BWCA Best time to make camp? Boundary Waters Trip Planning Forum
Chat Rooms (0 Chatting)  |  Search  |   Login/Join
* BWCA is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Boundary Waters Quetico Forum
   Trip Planning Forum
      Best time to make camp?     
 Forum Sponsor

Author

Text

06/04/2024 09:41PM  
I have a tendency to plan trips with longer days of paddling that result in reaching our desired lake to camp on by 3-4pm. But it seems like this is not the norm for people in the BWCA, and it has caused problems with finding a campsite on a few occasions.

What time do you aim to make it to the lake/campsite you intend to camp at? Do you think there is a "best" time that threads the needle between other groups breaking camp and making camp?
 
Reply    Reply with Quote    Print Top Bottom Previous Next
06/05/2024 05:24AM  
I like to get to my camp around lunch time. I have found that if group is leaving a site they usually have breakfast pack up and leave.
billconner
distinguished member(8695)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
  
06/05/2024 06:39AM  
In BWCA between Memorial Day and Labor Day - between 1 and 2. Outside of that or in the Q, by 3:00 usually. Shorter days in September and October can complicate it.
06/05/2024 10:27AM  
I also have a tendency to push for 7-9 hour travel days, and getting on the water around 7:30-8am on those longer days usually means making camp around 4pm. If we know it's a 9 hour day we'll get on the water by 7, but sometimes the morning puttering is inevitable and we don't quite make it by then. The goal is usually to be at camp around 3-3:30pm though. We always leave camp by 9am, so if we have a shorter day, we do enjoy finding camp earlier, around 1pm, when we'll eat lunch once we've found a site. If it's a longer day we have to stop somewhere for lunch which adds time, which delays finding a site - but you can't only eat bars between 7am and 3pm when you're doing heavy travel.

If you wanted to thread the needle, best time to be pulling up to a site would be around 11am. The pokey groups have almost certainly left by then, and the early groups definitely have. But it's not so late that someone has already likely swooped in, unless it's close to an entry point.
06/05/2024 10:50AM  
The only "best time" to make camp is when you have enough daylight left to setup camp and make dinner. Everything else is subjective.

If you are in a high traffic area where it can be tough to get a site, you might want to start looking pretty early. If your goal is to push through crowded areas to get to a remote area, late afternoon/early evening might be best. Are you planning on going back out to fish? If so, you might want to setup camp early enough to have a few hours before dinner to catch something to eat.

You'll have to make a judgement call depending on where you are camping and what your other plans are.
Michwall2
distinguished member(1468)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
  
06/05/2024 11:13AM  
It all depends on where I am in the BW.

If I know that I will be heading toward or passing near an entry point, I want to leave enough time either to move past far enough to thin out the crowds or I want to leave enough time to end the trip early if there are no campsites available as I head toward my exit. Finding an empty campsite near an entry then becomes a wonderful accident.

It also depends upon who is traveling with me. Death marches are not my idea of a good time. I want to leave enough time to be flexible in my campsite choices. Long days tend to lead to low blood sugar (the note about lunches above rings true) and dehydration. Low blood sugar leads to grouchy partners and poor mental choices. Dehydration leads to poor mental choices and physical mistakes. None of this is good that far from help.

scottiebaldwin
distinguished member (241)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
  
06/05/2024 02:07PM  
Short answer; 1:00 PM.

Longer and better answer; when someone asks me the best time to make camp, I would have probably a half dozen questions for them before I can answer. It’s totally subjective and depends on what your needs and desires happen to be. So let’s just go with the short answer... 1:00 PM. :-)
06/05/2024 03:00PM  
Useful responses so far. A couple people have mentioned wanting more context, so how about these two scenarios:

1) 6-8 hours of travel to interior lake with 2 campsites, mid-July.

2) Day before exit, travel to lake within striking distance of exit point, plan to camp on popular lake with numerous campsites, mid-July.

I'm not planning a trip that involves either of these. But both are situations I have run into before where open campsites were difficult to locate or unavailable.
06/05/2024 04:42PM  
geotramper: "1) 6-8 hours of travel to interior lake with 2 campsites, mid-July. "


Depending on how remote this location is, it probably doesn't make a difference here. If you are going to a dead end lake that people basecamp at, the likelihood of someone leaving the same day that more than one group comes looking for a site is pretty slim. People on those lakes usually stay for days or a week. If it was a popular lake along one or more routes, then that is a little different.

geotramper: "2) Day before exit, travel to lake within striking distance of exit point, plan to camp on popular lake with numerous campsites, mid-July."


This is a situation where you want to be be looking for a site early afternoon or even late morning. A popular lake near an entry point is tough. Start looking very early and be prepared to continue to the next lake.
06/05/2024 04:42PM  
There are some interior lakes with campsites that get very little use, so I know that whenever I arrive, I’m almost 100% guaranteed a site. I’ve stayed on Eugene several times for multiple days and no has been at the other site. If say, I’m planning on spending my last night on Agnes and I arrive around 2 pm and all sites are taken, I know could detour to Ramshead and know for certain I’m going to have a place to stay.
HowardSprague
distinguished member(3444)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
  
06/13/2024 12:52PM  
I generally shoot for 1-2pm.
06/13/2024 04:40PM  
I make camp by noon on summer trips. Early afternoon at the latest if hung up on a portage or something like that. We're on the water at sunrise, which for a June trip means 5am. That's a solid 7 hours travel time till noon.
06/13/2024 05:19PM  
I solo and wing it, usually try to find a site around 4, I know it is late but I like to sleep in.
06/14/2024 10:35AM  
In summer I generally think of 2:00pm as quitting time, but there is always a weird campsite calculus going on in my head which may shift that time forward or backward. How many of the last 5 campsites I passed were taken, how far might I have to portage if the site I hope for is taken, are there groups behind me, etc. if I want to do a longer paddle day I would rather get up really early than paddle later. Early mornings are cooler and have less wind, and it’s sort of cool to paddle past other camps that are just starting breakfast.

You do have to be careful in that cross-cross zone where you have people who starter late coming in, people staging to head out, and people with coolers sitting there all week. All that said, it’s all really random. I’ve paddled to remote interior places and found it crowded, and I’ve found open sites later in the day on popular destination lakes.
AlexanderSupertramp
distinguished member (407)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
  
06/14/2024 12:11PM  
In the Summer, quitting time is always 2-4pm and we plan routes pretty religiously around that. We'll modify it we see a lot of traffic traveling in our same direction.

In the Fall its 1-2pm usually, short days on the water and plenty of time to collect firewood, cook, and eat.

I always feel bad for those groups passing by camp at 7-8pm knowing full well that the lake is already full and that I should holler something out to them, they just pushed it too far that day. But hey, if you're a marathon paddler and like the risk, more power to ya!
06/15/2024 07:49AM  
I'm a late in the day camper. 3:00 at the earliest often after five; but I travel routes where there is little competition for sites.
06/15/2024 09:10AM  
Banksiana: "I'm a late in the day camper. 3:00 at the earliest often after five; but I travel routes where there is little competition for sites."


On our 9-day trip last month we started paddling at 2:05 - 2:15pm three times...getting to camp between 7:30 and 9. Once, had dinner and then kept traveling.

But like Banksiana, would not do that in a well-traveled area.
ockycamper
distinguished member(1471)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
  
06/16/2024 07:16AM  
Our groups gave up the "lets just push on a little longer" years ago. Now we are far more focused on getting to the lake and sites we want, set up, then either start fishing or just hang out and relax.

Our entertainment is waving at all the ones that have to get in the miles as they paddle by!
LaVirginienne
distinguished member (147)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
  
07/07/2024 06:24PM  
Lots of great data points here. When I paddle solo, I’m o. The water at first light on travel days. I have definitely had days when no campsites were available late in the day when I was tired, and the stress was not worth it. In the groups I paddle with, an 8 am start is aspirational lol. Your example scenario at end of trip is a real thing. Bin there. Nobody wants stress on the last night.

The way my group has dealt with this since those problems we had is to limit the number of planned portages on the last planned full wilderness day (the day before takeout), so that we still have energy to paddle and portage out a day early if we need to, or find another lake if the weather is gorgeous and we really want to camp that last night.

What I’m saying is, your planned SECOND TO LAST night is the one with real strategic importance. Set yourself up at that camp so the distance and portages on your last wilderness day are not huge or great in difficulty. A strategy that also favors bad turns in the weather…

This gives you three enjoyable options on the last day before takeout: easy day so you reach desired lake/camp early and relax on your last night; or you’re still in range to paddle out a day early before dark, which means you can handle the added distance and portages once you make that decision; or you can make it a semi-hard day to backtrack or find an out of the way site that night.
07/11/2024 12:40PM  
LaVirginienne: "What I’m saying is, your planned SECOND TO LAST night is the one with real strategic importance. Set yourself up at that camp so the distance and portages on your last wilderness day are not huge or great in difficulty. A strategy that also favors bad turns in the weather…."


Very much agree with this.
I like to start and end fairly early most days. In general, the wind usually picks up as the day goes by. Feels great to be all set up and enjoying lunch enjoying a 'nice breeze' instead of battling whitecaps in the afternoon.

Obviously lots of factors, but 1:00 like others have said is a great time to but setting up camp.
 
Reply    Reply with Quote    Print Top Bottom Previous Next