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How to Find and Set Up a Camping Site During a Hunting Trip

hunters camping
Getty: splendens

If you're heading to the backcountry on your next hunt, here's how to prepare for the best basecamp experience.

Many big game hunters, especially those running and gunning for elk, choose to set up camp in the backcountry rather than return to a cabin each night. This can be a great affordable option too (after the initial gear investment), but it's important you do it right to stay safe, prepared and close to game.

The best location and type of camp site can vary greatly depending on the quarry you're pursuing, the time of year, your physical condition, and the backcountry terrain you're dealing with. There are three main types of campsites backcountry hunters employ.

Bivy Camp: If you don't want to be tied to a singular location, this completely mobile form of camping might be for you. The downside is you'll need to invest in super lightweight technical gear and count every single ounce as you'll be toting around your entire setup daily.

Basecamp: While this option will keep you coming back to the same spot each night, you can bring more food, gear, and comforts of home along with you to your campsite. Weight and bulk isn't much of a concern so you can be better prepared for any situation. This could mean extra long treks each day, though, since you'll likely be set up closer to a road and farther from the action.

Spike Camp: This middle of the road option means you're camping closer to your hunting ground but traveling lighter than you would with a full-on basecamp. You do typically return here each night, but a spike camp is more mobile.

While there are tons of variables to consider with each type and your specific hunting adventure, these are some general important tips to keep in mind.

Locate Your Site

Regardless of the type of campsite you choose, you'll want to pick a place that allows for easy one-time setup. Look for a location with flat, even ground slightly elevated from area surrounding it so you don't have to worry about water rushing into your tent should it rain.

Be sure you're close enough to the area you plan to hunt so you can make the roundtrip in a day but not too close that you're sleeping in the center of prime spot and stalk ground.

Set Up Camp

Set up your tent or other dwelling once you choose the right spot and get everything squared away before sleeping or hunting. Be sure to secure everything well in case of inclement weather. You'll also want to gather firewood and start a fire or at least prep the area for one later.

Be mindful of predators, particularly bears, in the area and store all food appropriately.

Gear Up

Your choice in gear can make or break your hunt. For a bivy camp in particular, you'll want to choose high-quality, ultralight gear. This includes everything from your tent to your sleeping pad or sleeping bag, pack, apparel, food, field dressing tools, first aid kit and water filtration device.

Stick to well-known, reputable gear manufacturers dedicated to outfitting hunters for this type of pursuit, particularly if you're backpacking in. Some trusted names include Stone Glacier for sleeping bags and tents, KUIU for featherlight apparel, and Mystery Ranch for dependable frame packs.

If you're setting up camp for a whole week, your gear options are a little more flexible but you still want to choose products you can depend on and that can stand up to harsh conditions.

Plan Ahead

Are you completely prepared and outfitted for packing out an animal should you be successful? Do you have a plan for addressing any emergencies? Are you in cell service range or do you know where you can go to make a 9-1-1 call? Where will you head if you hurt yourself or run out of food? It's important to plan for every possible scenario because anything can happen in the wilderness and you don't want to be left stranded.

If you're using a designated campground, check to see if each camping area has fire rings, power hook-ups or picnic tables.

Or, if you're roughing it out in a state park or on BLM land, be certain that you're setting up on public land. Also check for fire bans before creating your own fire pit.

Expand Your Options

An increasingly popular choice for not-so-backcountry hunters is RV camping. Especially if you're a whitetail hunter who wants to stay mobile but still have access to a scent-killing shower, consider an RV for your camping experience.

This versatile option allows you to pick up your campsite and move at any time, maintain access to running water, accommodate several hunting buddies, and enjoy home-cooked meals each night. It's not the best choice for all types of hunters and pursuits, but it's a viable option for many.

And if buying is out of your budget, renting an RV might be a great solution. Hunters everywhere are realizing the value of combining their camper or travel rig with their housing for the week and skipping any costs associated with motel stays and constantly eating out.

Several online services now allow you to rent a variety of different RV models based on your needs for as low as $75 per night. Split that with your hunting partners, and it's certainly a bargain.

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NEXT: HUNTING GEAR REVIEW: KUIU ULTRA MERINO 145 ZIP-T

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How to Find and Set Up a Camping Site During a Hunting Trip