So you are looking for a more adventurous style of camping, or maybe you just want to get off the beaten path and experience something new? Well, if either one of those is the case, then a hike in campsite or backcountry camping maybe for you.
We have put this guide together for those who want to check out hike-in camping for the first time or someone that just wants to learn more about it.
What is a hike-in campsite?
A hike-in campsite is different from a traditional campsite because it does not have access to motor vehicles. A hike-in site is similar to backcountry camping accept the sites are usually only a short distance from the road and with backcountry camping sites are generally miles from the road, and often there is not an actual site at all.
For more information on what is backpack camping read this article: What is backpack camping – Find out here
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What are the benefits of a hike-in campsite?
- More secluded. If you are looking to go to a less crowded area to camp, then this would be an excellent option for you. While this has become a more popular type of camping in recent years, you will experience far fewer people than at a traditional campsite. At some parks, you can even camp at any location you want, but make sure you know the rules because at many parks, you can be fined if you set up a campsite outside the designated areas.
- New scenery. Many avid campers are trying out hike in sites just to experience new scenery. Often these sites have views that a traditional site does not have. There are many of these sites that have lake or mountain overviews.
- More wildlife. With fewer people, there is less disruption, and since most animals tend to avoid the disruption of humans, you are more likely to see animals that you would not otherwise have the chance to see.
- While the lack of modern conveniences (electronics, restrooms, running water) is a drawback to some, for others, it is a welcome change. Hike-in sites rarely have the conveniences of traditional campsites. This means that you must supply your own necessities, and you are limited to what you can carry.
- Less noise. As with wildlife, sometimes we just want less disruption and noise in our lives. Since these sites have fewer people, this means less noise and more of the unbroken sounds of nature for you to enjoy.
- Exercise. Hike-in sites have the added benefit of more exercise. This is especially true on extended stays as often you must make hiking trips between your site and car to refill on food and water.
Hike-in campsite packing list.
It is important to have the right supplies for any camping trip, but it is even more critical on a hike-in camping trip. Since you will be even further away from civilization and it is more difficult for people to reach you, it is essential to bring the right supplies.
The first and maybe most crucial supply to have is a source of water. Unless you are planning on making a lot of trips back to civilization, you will need a significant amount (a minimum of half a liter per hour in hot conditions is recommended). There are a few sites that have running water, so make sure you know ahead of time if yours does or not. If not, you have a few options.
- If you are capable of carrying a large jug of water, then do so, but even a gallon of water is good for a day at the very most. One gallon is equal to about 3.8 liters. That would last roughly 7-1/2 hours in hot conditions if you are drinking the recommended minimum of 1/2 liter per hour.
- A great solution is a Camelbak. Most hold about 70oz of water, but this can vary depending on the model.
- If you are going to be near a body of water (pond, river or stream), you can bring a filter and purifying tabs. The filter should have pores of 1-micron minimum to get rid of larger organisms, but this will not get rid of viruses. For that, you will need some water purifying drops or tablets.
- The most effective way to get water from natural sources purified is by boiling it. This would only require a small pot and a fire.
As a side note, when gathering water from a natural source, always try to find running water from a river or stream. While pond water can be ok, the first two options are ideal. Also, always try to gather water from the surface and never use foul-smelling or stagnant looking water.
Food can be a tricky proposition since most of these sites would be very difficult to haul an ice chest too. For this reason, you will need food that will not spoil, such as beef jerky, dried fruits, and veggies. While dried foods are lighter and easier to pack, you can also bring some small canned foods like tuna. Just be aware that you will have to store your trash and haul it out.
Trail mix is also a great option.
Check out this food article. Most of these would be perfect for a hike-in trip.
While this is not a must-have, I would recommend it. Fire can be used to boil water, to keep warm, and to keep animals away. There are several options for starting fires, but the easiest is a lighter. If you would prefer a fire starter, then that is ok as long as you know how to set up the kindling for it.
Another option is a portable backpacking stove. If you will be cooking, this is a great option.
Quick tip- If you are concerned about kindling for a fire, you can do a bit of a hack. Before your trip, collect lint from your dryer in a zip bag. Lint is lightweight and catches fire easily. You can even stuff it in empty toilet paper rolls to make your own mini fire starter kindling.
Since you will want to keep your load weight down and save space in your pack, you will want to bring as few clothes as possible. Depending on the time of year, you will need different types of clothing.
- Spring and Fall- In most places during the spring and Fall, the day time can be very nice, but the nights can get cold fast. For this reason, it is recommended that you have an outer layer of clothes that is thick but somewhat breathable. A sturdy flannel shirt and jeans will usually do the job. At night you will probably want some thermals for when the temperature drops. If it is chilly during the day in the area you are in, then wear your thermals under your day clothes as well.
- Summer- In most places, it can be very hot during the day. For this reason, it is important to wear clothes that will allow your body to breathe. Loose clothes are ideal as that will allow body heat to escape and fresh air to circulate and help keep your body cool. In some environments, shorts would be ok, but for most environments, shorts would not be recommended. Exposing your legs while hiking can increase your chances of bug bites and makes it easier to come into contact with things like poison ivy.
- Winter- Winter is perhaps the most difficult when hiking. The added weight and bulk of cold weather clothing makes this type of hiking more difficult. That said, in most areas, you will need thick, insulated clothing and a coat. I recommend a well-insulated coat as if you become too hot, it can be opened or even taken off and attached to your pack easily. Thermals are also highly recommended.
The right Shoes or boots-
This is more important than many people think. In most cases, you never want to wear ordinary tennis shoes. Usually, tennis shoes are not sturdy enough to stand up to a hike and the rough conditions of a campsite. Hiking boots or hiking shoes are highly recommended for this type of camping.
Quick tip- If you buy a new pair of hiking boots or shoes, it is imperative to break them in before your trip. If you do not do this, you can experience painful blisters and sore feet. To break your boots in simply wear them around the house or even to work if you can. Just make sure to wear them while you are active and on your feet. It will not work if you are sitting at your desk.
While a camp fire maybe enough light for some, others may not use a campfire or may just feel more comfortable with a light source. A small flashlight or headlamp should do the trick nicely.
First Aid kit-
A small, basic first aid kit should be all you need. Just make sure there are bandages, burn cream, and some kind of antibiotic cream.
Phone or wideband walkie-
I know most people are trying to escape electronics, but this is for safety purposes only, and you don’t even need to turn them on unless there is an emergency. If you are in an area that can get phone service, that would be perfect but if not, a strong wideband walkie would be great. These could be vital if you are in a hike in site with no other people around and can get help much faster than if you or someone else had to hike out first.
Types of shelter and bed you can use for hiking camping
Shelter and bedding can also be tricky in this situation. You will need something small and light. Luckily there are options.
Shelter and bed options-
- Ultralight tent.
These tents are light-weight and designed specifically for hiking trips.
Most camping hammocks can fit in a small bad and are lightweight. A hammock can double as a shelter and a bed, but make sure you have an underquilt or sleeping bag if it’s going to be cold.
- Sleeping bag.
Recommended for just about any type of shelter, but in some cases, a sleeping bag itself can be your shelter. If you are using a sleeping bag in a shelter, then a down material would be best but if you are using a sleeping bag as your shelter as well, then you will want a synthetic material. Down sleeping bags are never recommended in situations where they can be exposed to moisture.
- Ultralight cot.
These are great options to get off the ground in a tent or even if you are using a sleeping bag.
- DIY tarp and line.
You can go old school and tie a line between trees and put your tarp over it, making a simple triangle style shelter.
While there are many other items you can bring, this article covers all the basics that you will need to get out there and try something a little more adventurous. Have a safe and fun trip!