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Backcountry Campsite Safety Tips

Are you planning a backpacking or dispersed camping trip?

Then it’s very important you know how to stay safe when camping far away from civilization.

Although many of the same rules apply, staying safe at a backcountry campsite is much different than camping at a developed campground.

Keep our backcountry campsite safety tips in mind to greatly reduce the risk of injury or other dangers.

Set Up a Safe Campsite

Backcountry campsite with yellow tent.

First and foremost, follow all relevant backcountry camping rules.

Most backcountry areas ask that you always camp at a previously-used campsite and avoid environmentally-sensitive areas.

They also generally ask that you camp at least 200 feet away from any hiking trails and 200 feet away from any water sources.

As for backcountry campsite safety, we recommend selecting a flat, level campsite.

Look up to access any dangers in the trees. Check for widow makers, which are large, dead branches that could fall at anytime. Naturally, you don’t want to camp underneath one of these.

Keep Wildlife Away from Your Campsite

Backcountry Campsite Safety Tips 1

Reduce the likelihood of a bear encounter in the backcountry with bear safety best practices.

When backcountry camping in bear country, never cook food in the same place that you’re sleep.

We recommend cooking and eating meals roughly 200 feet away from your tent.

Not only should you cook away from your tent, but we also advise you to store your food (and all other scented items) at least 200 feet away from your tent and 200 feet away from your cooking area.

This triangular setup is often called the “bear-muda triangle.”

Our favorite backcountry food storage method is to use a bear-proof canister, although you can also hang your food in a bear bag.

We highly recommend bringing bear spray with you when camping in bear country – and knowing how to use it before your trip.

Fortunately, following these bear safety best practices (especially those related to food storage) will help keep other wildlife away from your campsite as well.

Take Extra Caution in Extreme Weather

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Always check the forecast before you head out on a backcountry camping trip.

If the forecasted weather looks too extreme, it’s much better to postpone your trip rather than get stuck in a situation you’re unprepared to handle.

Perhaps most important is packing gear that’s appropriate for the weather…

In the summer, it’s essential to pack gear that will help you stay cool in the heat. Of course, you must pack plenty of water as well (or a quality water filter/treatment method).

Winter camping comes with its own set of challenges. Make sure to pack all the appropriate cold-weather camping gear, such as a warm sleeping bag and 4-season tent.

Lastly, I recommend you always pack basic rain gear – like a rainfly and a rain jacket – unless you know absolutely certain that it won’t rain on your camping trip.

Always Bring the Right Camping Gear

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As mentioned above, it’s vital to bring the correct gear to stay safe at your backcountry campsite.

Start with the basics. Our family camping checklist breaks down the most basic camping gear, although our backpacking checklist is probably a better fit for you.

Perhaps most important is a backcountry survival kit in case an emergency arises or you get stranded. This should include a basic first-aid kit.

An alternative to setting up a tent at your backcountry campsite is to use a hammock instead.

I love hammock camping because it helps get you up off the ground which protects you from wet, cold, and critters.

Our hammock camping checklist breaks down exactly what is needed if you plan to use a hammock at your backcountry campsite.

Have a Great Time in the Backcountry

We don’t mean to scare you…but backcountry camping comes with its own set of dangers.

However, if you’re properly prepared and use common sense, you should remain safe and sound at your backcountry campsite.

Have any more questions about backcountry camping? Let us know in the comments below!