Backpacking as moving through places versus setting up camp

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Home Forums General Forums Philosophy & Technique Backpacking as moving through places versus setting up camp

Viewing 18 posts - 26 through 43 (of 43 total)
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    Eugene Hollingsworth
    BPL Member


    Locale: Mid-Minnesota

    Having an activity, like fishing, makes for great base camping experiences. If I don’t have a specific activity to keep me going all day long then I’d like to keep moving and explore the trail.

    Another option is one or two night well planned dispersed camping into a new area. Those trips I typically don’t get much mileage. Instead, spend a lot of time looking around and exploring and looking for a place to camp, even though I’ve scanned set photos, maps etc. it’s never quite what I expect. The activity becomes setting up a nice camp, small campfire and sitting around watching the sky until the wee hours and sleeping in.

    Diane “Piper” Soini
    BPL Member


    Locale: Santa Barbara

    Yeah, I need to have something to do if I’m going to just stay in one place. And if that’s the case, that “something” may as well involve a banjo and a fiddle and friends and beer and snacks and a warm RV to sleep in at night.

    Luke Schmidt
    BPL Member


    Locale: Alaska

    Very interesting discussion I was just thinking of this the other day as I contemplated my gear getting more generalized and thus heavier (not bad just heavier then before).

    When I was backpacking my main enjoyment was moving through cool places. I didn’t stop till it got dark. So I put a lot of effort into lighter gear, more comfortable shoes etc. I wanted to be fully enjoying the hiking part of the day. I loved hiking the Colorado Trail.

    Later I began to packraft. That means a heavier pack. Often I was bushwacking through miserable places with no views. The hiking became less enjoyable but it was a way to get to fun rivers. That’s not to say the hiking was bad but it wasn’t the main draw. I would not have driven to North BC to bushwack.

    Now a lot of my hiking includes hunting (it takes on a whole new meaning when you see the price of food here). Hiking through a willow thicket is not particularly fun. But watching animals from the top of a ridge is. Chasing a caribou across the tundra is a rush.

    All that to say “hiking” has become less comfortable but I’m still loving the outdoors. If hiking alone was the focus I’d go to different areas that offer more rewards for less suffering (bogs, bushwacking, bugs). But I’m happy to put up with those for the rivers and critters.

    BPL Member


    Locale: Virgo Supercluster

    I’m a hybrid, as well, albeit in what seems to be a strange way after reading everyone else’s posts.  When I have a specific goal – a summit, a location, a distance, completing a single-day trail, etc. – I’m very focused and I tend to move fast.  Thankfully, my partner is the one that slows me down and reminds me to look around; without that influence I can get almost mechanical in my actions, and I can transform a beautiful day’s hike into a series of overly-logical and clinical steps that I execute in the most efficient manner possible…and that honestly detracts from the experience.  Conversely, when I’m on a multi-day hike and I’m no longer worried about exactly how far I have to go, I stop moving as fast and I look more often at the world around me; I don’t mind taking a break for an hour or so, if I feel like it.  I’m also a fan of making a base camp and then exploring an area; granted, I tend to push hard until camp is established, but then I’ll chill out before getting around to a meal and checking out the area.  I can do that kind of thing for days on end…but I also don’t get bored: I’m not even sure what that sensation feels like.

    W I S N E R !
    BPL Member


    I used to be pretty focused on mileage, both ultrarunning and fastpacking. No doubt there was a degree of chest-thumping involved in this. Many amazing trips were had as a result (and no doubt many still to come). But as someone who has been meditating regularly for many years now, I find myself exploring the mindset and overlap between this practice and backpacking.

    I wonder if the same restlessness that plagues many of us in daily life- the mind’s constant tendency to jump around, to multi-task, the tendency towards restlessness…I wonder if this is not the same thing that has in part driven me to hike far and fast.

    In relation to meditation and life, I believe the act of stopping, really stopping,  is supremely important, taking time to carve out space to just be. To let go of the constant twitching of both mind and body. Why do we have such a hard time being still and not doing anything, whether it’s a Tuesday after work or on a backpacking trip? Even our “not doing” is typically characterized by intense distraction. I’ve been on trips where it seemed members of my party (including myself) were in what was almost a downright panic to keep moving and keep doing things.

    My last trip in the Sierra was a 4 night solo. I spent the first day and a half getting about 25 miles in…and then spent the next 3 nights in one single spot. I didn’t see or talk to anyone and largely stayed in a 1/2 mile radius of my camp, probably closer. I sat a lot. And then I moved to a new spot and sat even more. I sat in the morning and I sat in the middle of the night. It was a deeply satisfying trip. And I have enjoyed developing a relationship with a particular place.

    I’m very interested in a similar trip this coming summer, but extending the time in one spot to around 7-8 days. I enjoy the headspace created by settling into an area, exploring on a smaller scale, but mainly creating the time and space to just be somewhere with absolutely no sense of urgency…for anything. This is an increasingly precious thing to me.

    Local overnights, which I’m fortunate enough to do nearly weekly, have been increasingly involving relatively short walks, directly out my front door with no car involved, to a host of local spots where…I just settle in and sit for an evening. These trips aren’t so much about the moving, but about getting somewhere quiet and wild and not moving.

    The business of miles, of setup and takedown, packing and unpacking, camp chores and fussing…It all seems so mindlessly restless to me at times.

    I still get out and do miles. I like the physicality of it. But I find myself increasingly drawn in this other direction. I recently purchased a new load hauler pack. Not for big miles so much, but for long stays.


    Brad Rogers
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southeast Tennessee

    I’m normally a pass through kind of guy.  I get restless around camp and dayhiking to areas feels like cheating to me.    I did spend a couple of days basecamped on one of my Alaska trips where snow make the pass we were going over sketchy enough for us to wait a day or two for it to clear up, and we explored a couple of areas (including some lakes) we wouldn’t normally have seen.

    BPL Member


    Locale: Virgo Supercluster

     …creating the time and space to just be somewhere with absolutely no sense of urgency…for anything.

    Nicely said.

    BPL Member


    ^^ indeed. What better place to just “be” than  somewhere beautiful you walked to, with no schedule and no hurry. That’s a goal.

    Tipi Walter
    BPL Member


    I think it’s semantics and a choice of words.  To me, Base Camping means to backpack into a location and stay put for the duration and then backpack out.  It’s a Base Camping trip.

    A Backpacking trip to me means packing up and moving every day—whether it’s 20 miles or 10 miles or 4 miles etc.  (Vs Dayhiking which means never spending the night).

    There’s a tendency nowadays to label someone either “a hiker or a camper”—and I’ve been accused of not being a hiker but a camper because I move every day but pull low mile days.  The “hiker” appellation seems to have the seal of approval from the hiker “elites”—as if “hiker” is on a higher rung than mere “camper”.  Corollary to this is the push to see who has the highest miles per day average (with the lightest possible pack).  I think Skurka alludes to hiking great distances which results in a “better outdoor experience”—like with this quote—

    “I travel efficiently so that I can hike more, to make “constant forward progress.”

    “The goal is to maximize Distance — not for the superficial purpose of just covering miles, but rather for the rich rewards of experiencing landscapes (at a blazing-fast 3 mph, I should add).”

    So there’s a tendency for the “Elites” to control and define the conversation.  In reality, a backpacker can move at 1 mile per hour and cover 4 miles per day (or Base Camp) and still discover the rich rewards of experiencing landscapes (or a landscape).  As Buddha said, “Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There.”

    Tipi Walter
    BPL Member


    Dondo’s quote of Heraclitus reminds me of this great quote from India’s holy man Ramakrishna—

    BPL Member


    Locale: Virgo Supercluster

    So there’s a tendency for the “Elites” to control and define the conversation.

    One correction to your thought: I think the tendency is not for the the elite-tier athletes to define the conversation in and of themselves, but rather for the Joe Averages to use the examples of the elite-tier athletes to define and dictate what the conversation should be.  Skurka or Honnold or Harrington or Anker or Tabei or Jornet can say whatever they like about their performance and goals, but all of what they say means comparatively nothing until someone else picks up those words and says “Yeah, that’s right!  That’s what should happen!” and begins to treat those singular examples as the general axiom, or even the ideal.

    So, same results, but a different source…and to expound: this trend makes no sense when we actually sit down and think about it.  If a hiker intentionally covered only five slow miles per day but hiked and camped literally every day of the year, there are very few people who would dispute labeling that person as a backpacker, nomad, ever-wanderer, or whatever other honorific is in vogue at the time.  It really doesn’t matter that the pace is different than that of an “elite” athlete, because – last time I checked – backpacking is not an inherently competitive sport with established rules, rankings and hierarchies.  So, I would say that the division between “campers” and “hikers” and “mountaineers” and “climbers” and “trail runners” is rather useful in describing one’s activities and preferences – which is, I think, the intention of Kat’s original question – but when those words become used for ranking oneself against others, things get a little non-sensical.

    Mark Verber
    BPL Member


    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    When I was climbing or fishing with my dad we would base camp. On these trip backpacking was a means to an end. Most of my “backpacking trips”… the point is to walk, see beautiful sites, and give myself a workout. This is typically maximized by changing camp location each night.

    Paul Leavitt
    BPL Member


    Locale: Midwest

    I usually plan to hike in areas with lots of water. Lakes, streams call to me.  I bring the Tenkara rod and explore the features as I walk looking for good spots to stop and drop a line.  If the fishing is good I will stay for a while before moving on.  If that shortens or lengthens my trip I am flexible leaving a couple extra days in my schedule if possible.   Making a few less miles and soaking in the detail of an area adds type 1 fun to sometimes type 2 adventure.

    In National Parks  however it is a sometimes a more defined schedule with pre-determined campsites like Glacier NP.   There the big vistas and longer days call to me.  ( Tenkara rod still comes with tho )


    John Vance
    BPL Member


    Locale: Intermountain West

    I mostly move camp and walk everyday. From time to time I’ll stay in the same place for a couple nights but generally like moving through the scenery.  When I winter camped a lot, I typically snowshoed or skied in and base camped with day trips.  I liked having camp all set up after a long day of skiing or snowshoeing and with the limited daylight it maximized time out and about.

    BPL Member


    Locale: Front Range

    These days, I am more likely to hike in a day or two and set up a basecamp. I like the slower pace of dayhikes and scrambles from a basecamp–more contemplative, meditative, attending to subtleties, relaxing my senses, journaling, and such. A lighter pack makes this style more enjoyable for me, if not downright possible, so I appreciate the inspiration of thru-hikers and SUL’ers. And sometimes, it’s fun to move camp each night.

    Of course, to each their own.

    BPL Member


    I’ve done both, but I guess it depends on what my objective is when I head out. I don’t ever *plan* to stay in one spot, but it happens. If my plans require me to be in a different place on a certain day, then I’ll dig out my self-discipline and make it happen. On the other hand, I’ve gone out planning a 30 mile loop and never strayed more than a few miles from my car. Sometimes I find myself having a perfectly good time being lazy and reading a book. On those occasions, my self-discipline is nowhere to be found. Either way, I come home refreshed. My coworkers have told me a time or two, “you’re starting to get an attitude. Maybe it’s time for you to go back to the woods.”

    BPL Member


    I like both- hiking on and base camping. I have hobbies that can keep me perfectly happy in camp, so I don’t get bored. If you like climbing ridges without much on your back, it’s nice to base camp. Birding, nature or wildlife study, fishing – all kinds of things to keep busy with. But hard to do that if you know you have a certain number of miles ahead of you to a trailhead. Limited time usually dictates the choices for me. Sometimes mosquitoes dictate the choice. Sometimes the garbage in my head won’t let me sit still; sometimes sitting is what it needs.

    I did an overnight last summer and my walking partner (separate tents) slept really late in the morning; I am an early riser. I found myself a bit impatient and had to deal with my jitteriness while she slept. Then a group of Dall sheep came out and I was perfectly content for another hour and a half, just sitting in the door of my tent, sipping coffee and watching sheep. Sorry for the photos; photography is not one of my hobbies!

    BPL Member


    Those pics look amazing, Karen! I love seeing the different places that others visit, especially since I rarely get the opportunity to venture out of the woods!

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