#1 Posted by schreiberty (223 posts) -

Hey guys, I know its been a tough week, but I need some help with this one. So me and some friends want to go backpacking for a couple of days, but after about 30 mins of google searching I couldn't find what we wanted. Most places that offer backpacking do it in the form of hiking various trails, with predetermined spots that are used for camping along the way. While this is fine, what we wanted was more like ' hike into the woods for a couple days, sleeping wherever, then hike out'. Are there actual places that are designated for this or are you supposed to just hike into any old woods? If there are places for this does any one know of a good one? We live in the bay area so anywhere in reasonable driving distance is fine. Also, is it illegal to just camp out wherever you want, say on Mt. Diablo for example?

Basically, I want to go camping like the guys from The Blair Witch Project, without the murdering and what not. Any recommendations would be much appreciated.

#2 Posted by mlarrabee (3211 posts) -

You'll want wilderness under the jurisdiction of the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) or the National Forest Service, I believe. Camping in these areas is referred to as "dispersed camping" and there a few restrictions:

  • Camp must be a minimum of 1/4 mile from the nearest paved road and nearest developed camp ground.
  • Camp must be a minimum of 100 feet from water sources.
  • Pack it in/pack it out, quiet between 10 PM and 6 AM, no noise generating items (radios, generators, dirt bikes), don't disturb the flora and fauna, try to camp on bare earth, fire restrictions are unpredictable (if you're not using a camp stove, check with a Forest Service ranger about the specific area and date).

These are general restrictions and local laws can and will deviate. Your best bet would be speaking to a Forest Service ranger.

#3 Posted by Patman99 (1634 posts) -

I've done this a bunch but I live in British Columbia. We normally just pick a mountain and go for it. There aren't "designated" spots. It's probably safe to bet that the more developed a trail/mountain park, the more they frown on people just camping in the woods. We normally pick areas that are known for this sort of thing. In saying that, you would probably be safe in terms of not breaking the law if you walk into the woods and camp so long as you aren't around people.

There may also be laws against camping in undesignated state park areas. I know provincial parks here are sometimes picky.

If you are all inexperienced in this sort of thing, I would highly suggest bringing a map/compass or gps (if you have it). Furthermore, I would tell someone who is not going camping with you where you are going and when you expect to get back.

#4 Posted by DriveupLife (1145 posts) -

If you're brand new to backpacking, I don't recommend you set up camp in a completely new area in the wilderness. You might get lost and not be able to get back.

#5 Edited by Darkstorn (478 posts) -

I recommend the Nat'l Parks if anything. Here in Northern CA we make biannual trips to the High Sierras for weeklong backpacking trips and you can camp anywhere as long as you have a wilderness permit.

It's also totally possible to hike into some random forest (probably owned by Georgia Pacific if you're in California - my assumption from your mention of Mt. Diablo) and set up a tent. Most of the privately owned forest around here don't have anyone patrolling them. My recommendation would be to drive up to Mendocino county (around Jackson State Forest, where I grew up) and just get lost in the Redwoods. Just don't stumble into any pot grows haha...

#6 Posted by strangecargo (90 posts) -

You will very likely need a wilderness permit to do the sort of camping that you want. All of my backcountry camping experience has been in the context of climbing, so my experience with this sort of thing has been limited to areas that most people wouldn't want to hike or camp at for fun. There's a bunch of beautiful wilderness in the Sierras, including inside Yosemite National Park and east of the park, out past Lee Vining. I've also heard good things about backpacking along the Lost Coast, though it sounds kind of like Hard Mode backpacking to me (I hate hiking when it isn't considered part of the approach for a climb).

I'd call the number at the bottom of this page and talk to a Yosemite ranger for advice. Make sure to tell them how experienced you are and what sort of thing you're looking for. Even if you don't want to go out that far, the YNP wilderness rangers tend to be really knowledgable and could probably give you suggestions for places to go. Also, REI employees in the area tend to know a lot about local hiking and camping, so that's another option for a place to call or visit for advice.

Mostly importantly, don't just go to "the woods" and wander around. You definitely need to make sure that you minimize your impact on the wilderness (ie: practice Leave No Trace). Certain areas in Northern California also have a significant bear hazard and you should educate yourself on how to handle that.

#7 Posted by Game_Baron (129 posts) -

Any recommendations on a good camping backpack?