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  1. #1

    Rant: LNT hammock camping and state parks don't mix

    I just recently came home from an overnight camping trip at a state park. This post is going to be long and may ruffle some feathers, but I'll sum it up by saying that state parks and hammock campers are often at odds, which is sad because hammock campers and backpackers are often the ones who Leave No Trace. As a result, my wife and I have all but given up on state parks in favor of national parks.

    The Story:
    Yesterday my wife and I packed our rucks with some new gear and headed out to try camping in colder weather than we had ever attempted before. Coincidentally, I had just come across a bunch of multicam gear that I wanted to test out in addition to the new cold weather gear.

    We found a local state park and headed out to set up camp. When we got there, we found that all of the primitive sites (enough room for 36 people) were grouped into one site as far as reservations were concerned, and that all of the campsites at that state park were filled. That sucks, but I guess it was our fault for not calling ahead and reserving a spot. So we found another state park not quite an hour away and headed over there instead. We were lucky that they had an 'RV/Tent' camping site available, so we took what we could get.

    We of course need trees to set up our hammocks, so we found an open campsite and set up our hammocks just inside the treeline no more than 50 feet away from the campsite. This is where we start to have a problem. There are electrical hookups, water pumps, fire pits, grills, trash cans, picnic tables, and giant concrete slabs for RV, car, and tent campers. But the park rangers often take issue when we hang our hammocks from trees (even when using tree straps and LNT methods).

    What really gets us though is that the parks put an incredible amount of effort into accommodating the hordes of people who make a huge mess of the area and generally show no respect for nature. Then we come and set up a campsite that people often can't even see from 50' away and without fail we have to explain ourselves every single time a park official actually does find us.

    It just irritated us to see so many people leaving trash involving soda cans, charcoal, food scraps, red solo cups, broken beer bottles, plastic bags, snack wrappers, and even toilet paper. Even worse was the impression that they weren't as interested in the outdoors as much as hotdogs, beer, iPads, and climate control inside of vehicles. To me it looked more like everyone was tailgating, not camping. I even stepped on a broken beer bottle, which would have been a serious problem if I had been wearing sandals or no shoes at all like so many kids at these places.

    My point here is that there is a very common and irresponsible type of 'camping' that is considered the norm, and that people who are truly out to enjoy nature (especially those using a hammock) don't seem to be welcome in our state parks.

    As a result, we've deiced to lean more toward the national parks or state parks with good primitive sites instead of supporting the ones that encourage tailgating.

    I've attached a few pictures below as an example of how we reduce the visual signature of our campsite. I've also attached a picture of some trash we found on the ground in the treeline about 10 feet away from where we hung our hammocks. We aren't the only ones who stray off the beaten path a bit, but at least you can't tell where we've been.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  2. #2
    Senior Member NCPatrick's Avatar
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    Oct 2006
    Winston-Salem, NC
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    It sounds like the primitive sites are where you would be happiest, although that's no guarantee that you won't find trash, etc. Yes, during leaf peeping season in the fall (around here, anyway), reservations are recommended if not required... it is perfect camping weather.

    "Civilization is the limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessities."
    - Mark Twain
    I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.
    - John Burroughs

  3. #3
    Senior Member
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    That sucks on the trash. Here in MN our state parks are really clean...even car campgrounds. That's probably why they've jacked the prices here in the past couple years.

  4. #4
    gunner76's Avatar
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    Dec 2009
    Beaufort, NC
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    Its a sad truth that many campers and hikers would rather leave their trash for others to enjoy instead of packing it out.
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  5. #5
    Senior Member JaxHiker's Avatar
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    I think it's typically evident that the masses are more concerned with tailgating as you say than enjoying nature. Expecting them to be the least bit concerned with LNT when they know that some park volunteer will come behind them to clean up their mess is a bit foolhardy. Nothing says "relax" like the game blaring on the TV or the stereo cranked so every campsite can enjoy your choice in music.

    I'm not much of a fan of state parks, either. One night we woke up to some drunk in the next site taking a leak in his tent and his friends freaking out. I'd much rather be in the backcountry somewhere.
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  6. #6
    Senior Member swankfly's Avatar
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    May 2012
    South Louisiana
    I feel your pain and second your new choices. I cannt stand camping in one of those packed to the gills state parks. It looks like a bunch of FEMA refugees or tailgaters, as you said. They are hacking on every tree and leaving a trail of trash everywhere they go.

    Man I love that multicam. I can't wait to get my WBBB. is that a Multi cam quilt/bag? Where did you get it?

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by swankfly View Post
    I feel your pain and second your new choices. I cannt stand camping in one of those packed to the gills state parks. It looks like a bunch of FEMA refugees or tailgaters, as you said. They are hacking on every tree and leaving a trail of trash everywhere they go.

    Man I love that multicam. I can't wait to get my WBBB. is that a Multi cam quilt/bag? Where did you get it?
    Yes, that's me in a multicam WBBB and a brand new multicam poncho liner from the local army store. I also found out that the brown fleece cap and neck gaiter from the same store are great for keeping your head and face warm on cold nights.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Rochester, NY
    For the camping you're talking about, your best bet is to head into the woods instead of a campground. The campgrounds are hardly a nature experience, as you mention. We've seen the same thing you've described, but we still enjoy campgrounds sometimes. For a trip into nature however, grab a backpack and head out to find your own space.

  9. #9
    Senior Member WetRivrRat's Avatar
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    Jul 2012
    In the woods
    Quote Originally Posted by JaxHiker View Post
    {...}I'd much rather be in the backcountry somewhere.

    I went last weekend to camp out at the local state forest and was awakened @ 4am by someone walking through out campsite and opening our cooler...
    I was too far away and not positioned properly to see the cooler, but my wife was hanging right next to it, she didn't get out, but just shined her flashlight around and a few second later we heard a car driving off...

    I prefer places that have less people and take more effort to get to - the people out that far are more respectful of you and the land it seems
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  10. #10
    Only once have I actually gone to a designated campground. The rangers waited until nightfall to pull in and tell us we ended up a few feet away from the actual camp spot and told us to pack everything up in the dark and leave. That'll be the last time I ever go to an actual campground as well (except for group hangs of course.)

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