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Trees and Campsites


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Aaron Zagrodnick

While one classic backpacking photograph might depict a brightly colored tent set in a meadow with a lakeside and mountain view, considerations in regards to tree cover are worth considering when selecting a campsite for the night. Often, trees can provide impressive cover from rain and snow, block the wind, and will be warmer and dryer in regards to condensation overnight than camping in a more classic clearing – but there can be pros and cons. With their capability of keeping off the rain or snow and blocking the wind, trees can also block that warming morning light, or even just the view of a sky full of stars...

Considerations on the best place to stay the night in regards to trees and forests, read below in Issue 31:

Trees and Campsites

Trees and Backpacking Campsite Selection for Weather and Warmth.JPG

Issue 31 Page 1

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One other consideration is the quality of the trees. My daughter and I set up our tent one afternoon in the Weminuche only to later realize that the large tree right behind the tent was almost rotted through on the far side. A strong wind that night could have had painful results. Happily I happened to walk around behind it and decided to move our tent somewhere safer

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Aaron Zagrodnick

Without a doubt something to avoid, if it looks sketchy at all I'll pass up even the otherwise best / most convenient spots...might take longer to get setup but at least that way I sleep better at night. :)

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  • 11 months later...

RE: camping and trees.

I think the most important decision with regard to camping next to trees is an objective evaluation if those trees will be moving to the tent site in a strong wind.  That is especially true with all the beetle killed whitebark and lodgepole pine in the mix over most of the western US.  And a second factor with respect to pines is you can spend a lot of time with an alcohol swab cleaning the pitch off at certain times of the year.  Nothing like stuffing a pitch laden tent in a stuff bag---------

Edited by grizzled
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  • 1 month later...

I am a retired forester and really like to snuggle in amongst the trees in the mountains for thermal cover, wind protection and for the aesthetic vallue.  But only young healthy trees will do.  Always look up before you set up a tent. Never sleep near old trees, snags, or trees with dead branches especially when the wind comes up. 

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slosteppin

I much prefer to camp in the trees. When picking a campsite my practice is to look up, around and down. I look up to see if there is anything likely to fall from above, around to see if there are trees that are likely to fall in my tent in a heavy wind. Then I look down to see if there are rocks, acorns or pine cones that need to be moved.

Sometimes the right trees can keep a tent dry in the rain. Many years ago I was out with my son when the rain started mid afternoon. I started watching for evergreen trees. We found a thick stand of cedars. Just enough room in the center for our tent. Just a few drops got through and it rained all night. Only time I was so lucky.

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I learned a lot from horse and mule packers where to sleep back in the 1970s.  Trees provide thermal cover., and reduce frost by a lot.  We used to roll out a lot in summer with a bed tarp.  Sleeping in the open even in the dry Sierras would accumulate a lot of dew and frost.  Sleeping under a tree canopy would be totally dry. 

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  • 2 weeks later...
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Aaron Zagrodnick

All depends on the situation for me - I like the trees for warmth and protection from wind and precipitation including "internal precipitation" (condensation), but it sure is nice to catch that morning sun on the edge of a higher, drier, clearing. A lot depends on the particular weather for that evening and the type of trip.

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  • 6 months later...

Last week I was in a forest of older lodgepole pine and Shasta red fir.  There were trees of all ages and some were decadent and some were already dead.  We moved our camp once after inspecting all the trees around it.  On the third morning a huge old tree crashed to ground that was aduible for miles.  Avoid older trees and trees with large dead branches. Sleep nowhere near old snags. 

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