20 responses

  1. marco
    May 23, 2011

    Nice writup. Floors in shelters are HARD. I like to sleep in the tent areas unless there is a lot of rain.

  2. Budzy1911
    May 23, 2011

    Recieved great advice from a through hiker in Virginia. My son an I were doing a section of the trail and stayed at a shelter one night.

    His advice about the mice – don't push your gear or head up to the wall – sleep more in the middle. Mice follow walls when they move.

    Listened to them squeak and move around at night but the gear was hung so we had no problems.

  3. DripDry
    May 23, 2011

    Good post. I was really uncomfortable with shelters last year when we did our hike, but grew to enjoy them. We had a few interesting moments with mice, but I think the problem greatly diminished when the weather got warmer. One night, a mouse filled our shoes with acorns, and another night I woke up to one staring me in the eyes! We also had fun watching an "experienced" hiker shaking them out of his food bag at 3am after he told us he "always used it as a pillow".

    One other piece of advice is to use a light with a red beam if you need to get up in the middle of the night. Shining a bright headlamp in the shelter is no way to make friends!

  4. Earlylite
    May 23, 2011

    That mouse was probably deciding whether to nibble on your nose! Good advice about the red light.

    I got over my fear of shelters on The Long Trail. Endless rain does that. I view them now as natural stopping points that provide me with a great deal of psychological comfort, particularly when I'm alone and in the middle of nowhere.

  5. mike
    May 23, 2011

    Also, keep in mind that the regulations for tents at shelter sites change in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. They only allow you to set up a tent if the shelter is full and you are a thru hiker…. Not sure if there are different regs in SNP or elsewhere.

    Earplugs are nice in the shelters, especially on the weekends. Weekend backpackers have different priorities than those who thru or do extended trips. Late nights around the campfire with a bottle of Jack…. while 10 other people are trying to sleep… grrrrr.

    If you are staying at a shelter in a popular area on a friday night…. expect some group to come in around 1am. Keep your earplugs handy….

    I prefer camping away from shelters when I can. I guess I'm turning into a solitary crumudgeon…

  6. Earlylite
    May 23, 2011

    True. Weekends during "high" season do sort of suck. Good time to sleep in a tent, out of earshot of the noise. I was stayed at a shelter once where a bunch of good old boys showed up with a radio to listen to the yankees game and had a chain saw to keep their fire stoked. I slept about 300 yards away.

  7. mike
    May 23, 2011

    Wow! A chainsaw. I bet you had nightmares of waking up to somebody yelling "timber!"

    I have had some amazing experiences in the shelters. Getting to know other hikers, games, discussions, humor, food sharing, magic… all that.

    Unfortunately, it truly is amazing how rude some people can be, and never realize it though. Those guys were having the wilderness experience that they wanted to have. Felling trees and listening to the game. They were probably joking amongst themselves about how primitive your methods were. ;)

    Thanks for the write up on the shelters. I tend to have a more myopic view because I do most of my hiking in and around the smokies. It's always busy there…

  8. Earlylite
    May 23, 2011

    I could deal with the chainsaw, but a Yankees game? That's not humane.

  9. David
    May 23, 2011

    About twenty years ago, I was dealing with chain saw noise in the middle of the night. I could hear it idle, then speed up and cut and drop back to idle. This went on for about two hours and then I perceived it was a friend's snoring. At least he didn't sound like a Yankee's game.

    Last year, when backpacking with my brother in law, he heard a bear grunting and sniffing around outside our tent. He was about to wake me when he realized it was my snoring. As nervous as he'd gotten, he'd probably have preferred the Yankee's game.

  10. DripDry
    May 23, 2011

    We have a general rule in picking shelters- "are they far enough from a road (or enough elevation gain) to prevent a local from carrying in beer?"

    My worst shelter experience was my first- we crawled into the shelter before Blood Moutain in deep snow totally wiped out, and ended up sleeping like cord wood with a bunch of other hikers. The guy beside me must have had sleep apnea because he choked and snorted all night, and kept kicking me in the back everytime he did. We named him "Creeper". Thank goodness he dropped off the trail shortly after. One more night like that and I would have strangled him myself! I learned to pick my spot quickly and carefully.

    Once we were in VA the shelters were not very full and they became a pretty enjoyable experience. When deciding on a shelter, be aware of weekends, holidays and college spring break, which can significantly change the dynamic.

  11. lilricky
    May 23, 2011

    The mouse hangers in the shelters are not for food. Unless you would like animals coming into the shelter in the middle of the night. Those hangers are for packs, so the mice cant chew on them.

  12. Earlylite
    May 23, 2011

    No. Those lines are for hanging food bags, but you can also hang packs off of them. Personally, I hang my pack from the nails on the sides of shelters and keep the pockets open so mice won't have to chew into them if they want to visit. Needless to say, don't keep food in your pack.

  13. lilricky
    May 23, 2011

    The mice typically chew on packs for the salt, applied by your built up sweat. You definately do not want to hang food in the shelter, trust me.

  14. Earlylite
    May 23, 2011

    That's really a problem for thru-hikers. Most people don't wear a backpack for 6 months, straight. What do you do about your shoes? That's where I really sweat (my feet).

  15. DripDry
    May 24, 2011

    The majority of LD hikers I have seen use the hangers for their foodbag and hang the pack on a hook on the wall after opening all the pockets. In fact I don't remember ever seeing a pack hung from the hangers. I don't claim to be an expert, but have been told the "salt chewing" isn't a mouse problem but is common with other "critters".
    I always try to put my hiking poles inside the shelter as the cork handles are often a target. I have never had a problem with anything chewing on my pack or poles (except for the time I left a bag of peanuts in the hip belt pocket and a mouse chewed through).

  16. RevLee
    May 25, 2011

    Personally I think the mice chewing on the packs is a hiking myth, haven't met anyone who actually had it happen to the them. Last year I hung my pack on the wall hooks or left it on the shelter floor for three months without it ever being chewed on by mice. I sweat a lot and there were plenty of mice, so it should have happened if it really is an issue. Now I did always make sure to leave open the hip belt pockets where the daytime snacks were carried.

    On nights when the hangers were full, I would hang my Spectra cloth (exploded airbag) food bag with on OP sack inside on the wall hooks. None of the varmints successfully breached it, plus I couldn't tell if they even tried.

  17. RFS2
    June 1, 2011

    One night to give my fleece a little airing out, I laid it over my pack. Mice apparently think fleece makes good bedding! Several holes and lots of pilling.

  18. Blitzo
    June 7, 2011

    Porcupines are the big salt chewing offenders. If you see chew marks on the wodd in a shelter, make sure shoes and packs are off the ground – shelter floor included in the definition of ground.

    Mice are strictly food seekers, and I have seen them chew through packs, but it's not common. Mice are attracted to water, too, so don't leave any open top water containers accessible to mice, either, or you may wake with one or more dead mice in your water container.

    I will sometimes hang food from the tuna strings (with strong reservations) but usually hang bear style and always use bear provisions when provided. I hang the pack on a nail if there, on a tuna string if shelter has room for it, or along wall if nothing else provided.

    Mice do hug the walls for sure. That's the best information about mice to have when deciding where to leave stuff.

    Unmortared stone shelters are the worst mice harborers. Visit the Smokies if you want the full mouse experience.

  19. Fosco
    September 20, 2013

    Had a shelter mouse chew through a pack pocket to get at some piña colada lip balm I’d forgotten about. Gnawed the balm cap as well.

  20. jwmullens3
    May 8, 2014

    Sorry Rev Lee but the mice chewing on the packs is not a myth. Had it happen to me and I wasn’t even in a shelter. On the same trip different shelter one of the other members of our group had a mouse chew through a pocket to get at some food inside the pocket.

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