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"Site Selection"
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Vince Contreras
(pillowthread) - F

Locale: like, in my head???
"Site Selection" on 01/01/2012 16:10:00 MST Print View

So, I've noticed that, within the UL community, as well as the threads here in the SUL forums, the term "site selection" is often used just as I have here, with parentheses, in everyday conversation. I am wondering if those who might use the term as such could explain why the parentheses are needed? It implies that there is something else going on behind the scenes, something other than merely site selection. Now of course I can't figure out the reasons why every individual might use the term as such, but I wonder if it is perhaps because oftentimes there is some manner of site modification going on as well?

Now this is all well and good, and every camper modifies a campsite somewhat; by all means, clear your immediate sleeping area of sharp rocks and sticks. I understand also that taking advantage of certain geological features like caves and overhangs can afford one a lighter pack in many ways. This is, in fact, why I'm posting this here, as I understand this ability to be a critical component of proper "SUL Technique."

What I'm really wondering is this: how much site modification is going on? I ask because I try to practice LNT techniques where I can, and understand that, in some areas, to clear an area for human habitation can displace hundreds of thousands of organisms. I try to be conscious of this fact when I choose a campsite, so in that respect it is one set of considerations of multiple which factor into my choice of campsite. I've seen some terribly invasive "campsite prep" in my day. Of course I've been the cause of it at times too...

I can just imagine persons building up berms of detritus around a shallow pit lined in plastic and filled with pine needles, using dried leaf-filled garbage bags for insulation...Or moving multiple loads of river rocks up to a shallow cave in a cliff-side. I'm not talking survival situations here; just everyday backpack camping.

Again, I'm just looking to define the term "site selection" a bit better, and identify where, in its modern usage in the SUL community here at BPL, it differs from "site modification."

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Site Selection on 01/01/2012 16:49:39 MST Print View

I have no idea why anyone uses quotes for this term, unless (as in your last paragraph) they want to set it off from the rest of the text in order to define it!

Certainly "site selection" (using quotes here for definition) should in no way be a synonym for "site modification." Except for picking up sticks, pebbles and pine cones or any other item that might damage the tent floor, there should be no site modification whatsoever. If you need to ditch, you've picked the wrong place! In an emergency, fill in and smooth over the ditch and scatter needles or leaves over the top before you leave.

IMHO, one important aspect of site selection should be the contours of the site. I much prefer to have some slope or a hummock in the middle, so the site won't flood in heavy rain. Bathtub floor or footprint or not, no tent will stay dry inside if the site floods! (Been there, done that, had to abort trip due to soggy sleeping bags plus continued heavy precipitation.)

Another important aspect of site selection is not to pitch on vegetation. I haven't always been able to adhere to this rule in areas where there are too many dead trees to be safe (bark-beetle killed forest in the Rockies comes to mind), but if I absolutely must be on vegetation, I don't pitch the tent until bedtime and take it down as soon as I get up. I also find a place to do out-of-tent chores (such as cooking) on bare ground, figuring that at least when I'm awake and alert I have a good chance of avoiding the falling tree. This reduces the impact of feet around the tent.

A third aspect is safety, not setting the tent where "widow-makers" (dead trees or large dead branches) might fall on the tent.

Most wilderness areas have rules (which vary by wilderness area or even sections of a single wilderness) on how far your tent must be from water and from established trails. It helps if, before the trip, you measure off 100 feet to see how many of your paces it takes. There are a few places where wilderness rangers have been known to use a tape measure and write tickets if you're a foot too close. The Naches Ranger District of the Wenatchee NF in Washington is one of those. You might want to allow a few extra paces in such areas! Again, this can get a bit dicey if most of the trees in the area are dead. If I absolutely positively must break these rules, I consider the distance from water more important, but I also make sure my tent is out of sight from the trail, even if it's a little short of the 200 feet.

I generally try to scatter pine needles or leaves around or do other remedial measures after I've packed up to make it less obvious that a tent was pitched there. I do this as part of my policing the site to be sure I haven't left anything and that all bits of trash (whether mine or a previous occupant's) have been picked up.

IMHO, one of the uglier things left at campsites is a fire-blackened stone fire ring. I never could figure out why people do this. When I've used a fire for cooking, I've never wanted rocks there; I usually make a "hole" in middle of the fire for my pot and build up small sticks around it. The rocks make it more difficult to extinguish the fire, because live coals get hidden under the rocks. Plus, hot rocks tend to explode when water is poured on. I usually chuck those blackened rocks into the brush, out of sight. I'd much rather have a bare area around the fire as a buffer against sparks and such.

The only thing more ugly than the blackened rocks is chunks of unburned foil and plastic in the remains of the old fire. I hope that someday people will realize that foil does not burn and plastic rarely burns completely. It's OK to put it in the fire to burn off the food residue, but please fish it out after the fire cools and take it home. I'm getting tired of packing it out for you! (Of course I profoundly hope that "you" doesn't include anybody on BPL!)

Edited by hikinggranny on 01/01/2012 16:54:17 MST.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Site Selection on 01/01/2012 17:20:53 MST Print View

Years ago when I led lots of group trips, we would spend our two nights or something at one spot. Then when it was time to leave and we got all packed up, I always assigned one or two people for site restoration tasks. Generally that just meant to scatter some pine cones and pine needles around. Every last scrap of paper had to be picked up.


Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Site Selection on 01/01/2012 17:52:52 MST Print View

Good idea--when out with my grandkids, I hold a "scavenger hunt" for trash, with edible prizes, which provides some incentive as well as "LNT" education.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Site Selection on 01/01/2012 18:34:15 MST Print View

"hike high and camp low"

If you camp under tree cover (while avoiding Mary's Widow Makers) you'll avoid radiative heat loss

If you camp among trees the wind will be less. If you avoid ridges or channels like along rivers there'll be less wind.

Cold air often flows down along rivers, if you camp up above a bit it'll be warmer.


Don't modify your site, unless you're in the middle of nowhere and no one will come by that site in the near future.

I always pick up all the little bits of litter before I leave. My theory is that if people encounter a pristine site, they'll be less likely to litter. If it's a mess, they'll figure more won't make any difference.

John Abela
(JohnAbela) - MLife

Re: Site Selection on 01/01/2012 19:13:45 MST Print View

Jerry makes some good points above.

There is also the need to discuss situations such as the style of hiking.

Those who wild-camp are probably seem to be those who are best at leaving no trace behind.

Those who campground camp obviously only need to care about rocks and roots and elevation changes and such for site selection.

An issue often not talked about is those found when you are long distance trail hiking where often times there are limited sites in an areas that hikers have room to pitch a shelter. Made more so if there is a group of hikers all starting at once (PCT Kickoff comes to mind) or when you have five or six people all hiking together in a group for a few hundred miles.

As for quotes... the BPL forums do not allow allow bold or underline font styles, so I suspect a great deal of the "quotes" have to do with people trying to bring emphasis to what they feel is a key point. Its either that or using *asterisks* which I am sure is more of an annoyance to most of us.

drowning in spam
(leaftye) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: "Site Selection" on 01/01/2012 19:48:49 MST Print View

To me "site selection" has to do with finding an area free of brush, out of the wind, mindful of thermal flows during the night, and usually facing sunrise. If I can, I try to set up with trees over me and bushes around me. Rain is rare, but I look for a high spot when it does rain. I don't mind sleeping on ground debris if I have a foam pad, but I'll move sharp rocks, socal pine cones and other sharp things if I'm using an inflatable pad.

Is this why quotes are used?

Edited by leaftye on 01/01/2012 19:49:34 MST.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: "Site Selection" on 01/01/2012 20:39:27 MST Print View

I use quotes when I'm quoting someone : )

For example, "hike high and camp low" - I forget who said that but it's from some common book about hiking

Lots of books about site selection, for example Mike Clelland's

Edited by retiredjerry on 01/01/2012 20:40:13 MST.