I wrote a new blog for Portland Rock Gym:
How to build the perfect shantytown (aka long term camping set-up)
So you’ve found yourself the ultimate project and are dedicated to whatever it takes to send it. Days, weeks, months pass by, and you’re still putting in attempt after attempt to show that rock who’s boss. Meanwhile, memories of your soft bed, hot shower, and full kitchen creep in and out of your mind while refueling on Nutella and stale bagels.
Now, if you’re one of those climbers with a pimped out RV or van, fine, you might still have those luxuries tucked away in the parking lot waiting for your return, but for those of us still rocking the old Chevy Cavalier our parents hooked us up with on our 16th birthdays, you might be ready to pack it in and find the closest motel when the going gets rough.
However, there is one way to ensure you maintain your sanity while choosing to kick it Huckleberry Finn style, and that is building the perfect shantytown (aka long term camping set-up) from day one. Here are the most important things to keep in mind when crafting your home away from home:
Location! Location! Location!
Finding the most beneficial location is the key to any successful shantytown. Once everything is set up, you are definitely going to be irked to discover that rain drains straight into your tent. Just like architects dedicate large efforts to their blueprints, you need to pre-plan and think through the setup of your shantytown. Every mistake will cost you in the long run.
Things to look for when scouting out your location:
- Trees: Trees are great for acting as anchor points for your structure. They also provide amazing shelter from the elements. However, try to avoid setting up under old ones that might drop branches and such on you, as well as ones with tons of birds roosting in them (for obvious reasons). You want your trees to be strong and sturdy. Endangered, fragile trees could greatly suffer from your structure, so respect the environment and choose trees that can handle it.
- Land: As mentioned above, you don’t want to end up sleeping in a swamp, so surveying the lay of the land is essential in choosing your location. Pick a spot that slopes at a slight angle and set up near the high point. Also, you might want to take into account where you are in relation to the sun. If you don’t appreciate waking up at sunrise, try to place your tent somewhere that remains shady until a decent hour of the day. On the flip side, if you’re in a cold location, be sure to keep your tent in the sun as long as you can.
- Sound: Are you the loud and rowdy group who stays up late laughing around the campfire until 2am? Are you the eager beaver group who heads to sleep early and is first to the crag at sunrise? Are you the family with two young children who get night terrors? All of these are awesome, but know which one you are and embrace it. Don’t set up next to a family if you plan to party all night. Don’t set up next to a site that has empty beer bottles everywhere if you want to go to sleep at sunset.
- Proximity: Take into account your surroundings and needs. Are there bathrooms available at your location? If so, consider how important it is to you to be close to them. How far are you from the crag? Do you want to be in isolation or closer to a town? Sometimes you don’t have very many options, but if you do, think about what will make your long term stay the most enjoyable.