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  1. #1
    Registered User Grunt's Avatar
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    Default Really... no tenting in SNP

    Just read Philip Werner (Sectionhiker.com) SNP journal and was surprised by the statement that the tenting in SNP on the AT was all but impractical. He stated the spaces near the huts were to rocky, slopped and tiny! I contacted him and he confirmed his account and said if he went back he would hammock... not an option for us, but was disappointed because I really dislike shelters/huts.

    I was hoping to find tenting options away from the huts but wonder if anyone else can lend any information. We have a large 4 person backpacking tent...we wanted room but I suspect we might have to leave our teepee home and take our one/two person tent. What say ye?

  2. #2

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    I think there are tenting opportunities in the SNP. I did just hammock most of the AT in the park NOBO. At the first shelter coming up from the south end there were plenty of tents set up, although it is fair to note that most or all of those were 1/2 person sized tents. There are places for tents with a larger footprint along the way, but be prepared to hunt them out. And it is true that at some shelters tent acreage is limited. So in a general way the larger tent will be difficult, but not impossible, and one may have to find space away from a shelter in some instances.

    Calf Mountain Shelter--
    numerous little spots, perhaps a few larger

    Blackrock Hut--
    iffy, stopped here for a snack and water, didn't investigate but a steep area

    Pinefield Hut--
    Should be possible to find a good big site here, possible behind hut is off limits in which case would be a problem

    Byrd's Nest 3 Hut--
    Very possible here. Beware bear which was mentioned a lot in logbook comments back in May of this year.

    Hope these details help,

  3. #3

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    What have you done in the past when it is getting dark and there simply is not a place to setup your tent? I do not yet have long distance hiking experience. Do you keep walking with a headlamp? Sit down next to a tree and snooze a little until there is daylight? Or just plan well enough that this never happens?

  4. #4
    Registered User Engine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FreeGoldRush View Post
    What have you done in the past when it is getting dark and there simply is not a place to setup your tent? I do not yet have long distance hiking experience. Do you keep walking with a headlamp? Sit down next to a tree and snooze a little until there is daylight? Or just plan well enough that this never happens?
    Like any other issue on the trail, you go into problem solving mode. The usual solution is to fire up the headlamp and accept the fact it going to be a long day. Or, look at other solutions. If the weather is nice, are you comfortable with a cowboy camp? How far is the next shelter? You find a spot eventually.
    “He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature.” –Socrates

  5. #5

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    Finding a place to put a tent, especially a giant 4 person one is not easy. The exception is of course at the car camp grounds. Tenting at most shelters is limited and marginal. Hikers who have a small footprint tent and are willing to settle for very marginal sites can find places to camp, but even these are scarce.

    It's a question of terrain. First, you have the parkway in close proximity most of the time and the places you'd normally want to find a place to tent, the low spots, is where the trail crosses the road. The other choice is the high spots, but these are rocky and brushy. Your also suppose to camp a ways off the trail and that will put you back on the side of the hill. The rest of the time your slabing the side of the hill or going up or down. Plus there are a few spots with are just off limits.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  6. #6
    Hiker bigcranky's Avatar
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    SNP is hit or miss for tent sites. For all practical purposes it's really better to tent near the huts -- there's water, and it's legal. Some of the huts have much better tent sites than others. When my partner and I did the northern 2/3's, we stayed in one hut (hot, uncomfortable, buggy), and tented the rest. We were always able to find something, though only at Pass Mountain did they have great sites.

    When I soloed the southern section I used a hammock, which did make life a lot easier. The tent sites at the huts were pretty sketchy - sloped, rocky, etc.

    As for finding a site when it's getting dark, well that depends. In Shenandoah, you just really have to plan ahead and not get caught out late. The camping regs are such that it's difficult (tho not impossible) to find a legal spot anywhere near the trail except at huts. I'd sure hate to be trying to get a legal spot after dark.

    Usually on the trail it's not an issue -- there are often campsites at gaps or trail crossings, at creeks, and on summits. With some exceptions (Smokies, SNP, Whites), you can legally just camp. Finding a spot as it gets dark is easier -- but it's still better to be planning ahead and keeping an eye out for a good site late in the afternoon if this concerns you. Once you have more experience on the trail, it gets easier.
    Ken B
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    Our Long Trail journal

  7. #7
    Registered User Grunt's Avatar
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    Thanks my brothers... great confirmation! I'll leave the new teepee home and take my smaller tent. In ten years of section hiking from Springer, I've never really had too much difficulty in finding a place to set up my tent... I do lots of homework and planning before setting out and have a fairly good idea about where to camp, and honestly, it is usually around shelters... but not always. I use AWOL's guide but that doesn't mean you will always find designated campsites (obviously I've walked right past some... never saw them), and I've come across many many sites that are not listed in his guide and really wished they had been.

    bigcranky you dead on about the usual ability to find camping near gaps, creeks and even summits.... but I guess that's not so in SNP

  8. #8
    Registered User Grunt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FreeGoldRush View Post
    What have you done in the past when it is getting dark and there simply is not a place to setup your tent? I do not yet have long distance hiking experience. Do you keep walking with a headlamp? Sit down next to a tree and snooze a little until there is daylight? Or just plan well enough that this never happens?
    Never happen brother... I guess I'm usually very aware of my location and where I want to be. I've been close to pitching my tent in the dark and eating late but PPPPPP (prior planning prevents piss poor performance_

  9. #9

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    My wife and I did SNP (N to S) this Spring and we tented every night. Really didn't have a problem finding places, either along the trail or at the huts. Some of the spaces were not huge, and it might be iffy for a 4-person tent. We had a 2 person tent. But absolutely no problems tenting. Lots of others tenting as well. It all depends how picky you are about finding the perfect site. However, our sites were not sloped or rocky.
    As far as finding a place when it's dark, we usually have an idea of the general area in which we want to camp and always start looking for an appropriate spot 60-90 minutes before it gets dark, so that we don't have the hassle of setting up in the dark.

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    I did a 3 day section SOBO in the northern SNP in June and camped both nights, not by shelters. Yes there were place where tenting would be impossible, but I found great spots both nights. I also noticed several good spots during the day when i didn't need them. On the first day I got to Elkwallow Wayside around 5 pm. Didn't feel up to doing many more miles so I took a long time to eat by the picnic area and drink milkshakes. The maps showed some level ground and a spring just behind the picnic area. I hiked that direction with the idea I could camp near the picnic area in an emergency. I had the advantage of hiking on the first day of summer so sunset was very late. Found a nice level open forest near the trail junction just past the spring. On the second day was holed up at the pinnacle picnic area til 5 pm in a thunderstorm. I had more energy that day and there were no big climbs comming so I felt confident hiking to find a camping spot. This time there was nothing for a few miles. Around 7:00 I finally got to some spots that were possible (but not great) for camping. I checked my topo maps and saw I had a short hill to climb up to a small ridge at a trail junction. My plan was to check out that ridge and if there was nothing I could backtrack to the marginal spots I had passed. It turned out the ridge was wide open and level.

    The bottom line was on both nights I started to think about camping four hours before dark. I asessed my condition and situation. I considered several options including backtracking to sub optimal camp sites if necessary but kept moving to find something better, but kept my backup options accessible.

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    I do very little planning as far as on trail logistics as a section hiker... I know my start and finish point, and all the in between is just part of the trip. I have never not been able to find a place to set my tent up. As far as the SNP tenting situation, I just hiked the park May Sobo and tented all the way thru the park with no problem

  12. #12
    Registered User Grunt's Avatar
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    Did you tent primarily at or near the huts? With so many summits and gaps; water sources, my experience tells me tenting is no problem, but others paint the SNP as difficult to tent. Thanks for your comments... I'll be up there in late October... not sure which tent I'll take. My new one probably needs a 9x9 area... which is big, but I have another 2 man that is half the size.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Grunt View Post
    Did you tent primarily at or near the huts? With so many summits and gaps; water sources, my experience tells me tenting is no problem, but others paint the SNP as difficult to tent. Thanks for your comments... I'll be up there in late October... not sure which tent I'll take. My new one probably needs a 9x9 area... which is big, but I have another 2 man that is half the size.

    I camped only at huts and 1 campground. I would probably not take the 9x9. I used my stratospire2 but do not know its exact dims

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    Registered User DavidNH's Avatar
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    in SNP close to the shelters there are fabulous, designated places for tenting. i really don't get where this guy is coming from.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidNH View Post
    in SNP close to the shelters there are fabulous, designated places for tenting. i really don't get where this guy is coming from.
    Yeah. Two complete SNP thru-hikes, I'm pretty sure I tented nearly every night, except, of course, the splurge to stay at Skyland....

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    I've done the SNP 3 times and always tented. I did however use a 1 person tent though, but still don't see how using a 4 person tent would be a problem.
    "Chainsaw" GA-ME 2011

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    had a few questions for you. i plan on hammocking as well during my thru hike. would you recommend a hammock cover to prevent heat loss from wind underneath? also a sleeping mat to lay inside the hammock or is that not necessary? curious on how warm it kept you as well. thank you.

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    this thread highlights why there is no universal PERFECT shelter. I had no issues finding places to crash even in SNP in the dark which I did (and was planned.). But, I know that I often setup after dark in some cramped places which is why a very small footprint shelter was high on the list of requirements. If I had to spend a day in my shelter I would dreaming of a four person teepee.
    enemy of unnecessary but innovative trail invention gadgetry

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by jetmir101p View Post
    had a few questions for you. i plan on hammocking as well during my thru hike. would you recommend a hammock cover to prevent heat loss from wind underneath? also a sleeping mat to lay inside the hammock or is that not necessary? curious on how warm it kept you as well. thank you.
    You definitely need additional insulation under the hammock, even in the summer. A closed cell sleeping mat under the hammock can work with some hammocks, but the preferred insulation is an under quilt. This is like a sleeping bag which hangs under the hammock. If you've never used a hammock, there is a lot to learn so you don't freeze to death or get soaked. There is a hammock forum which is to place to go for more info.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  20. #20

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    bc_distance_guide_285.jpg
    https://www.nps.gov/shen/planyourvis..._guide_285.jpgI lifted this camping regulations image from the SNP web site.

    I guess I'm just too picky when it comes to campsites. When I went through there last year, I didn't see any (non-designated) places I'd want to camp. But since your suppose to be at least 20 yards from the trail, it's hard to see if there is anything suitable that far into the woods anyway. Your also suppose to use a place which has been used frequently before, and that's even harder to spot 20 yards into the woods.

    I got wondering exactly what 20 yards into the woods looked like. Figuring 20 yards is about 20 paces, I counted those off, hung the red stuff sack off a tree and went back to the trail. It turns out seeing 20 yards into the woods isn't too hard, provided it's open woods.

    I have a photo, but for some reason it isn't loading right now.


    In the end, it's just so much easier to use the designated sites and not have to worry about water or dealing with your bodily wastes. If you don't want to share your "wilderness" experience with lots of other people, you should not go to a National Park. Plenty of other places along the AT which are as good or better with none of the restrictions.
    Last edited by Slo-go'en; 08-08-2016 at 13:36.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

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