Great article. I learned some new tricks, and have a few more. I've slept hundreds of nights in river corridors on whitewater raft trips.
- I liked Table 1 Tent Stake Holding Power. Nice to see hard numbers attached to my "can I pull it out by hand" guesstimates.
- Another wind worth knowing about comes from the passage of high pressure systems. On the USA West Coast, high pressure moving inland often creates strong offshore winds, strongest near the coast and in passes leading to the coast. In Southern California, these "Santa Ana" winds in the fall and winter often push small fires into major wildfires, with 75 mph gusts. Check forecasts for high pressure moving onshore in B.C., Washington, Oregon, or Northern California. Probably similar patterns in other regions.
- Evening downstream winds sometimes are quite predictable. These winds start about the time you want to setup camp or cook dinner, an hour before sunset. Setup or cook before or after to avoid problems. Seems obvious, but some people never figure this out!
- Many rafters are superstitious about speaking the "W" word, so we have fun coming up with twisted euphemisms, e.g. "air moving not so gently up the stream".
- Sometimes you must sleep on the sand in a wind storm because you have no other options (e.g. Grand Canyon). Anchors will fail, poles will break, tents and tarps will shred, small objects will tumble. Best to take tents and tarps down; build short windbreak walls with gear, stones, and/or driftwood; and hunker down. Wrapping a bandana or towel over your face reduces the sand eating. Cots can raise you above the sand blasting (and rocks). LuxuryLite UltraLite might be the lightest cot (2.75 pounds) on the market. These nights are usually miserable regardless.
- You might be tempted to camp next to cliffs for shelter. Danger! Besides rock fall, we nearly had someone killed by a rotting cactus that fell off the cliff top into camp.
- Some riverside bushes are stronger than others. On one trip, we tied a raft to a sturdy looking bush, and went up river for lunch. Wind storm came up quickly, and we returned to see the raft towing the bush around the next bend. Luckily, we caught up to that raft with another before anything bad happened. Test critical tent and boat tie offs by pulling hard from multiple directions, wrapping the line around your butt and leaning with your body weight if possible.
- Many rivers have a mix of mud, sand, gravel, and cobbles, so you might be able to choose your surface by moving a few yards. Looks can be deceptive - you might have a thin layer of one over another, with no apparent pattern. Before you decide "this is the spot", dig a little.
- You need longer guy lines, or extra line to extend guy lines, compared to normal camping. You need longer lines for tying off to Big Rocks, trees, deadman anchors, etc.
- Tying off to Big Rocks is an art form. Don't assume your knot will hold - test! Pull hard from multiple directions.
- You can tie off to piles of rocks. Tie off to a stick or a rock, then pile more rocks on top of that. Not as bomber as Big Rocks, deadman anchors, etc., but sometimes the best you can do.
- Snow stakes are almost worthless when used as stakes in a river corridor, but they can work OK as deadman anchors. Larger found objects like rocks and branches work even better. We carry a large MYOG aluminum stake for tying off rafts on sandy beaches with no alternatives, and a small hammer for insertion and removal.
- I like Ryan's snow-and-sand anchors and cobblesacks, new to me!
- +1 on stouter digging instruments. Paddles dig OK in sand, not for anything bigger. Most of my river trips include a geologist hammer with pick, which works well for digging into gravel, but not practical for lightweight backpacking.
- Don't tie big loops around bushes! More convenient than tying close to the base of a bush, but much more likely to slip up and off when the winds get festive.
- For trees and bushes with trunk 2 inches or larger in diameter, it's worth knowing how to tie a "no knot", with an overhand knot finish for security. A "no knot" is just wrapping your line around the trunk several times without overlaps, openly spiraling around the trunk. Friction does all the work. Surprisingly strong, easy to tie and untie.
- +1 on logs + rocks as anchors. Test!
- +1 on big fat pads for riverside camping. For whitewater rafting, we use Paco Pads. Heavy, but very tough and comfortable. Mine is about 25 years old and still going strong.
- Avoid camping on mud. If it's not hard as a rock, it's holding moisture that will make life unpleasant.
- +1 on consulting with local land management agency for river camping etiquette. Some want you to pee in the river, some anywhere but the river. Some want you to carry ashes out of the river, some want you to disperse ashes in the river. And the rules can be different on different stretches of the same river.
- We use dry bleach (Clorox 2) to control poop odors. Relatively cheap and easy to find. A sprinkling per use is enough.
- If you don't trust Ziplocs or similar to hold poop for long (think gas expanding in warm sun), try MYOG "torpedo tubes", used by kayakers on groover-mandatory rivers. Instructions here after the Government shutdown ends: http://www.blm.gov/or/resources/recreation/rogue/portable-toilets-kayak.php. Basically PVC pipe with removable caps on both ends. Poop on a paper towel, sprinkle some Clorox 2, carefully fold and insert into tube. Back in civilization, easy to clean and reuse the tube, especially at RV dump stations.
- +1 on knowing private property rules and boundaries. Also: "Never argue with a shotgun, just apologize and slowly back away." Been there, done that.
- +1 on the water leak alarm, new one for me. Also useful: insert stick vertical in sand at river's edge and note the time. Check occasionally to see if the river is rising or falling. For an indication of potential high water line, look for debris caught in riverside bushes or deposited on tops of rocks, and "bathtub rings" on rocks and cliffs.
- Work hard to keep sand and mud out of your equipment, and out of body crevices. Sand and mud are incredibly abrasive in a short time. Take off and shake out shoes and socks outside your "clean space". Diligently remove sand and mud from between toes and other body crevices before you crawl into bed, and several times during the day. Otherwise, in a day or two, you will have raw open sores on your body. Hands and feet can dry out, crack, and bleed from constant exposure to water, sand, and mud. I have more tips on what to do after the damage is done, but this reply is too long already.
Again, great article, thanks.