Bob's Backpacking Bits
Camp Layout and Setup

(Bearmuta Triangle)
Bob provides this content for discussion only and does not warrant it in any way. Check and follow Federal, State and Local Laws/Regulations and consult official Boy Scouts of America publications.

Sanitation Fire Cooking Cleanup Bear Bag Water Tenting Safety Charge Related Resources

The primary objectives of laying out camp are to find a safe sleeping area and to leave as little trace that you were there as possible. This means respecting wildlife that might be interested in your "Bearmuta Triangle" and insuring that you don't contaminate ground water or leave anything behind. The Bearmuta Triangle is formed by the (1) the fire ring & cooking (dining), (2) the bear bag, and (3) the sump (cooking waste water) "smellable/bear areas". [The
Backpacking Equipment List indicates which items are stored in the bearbag [BB] and sump or dining areas [SD].] The tenting area should be safely outside this triangle because animals are likely to travel between these areas, and crewbies don't want to be in their path. To prevent being a bear lollipop, no food should EVER be in the tent, packs (with cover) should be hung outside, and a sleeping bag stuff sack or tent bag NEVER used as a bear bag. Shoes should not be left on the ground. Actually, in the Pennsylvania mountains, bears are not the only "critters" to guard against. Crewbies may encounter racoons, porcupines and skunks. All are attracted to smells or salt and can "maul" a pack. Below is a simple illustration of an appropriate camp layout.
Hey! If you think I'm a punk for being cautious or want to read more, check out the National Park Services (NPS) Bears and Leave No Trace pages, the USDA Forest Service (USFS) Outdoor Fire Safety Tips and USFS -- Safe Campfires pages, USSSP -- Leave No Trace Principles, USSP -- Low-Impact and No-Trace Camping & Hiking, a Philmont Guidebook to Adventure (PHL) or the "Wilderness Use Policy of the Boy Scouts of America" ( WUP). Not surprising, since good safety procedures are pervasive, they agree in almost every respect. Here are a few guidelines from these sources:

Every crewbie and scout should adopt standard minimum operating procedures based upon Federal, State and Local Laws/Regulations and Boy Scouts of America publications covering that particular trek/tour. These (for example, those applying to National, State or Local Parks/Forests or Philmont) may specify other more stringent procedures. But, if you aren't following safety pecautions, and insisting that those with you do likewise, you are putting yourself, those around you, and those that follow you, at risk. A scout would not knowingly do that! We are resposibile for "knowing". The " Wilderness Use Policy of the Boy Scouts of America" charges us to "[c]onduct pretrip training that stresses proper wilderness behavior, rules, and skills for all the potential conditions that may be encountered", to "[t]reat wildlife with respect and take precautions to avoid dangerous encounters with wildlife", and to "[e]mphasize the need for minimizing impact on the land through proper camping practices ...". Increasing the "knowing" part is a major motivation for this bit.

Now, here are a few "precautions-not-taken" bear stories. [I knew you were just waiting for them, so I saved them for last.] The day before we arrived at Philmont's Miner's Park, a bear ripped into an unattended pack right in the campground during the middle of the day -- it had a candy bar buried deep inside. Just recently (July 2000), two scouts were scratched by a black bear in the Mt. Phillips area of Philmont Scout Ranch [Mike Floyd's account; Amarillo Globe article]. My brother-in-law tells me that in south central Pennsylvania, where he lives, works and camps, sloppy campers have conditioned the bears so well to link food to campfires that shortly after starting a campfire it is not unusual to observe bears mulling around near the horizon. Our scoutmaster tells the story of a nephew's tent being visited at Scout Camp by a bear wanting to share his chocolate chip cookies. One of our older scouts observed a bear circling a truck containing food in a Western Rim (#34) of Pennsylvania Grand Canyon (north central) trail access parking lot -- our troop was camped nearby. Luckily, there was no "car clouting" that night. One advantage for campers of these "Eastern" black bears relative to the ones in some "Western" Parks is that the bold ones are also the ones likely to be harvested during hunting season [10 year average for PA is 1,800 per year with 110-130 per typical year in our (Centre) county alone (CDT, 12/5/99, p.2B)]. I enjoy seeing bears on outings (6 times so far), but not when they "get up close and personal" -- I almost got run over by a 350-400 lbs. one that had been "spooked" by others on a non-BSA outing. The moral is not that you should fear bears, but you must respect them.


Bear in Advisor, Asst. Smtr. Kathryn's Yard
[Read about Black Bear Problems in Residential Areas]

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