Introduction to Campsite Security
This is an introduction to Campsite Security and not a complete guide. Camping can be dangerous and should always be done with proper equipment and training. Off Road Republic is not responsible for any damages, injuries, or losses during a trip and the article below is written by a trained expert who’s opinions in this article aim to provide education.
Introduction to Campsite Security
How often do we overlook this critical aspect of camping or overlanding? We pull into a spot and think, “This has good shade” or, “This has a fire pit already” or, “Look at that view!” This is normal and perfectly fine. Things like that can enhance your camping or overlanding experience; but I want to give you some things to think about as well. Once you’ve put some of these things on your mind, it’ll come to you easily. Campsite security can mean many different things. To better understand this, let’s look into some of the possible threats we can face while in the middle of nowhere. I for one make sure to get as far away from people as possible and with that comes some of its own security and survival challenges.
- Driving on unmaintained roads and passes
- Campsite selection and security
- Deadfall trees
- Reckless shooters (national forest shooting zones)
- Cell phone signal
- Getting lost
Plan your trip in your mind and take a second to think of safety and security each step of the way. Now before you go, you may also want to take a look at our Introduction to Overlanding article to make sure you have the essentials.
In order to get to our destination, we likely will have to travel on a dirt road with questionable maintenance. Things to consider are roads that are likely to wash away due to the weight of your vehicle on mountain passes and narrow one way roads. Another consideration for spring camping is you may be among the first to drive over some bridges after the melt. Bridges can often times be compromised by the weight of the snow and the erosion of the melt. Carefully conduct trail recon on foot if you are traveling over an uncertain section of the road or use local resources to get an idea of the trail conditions prior to your travel. Never walk close to the edge of a road drop-off and always consider a different path if a bridge or road looks unsafe or washed out.
Weather can be another security concern depending on the time of year. It’s always smart to bring clothing and essentials applicable to any weather on your trip but what about lightning, flood, or high winds? Depending on these weather variables, your sight selection may need to be addressed. Checking the weather prior to your departure will help you understand the general conditions but once you are near timberline, the weather has a mind of its own. Always make sure you are aware of any water source and know your egress route in case of a flood. Be careful of hazard trees that are dead and likely to blow over in a windstorm.
3: Campsite selection
When you select a campsite, walk the area to check for hazard trees and never put your camp near one of these. Hazard trees are trees that are dead or nearly dead but still standing. They can fall at any time without warning and will cause damage to anything under them and can injure or kill someone standing near one when they fall. Other hazards to be aware of and look for when conducting your recon are mine shafts. The United States is littered with mines that can be partially covered up or completely open. Most are marked and easy to spot but it’s something to be aware of before selecting your spot.
You’ll also want to consider your zone within the forest. National Forests have shooting area for recreational target practice which can present a safety concern if you camp near one. Also consider predatory animals like bear and mountain lions. These animals are usually afraid of humans but during the spring, bears can be very food motivated and will likely take more risks to get their next meal. Keeping your site clean and ensuring you have your food and waste away from your sleeping area can help keep you safe.
If you plan on having a fire, always be safe with it and follow local rules and laws regarding campfires. Never break fire ban laws! To address the threat of wildfires, lets first talk about site selection. In 2020, Colorado had a huge number of fires, many of which were record setting in size. During these fires, I still managed to get out and do some overlanding. I did my recon before leaving and I looked at areas that weren’t as hard hit by drought. I also selected areas that were not near forests like sand dunes and other open areas. Because I was unable to have a camp fire, I brought an electric lantern for lighting and enjoyed the stars without the fire.
4: Cell phone signal
Depending on where you are, you may or may not have cell phone signal. For emergencies, you can consider purchasing a CB Radio or get certified to use HAM Radios. Cell phone signal boosters often work as well but they have limitations. Another option for emergencies is a satellite phone. These can be expensive and can cost as much as several dollars a minute to use. But having one of these in an emergency can be very valuable. This is one reason why I have a close friend back home that knows where I plan on going and how long I’ll be at each spot. I also check in periodically to make sure they know I’m on track with my trip so they can alert the proper authorities if I am gone longer than expected. This transitions nicely into the next section.
5: Getting lost
No one ever expects to get lost. That’s why it is important to have maps of your area and always bring a bag with some gear in it on a hike. I suggest a pack containing the, “Five C’s” which are Cutting tools, Cover elements, Combustion devices, Containers, and Cordage. This is a good starting point for a day pack and can get you out of a tight spot should you find yourself in a survival situation. I also suggest exploring marked trails and noting down your location at each intersection in a notebook so you can retrace your steps if need be.
Camping and Overlanding activities are growing in the United States. With more and more people on the trails and campsites, be safe and always be courteous. Leave your campsite cleaner than when you got there and always follow local rules and laws. Camping is an opportunity to disconnect from your daily life in the city and relax. I will place some links below that will assist you in planning your next adventure. Thank you for taking the time to read this article and if you want to support this site, consider purchasing a sticker or patch and sharing our site with your friends.
- Examples; Knife, Saw, Hatchet, Tomahawk
- Examples; Tarp, Tent, Camper, Lean-to
- Examples; Lighter, Matches, Flint
- Examples; Water bottle, Canteen, Flask, Jug
- Paracord, Rope, Webbing, Net
- Paracord, Rope, Webbing, Net
Forest Service Shooting info
Off Road Driving Trails
US Forest Service Information
Wilderness First Aid Basics