Dispersed camping, also known as primitive camping or backcountry camping, is a great way to experience nature and escape the crowds.
What is Dispersed Camping ?
Unlike camping in designated campgrounds, dispersed camping allows you to camp in areas where there are no facilities, amenities, or established campsites. While dispersed camping can be rewarding and adventurous, it also requires more planning, preparation, and knowledge. In this blog post, we’ll provide some top tips for dispersed camping in the US.
Know the Rules and Regulations
Before you go dispersed camping, it’s important to know the rules and regulations of the area you’re planning to camp in. Dispersed camping is allowed in most national forests, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands, and some state parks.
However, each agency and location may have different rules and regulations regarding where and how you can camp.
For example, some areas may require a permit, have restrictions on campfires, or have limitations on the number of people in a group. Make sure to research the area ahead of time and check with the local ranger station for any specific rules and regulations.
Choose a Suitable Location
When selecting a dispersed camping location, it’s important to choose a site that is suitable for camping. Look for an area that is flat and dry, and at least 200 feet away from water sources, trails, and other campsites. Avoid camping in areas that are fragile, such as meadows or wetlands, as they can easily be damaged by camping activities. It’s also important to consider the terrain and weather conditions of the area. For example, camping on a slope can be uncomfortable and dangerous during rain or wind storms. If you need help finding campsites, websites run by camping enthusiasts, such as Outdoor Scott, are a great resource.
Practice Leave No Trace Principles
Dispersed camping is all about experiencing the beauty and solitude of nature, but it’s important to do so responsibly. The Leave No Trace principles provide guidance on how to minimize your impact on the environment while camping. These principles include packing out all trash and waste, using established fire rings or stoves for cooking, and avoiding disturbing wildlife and vegetation. It’s important to leave the campsite in the same or better condition than you found it.
Prepare for the Elements
Dispersed camping means camping in areas with no facilities or amenities, so it’s important to prepare for the elements. This includes bringing appropriate gear and clothing for the weather and terrain, as well as enough food and water for the duration of your trip. It’s also important to know how to properly set up a tent and campsite, and how to start and maintain a campfire if allowed. Remember to always check the weather forecast before you go, and be prepared for changes in weather conditions.
Be Aware of Wildlife
Dispersed camping often means camping in areas where wildlife is present. While encountering wildlife can be exciting, it’s important to be aware of their presence and how to properly store your food and trash to avoid attracting them.
This includes using bear-resistant food containers, hanging food bags from a tree at least 10 feet off the ground and 4 feet from the trunk, or storing food and trash in a secure vehicle. It’s also important to know how to properly react if you encounter wildlife, such as backing away slowly and never approaching or feeding them.
Respect Other Campers and the Environment
Dispersed camping is a great way to escape the crowds and find solitude in nature, but it’s important to respect other campers and the environment.
This means avoiding loud noises or music that can disturb other campers, and not camping too close to other campsites.
It also means respecting the natural environment by not damaging vegetation or disturbing wildlife. Remember, you’re a guest in the wilderness, and it’s important to treat it with care and consideration.
Pack and Plan for Emergencies
Dispersed camping can be unpredictable, and it’s important to be prepared for emergencies. Make sure to pack a first aid kit, a map and compass, and a fully charged cellphone or other communication device in case of an emergency.
It’s also important to let someone know where you’re going and when you plan to return, in case something goes wrong. Knowing basic wilderness survival skills, such as how to start a fire or purify water, can also be helpful in an emergency situation.
Leave Your Campsite Better Than You Found It
As mentioned earlier, practicing Leave No Trace principles is crucial when dispersed camping. However, you can take it a step further by leaving your campsite even better than you found it. This can mean picking up any trash or debris left by previous campers, or even doing some light trail maintenance such as clearing branches or rocks from the trail. By leaving your campsite better than you found it, you can help preserve the wilderness for future generations to enjoy.
Be Aware of Fire Restrictions and Bans
Wildfires can be devastating, and many areas have strict fire restrictions and bans in place during certain times of the year. It’s important to check for fire restrictions and bans in the area you plan to camp, and to follow them closely.
This can mean using a camp stove instead of a campfire for cooking, or avoiding camping altogether if fires are prohibited. Remember, it’s everyone’s responsibility to prevent wildfires.
Practice Safe and Responsible Camping
Finally, it’s important to practice safe and responsible camping at all times. This includes following all rules and regulations, properly storing your food and trash to avoid attracting wildlife, and avoiding any risky or dangerous activities. Remember to always stay aware of your surroundings, and to be respectful of the environment and other campers.
Dispersed camping can be a rewarding and exciting way to experience nature, but it requires more planning, preparation, and knowledge than camping in established campgrounds. By following these top tips, you can have a safe and enjoyable dispersed camping experience while minimizing your impact on the environment. So pack your bags, grab your gear, and head out into the wilderness for an unforgettable adventure.
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