BWCA Solo etiquette? Boundary Waters Group Forum: Solo Tripping
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thart2009
member (18)member
 
04/01/2021 12:55PM  
I have a solo trip planned for late May. It's been a few years since I've been back to the area (20?) and I am quite excited. I am scoping out campsites online and planning my adventure. Some campsites have marvelous reviews and may indicate space for 3, 4 or more tents. Other campsites are much smaller with limited tent pads. I guess the right thing to do would be to focus on the smaller sites since I'm solo and leave the larger sites to those that might need more space. Is that what you do?
 
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04/01/2021 01:32PM  
Most of the time yes I'll look for smaller sites. But depending on conditions I will not hesitate to occupy any open site.

butthead
 
04/01/2021 01:36PM  
If the best site on a lake is available, I'm going to take it. Who knows who's going to show up and what their group size will be. A campsite with only room for one tent pad is usually a poor site. If I can avoid it, I won't stay there.

Getting the best site is always a matter of chance and luck. Sometimes I get a good site and sometimes I don't. It is what it is.
 
GraniteCliffs
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04/01/2021 01:52PM  
I usually do my annual solo in Quetico so not as much of an issue. However, I would not let it bother me too much if I took a large and nice campsite. I typically am fine with a smaller site, but in the BW, I would take whatever I found given the competition for sites. If the weather was very bad or a family with kids, etc. I would also agree to share the site.
 
04/01/2021 02:11PM  
A lot of sites are either a 2 or 4 rated site with room for either 2 or 4 tents and so on. My criteria are often different. I don't put that much stock in the ratings and "scoring a 5-star site" is not the reason I go. I go in September so not as much competition for sites. I take whatever looks good to me at the moment.

A lot of the highly rated sites are beaten to death. I often end up in smaller sites since a solo doesn't really require much.
 
04/01/2021 02:44PM  
I generally trip during shoulder season when use is down so taking a site others might want is seldom an issue. I research possible sites and pick the one best suiting my criteria.
 
EddyTurn
distinguished member (211)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
04/01/2021 05:26PM  
I think it's not a wilderness camping if one has to be aware of some on-line rating system when choosing where to camp. If I'm in a park I'll follow park rules, as long as it doesn't put me or others in danger, no more and no less. Camp site is a camp site and most of them had been in use far before year 2010 or whenever these camp-grading abomination was invented.
 
thart2009
member (18)member
 
04/02/2021 03:18AM  
Thanks for the comments everyone.
 
tumblehome
distinguished member(2419)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
04/02/2021 06:54AM  
For me, I would definitely not even bother with the campsite ratings. It's so subjective to the writer of the rating.

Sometimes finding a campsite is when you are exhausted and any open site is a blessing. Sometimes a crappy campsite isn't so bad after a few hours once you're set-up.

Small campsites seem to often have poor reviews due to being cramped, not enough tent pads. etc. Those are real gems to the soloist.

I've been solo camping for more than two decades and look forward to my next trip as soon as there is open water. Standing by.......
Tom
 
BearBurrito
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04/02/2021 06:57AM  
butthead: "Most of the time yes I'll look for smaller sites. But depending on conditions I will not hesitate to occupy any open site.


butthead"


My thoughts exactly
 
04/02/2021 09:38AM  
Under the current climate you have to take what you get as far as campsites go. One trip on Cherokee I took a site that could a easily accommodate 9 people, but it was the only site available
 
Minnesotian
distinguished member(2108)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
04/02/2021 09:55AM  

I pretty much agree with what has been stated. It is good to know in the back of your mind where the "good" campsites are located on your target lake, but those ratings are so subjective. As an example, there is a 5 star campsite on Oyster Lake. When I stopped there I didn't like it because it was basically a dirt patch and there was rain expected that night so it would have turned into a mud flat easily. But if you were with 9 people, that site would have been great.
 
Wayouttroy
distinguished member (139)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
04/02/2021 11:23AM  
Camp sites are part of the adventure, I have yet stayed at a site that I couldn't make work. Each time I set camp I always remind myself this is "Home" for tonight.
 
04/02/2021 12:40PM  
I stay away from 5 star sites because of the use they get. I sleep in a hammock so the only thing I really look for is a good landing. A great site for a solo might only have a 1 or 2 star rating because the tent pads are lousy or minimal seating around the fire.
 
GraniteCliffs
distinguished member(1956)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
04/02/2021 01:17PM  
As others have said the ratings of other people often do not match my grading of a site. What I value in a campsite is quite different than many of the raters.
I normally don't pay any attention to ratings before any trip. It somehow takes some of he mystery out of the trip.
Case in point is a site we stayed at in a storm. It was rated a 4 in the Q. We refer to it as the Charlie Brown Campsite since we thought it was god awful.
 
JWilder
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04/02/2021 08:00PM  
tumblehome: "For me, I would definitely not even bother with the campsite ratings. It's so subjective to the writer of the rating.


Sometimes finding a campsite is when you are exhausted and any open site is a blessing. Sometimes a crappy campsite isn't so bad after a few hours once you're set-up.


Small campsites seem to often have poor reviews due to being cramped, not enough tent pads. etc. Those are real gems to the soloist.


I've been solo camping for more than two decades and look forward to my next trip as soon as there is open water. Standing by.......
Tom"


Same here!

To the OPs question. The thought does cross my mind when it comes to the size of the site and just me occupying it. But then again. If a site is not occupied, I have every right to set up camp.

I will remain flexible though. Different situations create different decisions.

JW
 
TipsyPaddler
distinguished member (311)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
04/03/2021 07:21AM  
BearBurrito: "butthead: "Most of the time yes I'll look for smaller sites. But depending on conditions I will not hesitate to occupy any open site.

butthead"

My thoughts exactly"

+2

I also use a hammock now versus a tent. In the BWCA that helps a lot of poor or mediocre sites for tent campers work very well for hangers.
 
sedges
distinguished member(850)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
04/03/2021 10:01AM  
For me, a poor site is one that is likely to be buggy, so sheltered that it doesn't get a breeze or some sunshine. Solo travelers have every right to use sites with nice views and good drainage even if they are big sites. I have certainly had my share of poor sites when traveling late into busy areas. These days, in my old age, I tend to be done traveling early in the day. There are usually lots of sites open at noon.
 
jdddl8
distinguished member (254)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
04/03/2021 05:31PM  
I tend to select my sites now based upon past experiences. I think I have only had a handful of experiences where there is someone camping on a site I had selected in over two years of Q camping. In fact except for the first and last nights I rarely see anyone on the same lake. The only exceptions to this rule are weather, fire, bugs or animals.
One year I was going to camp on an island in MacDougall when I saw a bear get out of the water and climb onto the island. I passed!
 
straighthairedcurly
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04/03/2021 05:54PM  
The best campsites are the ones that are available when I am ready to camp :) I do not worry about whether a site is big or small. I actually really like small sites as a solo paddler, but when I am tired, I am tired. If I end up at a big site on a full lake, I am always happy to invite others to stay.
 
MikeinMpls
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04/04/2021 03:36PM  
I have never passed up a site so a larger party could have it. If a site is open, and I like it, I take it. There is plenty of opportunity for altruism in the BWCA, but this is not one for me.

Mike
 
04/06/2021 05:55PM  
Solo, I tend to like the smaller sites anyway. I passed up a supposedly 5 star site on Pocket Lake because it was large and too open, instead I went for a smaller site with trees.
 
RetiredDave
distinguished member (307)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
04/06/2021 07:07PM  
I generally take the first site I see when I'm ready to stop. Maybe I've been lucky, but I've never had a bad site, other than that rocky, creepy, far-western site on Vista.

No one has ever asked to share a site, but if it was late and a group needed a place to stay, I'd certainly welcome them. Anyway, the point being, I've never felt pressure to pass up an open site when I'm ready to stop.

Thanks for the interesting question!

Dave
 
dschult2
distinguished member (216)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
04/07/2021 12:04AM  
If you like the site take it and don't worry about the size. Your out there to enjoy nature and that includes your home for the night.
 
04/07/2021 08:55AM  
Not always, but most of the time the bigger sites are also the sites that are especially nice for other reasons like great landing or beach, great views, rock formations, fire pit, etc. I don’t feel the need as solo paddler to push past these nice sites just because a bigger group might come along. If I was on a lake with two open site and saw a bigger group, or especially a family with kids, I may well yield the nicer site but most of the time choosing a site doesn’t play out that way.
 
BearBurrito
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04/07/2021 02:18PM  
TipsyPaddler: "BearBurrito: "butthead: "Most of the time yes I'll look for smaller sites. But depending on conditions I will not hesitate to occupy any open site.

butthead"

My thoughts exactly"

+2

I also use a hammock now versus a tent. In the BWCA that helps a lot of poor or mediocre sites for tent campers work very well for hangers."


I am also a hammock camper, and I would completely agree, most sites I have stayed at that get 2 or 3 stars are for me 4 or 5 star sites.
 
GraniteCliffs
distinguished member(1956)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
04/07/2021 10:28PM  
I have discovered over the years that my solo tent fits just about anywhere. Makes campsite selection much easier than group trips
 
OCDave
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04/11/2021 05:52PM  
I don't think traveling solo or sleeping in a hammock makes me any less deserving of a highly desirable camp site simply because it could accommodate 9 and I am one. The larger site will likely provide an enhanced experience allowing me choices of where I sleep, the view to which I awake ect. I typically move everyday and paddle late into the afternoon so, I take what is available: if it happens to be a large site, so be it.
 
ThreeRivers
distinguished member (108)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
04/25/2021 09:52AM  
I hang too, and I focus on a lake for specific reasons, and I take what site I find without a good deal of concern for the number it can fit, we all pay the same fee. That said 3 years ago I was on a very crowded lake on my way out the next morning and saw a few younger folks that could not find a site and their choice was illegally camp, co-camp with a stranger or sleep at the EP. I offered to co-camp as it was late, they declined. The next morning early at the EP I saw the group rough sleeping at the EP and they then asked me to call their outfitter to pick them up asap when I got into cell coverage. Guess it is personal choice.
 
GraniteCliffs
distinguished member(1956)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
04/25/2021 10:09PM  
About twenty years ago I was on my annual Quetico solo. I was on Hurlburt or Payne. It was day 2 of a steady rain. No campsites presented themselves and it was growing late. I paddled by a small spit of rock jutting out from the shore, just a few feet above water level. A few scrub trees and a narrow patch of grass. I turned the canoe around and thought I can make this work.
I was able to set up the solo tent and hang my tarp over the edge of it, resulting in a front porch to sit under. Rain but no wind or lightning as I sat in the drizzle on my Charlie Brown campsite all alone. Nobody even close.
I had a dehydrated dinner, a book, a cigar and a couple of bumps. Never had to leave the porch. I had the lake and likely several others to myself.
I still look at that one star campsite in the rain as one of my best spots ever.
 
jdddl8
distinguished member (254)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
04/26/2021 07:28PM  
GraniteCliffs: "About twenty years ago I was on my annual Quetico solo. I was on Hurlburt or Payne. It was day 2 of a steady rain. No campsites presented themselves and it was growing late. I paddled by a small spit of rock jutting out from the shore, just a few feet above water level. A few scrub trees and a narrow patch of grass. I turned the canoe around and thought I can make this work.
I was able to set up the solo tent and hang my tarp over the edge of it, resulting in a front porch to sit under. Rain but no wind or lightning as I sat in the drizzle on my Charlie Brown campsite all alone. Nobody even close.
I had a dehydrated dinner, a book, a cigar and a couple of bumps. Never had to leave the porch. I had the lake and likely several others to myself.
I still look at that one star campsite in the rain as one of my best spots ever. "


This is so true. I can’t remember the number of days where I have had to accept what was available because of darkness, wind, rain, energy or injury. In some case I simply invent a new site. In all these cases I was just grateful I had a home for the night and don’t give a damn how it was rated.
 
blackdawg9
distinguished member (165)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/26/2021 06:29AM  
maybe i am odd man out., even if i was alone or just a pair of paddlers. if it was getting late or the water got rough. i wouldn't have a problem, with another small group ditching at my camp site.

i know we were on a long portage, where it was going to take 2 days, to move everything, because of the distance and a single pair came in to the portage, late in the day. we offered them a tent pad. it was going to be to far, to cover that late. they declined and bushwhacked on the portage. not a particular great idea, we caught upto them in the morning.
 
06/04/2021 03:01PM  
boonie: "A lot of sites are either a 2 or 4 rated site with room for either 2 or 4 tents and so on. My criteria are often different. I don't put that much stock in the ratings and "scoring a 5-star site" is not the reason I go. I go in September so not as much competition for sites. I take whatever looks good to me at the moment.

A lot of the highly rated sites are beaten to death. I often end up in smaller sites since a solo doesn't really require much. "


I do this as well. Often the lower rated sites tend to be perfectly fine for my single tent with plenty of space. If I happen to be in a bigger site, it's by chance. I've shared my site on occasion as well. Whatever works.
 
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