep. It's much harder to find a level spot to pitch a 2-3 person tent, but that's only because you're thinking about it in such huge terms. Think about it in terms of one warm body and you'll start seeing level spots all over the place.

Roger Homrich
(rogerhomrich) - M

Locale: California/Michigan
Re: site selection on 12/11/2009 06:15:36 MST Print View

“Think about it in terms of one warm body and you'll start seeing level spots all over the place.”

That’s another reason why I love the freedom of just traveling solo and sleeping out. I’ve never been unable to find a flat spot for just my bag’s silhouette… when I’ve taken the time to look, of course.

When I feel the need for pitching the tarp, I still look for the same small and flat outline for my bag… I then just need to be sure I have the space to anchor my lines.

Paul Lippi
(Ozniot) - F
site selection on 12/11/2009 07:27:32 MST Print View

For me site selection is all about the tarp; I don't worry about the bed. Since I always use a full-length inflatable pad and a bivy with stake loops, I don't mind sleeping on rock or uneven surfaces. At any potential site I jab a trekking pole down at all four corners of my proposed stakeout to probe whether I have deep enough soil/gravel to get stakes in. Frequently I need to move my imaginary rectangle a few feet this way or that several times to find a spot. In wooded areas I settle for less than four corners and tie one or more off to trees. Ridgelines usually aren't a problem, because there's more length to play with (I use extra-long ridgelines).