Forum Index » General Lightweight Backpacking Discussion » Base camp unattended with gear in relatively popular backcountry sites? Any bad experiences or advice?


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Michael K
(chinookhead) - F - M
Base camp unattended with gear in relatively popular backcountry sites? Any bad experiences or advice? on 06/03/2012 16:40:00 MDT Print View

Hi. I'll be making several base camps at the foot of lakes and summits in relatively popular backcounty sites (at lease 6 miles from the trailhead) and leaving it unattended for significant time during long dayhikes and climbs. It will just be so much more "nice" to climb peaks and bushwack to isolated lakes with very little gear. I will be doing this in the gore range and eagles nest wilderness area.

Do you have any tips for how to do this? Have you had any bad experiences with gear being stolen and/or looked through?

Of course, I won't leave any valuables like wallet, ID, and electronics etc. My site will not be too "stealthy" b/c my new Big Agnes tent is fluorescent orange:)

I've done this several times , but only in areas that I was really pretty much alone with my hiking partner like in the western UP of Michigan and Alaska. Also, the areas were heavily forested, so I could hide my site as opposed to above treeline sites in Colorado where it'll be pretty hard to hide my site.

Ken Thompson
(kthompson) - MLife
Re: Base camp unattended with gear in relatively popular backcountry sites? Any bad experiences or advice? on 06/03/2012 16:44:59 MDT Print View

I put almost everything inside the tent, no bear canister inside though, and off I go. I have never had a problem doing this. I also think the further away from the trailhead the odds of someone taking your stuff goes down. More problems with critters than people messing with your stuff unattended. My experience of course.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Base camp unattended with gear in relatively popular backcountry sites? Any bad experiences or advice? on 06/03/2012 17:39:17 MDT Print View

I've done the same thing with the same precautions many times and haven't had a problem

I think when you get a few miles away from any trailhead people are pretty nice

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: Base camp unattended with gear in relatively popular backcountry sites? Any bad experiences or advice? on 06/03/2012 22:09:20 MDT Print View

Have done this many times, no problem. Just make sure all food and smellables like toothpaste and sunscreen are safely stored (hung or in bear can) away from the tent. People are no problem, but critters will get into the tent one way or another if there is nice-smelling stuff inside it.

stephan q
(khumbukat) - F
RE Base camp on 06/03/2012 22:17:56 MDT Print View

+1 to above. Also, leave the zipper open a bit, so any critters can walk in and out, and not chew through to investigate.

stephan

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Base camp unattended with gear in relatively popular backcountry sites? Any bad experiences or advice? on 06/03/2012 22:30:08 MDT Print View

Years ago I was on the Mount Whitney Trail, descending to Trail Camp. A Japanese hiker had been in front of me, so he reached his tent at Trail Camp just before I got there. He had made a big mistake when he had left his tent earlier that day. He had left his food unprotected in the tent. While he was gone, some wily marmot had chewed a hole in one side, then ate part of the food, then crapped all over the floor, and then left. The Japanese hiker was really mad. I couldn't translate all of the words, but I got the meaning.

Marmots almost never pass up a free meal.

--B.G.--

Michael K
(chinookhead) - F - M
Re: RE Base camp on 06/04/2012 08:15:12 MDT Print View

I was planning on storing all smelly stuff and edibles outside of the tent as people have mentioned (Opsak and ursack).

However, now I'm debating what to so after hearing what Stephan said above. Should I still have the tent a bit open even without smelly stuff inside? The major reason why I do not like the idea of having the tent open is in case it rains and to keep the bugs out.

Jason G
(JasonG) - F

Locale: iceberg lake
food on 06/04/2012 12:03:42 MDT Print View

I think i remember reading here on bpl in 2010 on the jmt there were reports of people's food getting stolen out of bear canisters while unattended. i wanna say the rangers said there were a few people living out there for an extending period and were scavenging food from hikers, mtr, vvr and reds

Erik Dietz
(erikdtz) - M

Locale: Los Angeles
food stolen on 06/04/2012 12:16:07 MDT Print View

I had my food stolen out of the bear canister while doing the JMT last summer. It was definitely a person who took it since the canister was closed and "locked" and when I got back it had been emptied and closed again. I told the rangers and they said that there were some people living around that area and their had been a few isolated incidents of people getting their food stolen. I probably could have hidden my bear canister a little better but I didn't think people stealing my food was a possibility. However, I wouldn't let that deter you from having a good time. I think my case was pretty extreme.

Eric Lundquist
(cobberman) - F - M

Locale: Dry side of the Eastern Sierra's
Re: Base camp unattended with gear in relatively popular backcountry sites? Any bad experiences or advice? on 06/04/2012 13:35:28 MDT Print View

I would keep a clean camp and place any other belongings in your closed tent as Ken suggested. Not many hikers (traditional or ul) would want to hike in 6 miles and then carry out someone else's gear. Though I would take more caution if you're near 4x4 or quad trails.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Re: Base camp unattended with gear in relatively popular backcountry sites? Any bad experiences or advice? on 06/04/2012 13:46:08 MDT Print View

I'm with Eric: 6 miles from the pavement is quite safe from people, or rather, almost all the people who hike that far are (1) good people or (2) at least don't want to carry out any more weight.

But if there is ATC access, some fraction of people coming through can be low-lifes and then I'd go more into stealth mode.

Another thought is use really crappy gear for your base camp. It's only 6 miles, so bring a K-Mart tent and a Coleman sleeping bag instead of your best gear. If it goes missing, your car is only 2 hours away. More so, you won't be worried while you're off peak-bagging.

Ben F
(tekhna) - F
Re: Re: Re: Base camp unattended with gear in relatively popular backcountry sites? Any bad experiences or advice? on 06/04/2012 13:52:27 MDT Print View

I tend to trust backcountry types. Perhaps that's a mistake, but people tend to be pretty decent. It's the trailheads I worry about.

Mark Regalia
(markr) - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz
I take a few precautions on 06/04/2012 17:15:12 MDT Print View

I never leave money, car keys etc in camp. That is just too tempting. Pretty much the same with camera gear and electronics, if I have any. I wouldn't leave anything small and valuable, like a good stove visible from the trail. Out side of that there isn't a lot you can do. If something wants to trade their Coleman sleeping bag for your Western Mountaineering bag I don't see what you can do about it.

I personally have never had anything stolen. Though a Marmot ate the collar off of a dirty t-shirt once, he started in on a leather patch on my pack. They love salt. I once came on a bear helping himself to a candy bar from a side pouch of a pack. Unfortunately bears can't work zippers, so he had to slit it open. I am sure he felt bad about the damage.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Pack rummaged through on 06/05/2012 19:22:52 MDT Print View

We had a woman in our group have a stroke on a hike in northern Michigan...we abandoned her pack (kind of hidden in some brush off the trail) while we evacuated her out, and when we hiked back 2 days later to retrieve it for her all the "valuables" (water filter, e-reader, camera, etc.) had been taken and her pack sealed back up tight. We only passed one other hiking group the whole weekend, so it wasn't a terribly traveled trail. But it made me lose all that wonderful sense you guys talk about in terms of hikers being different type of people who would never do such things. I mean, why would a full pack be left in the bushes near a trail unless something bad happened? Talk about taking advantage....

Mitch Chesney
(MChesney) - F
Do not trust the bipeds on 06/06/2012 17:13:18 MDT Print View

I do not trust people - TH or thru-hiker. When I camp I make sure to pack out even for short exploratory hikes. It doesn't matter how far I am on the trail I can never be far enough away from "the possibility." I figure, is the replacement cost of some douchebag making off with your gear worth the risk? I've been victim and it's no fun, but luckily it was cheap back then.

Edited by MChesney on 06/06/2012 17:14:42 MDT.

Chris Scala
(Scalawag) - F
Naive on 06/07/2012 14:33:12 MDT Print View

Maybe I'm naive but I generally give people the benefit of the doubt too... I've done basecamp hikes with no problem, even leaving my stuff at a popular shelter. But again, I didn't really leave anything of value that would easily be taken. For example, I didn't leave an iPhone, but I left a similarly expensive tent under the assumption no one is going that far into the woods with pack space enough for a second tent.

I've had stuff stolen from me many times, and it sucks, but never on the trail... I guess I'll stick with being reasonably cautious. I feel like the negativity that comes from constant fear and distrust is almost worse than just losing your stuff. A hiker's state of mind is another crucial part of his kit.