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Thread: What are the rules on reserving a campsite with a chair?

  1. #1

    What are the rules on reserving a campsite with a chair?

    OK here's one from this weekend, up near Christmas Meadows in the Uintas; We plot out a spot on Google Maps that would hold 5 camp trailers and families, and we pull in on Thursday afternoon. You can't see this spot from the road, you've got to drive slowly down a road, maybe a couple hundred yards, around a little hill, so it was nice and secluded, hidden from the road and any people passing by.

    Well, my brother is the first into the spot, and once he gets down into the site, there's an old tent with a big tear in the rain fly, and a camp chair staked down so the wind wouldn't blow it away. Looking at it, trying to figure out how long it had been there with multiple bird droppings, we figured it had been there for a while.

    What to do in this situation?

    First of all, if the chair were up by the entrance to this spot, and not down the hill and around the corner, that may have kept us driving past to look for another spot. So let's agree this was a poor tactic up front. Then, what if it truly was abandoned, does nobody ever come to visit the site until the local ranger comes and removes the tent and chair?

    I doubt there are official rules, but if so, what are they? Is there a time limit? We had already paid for the multi day pass, at the ranger service station a mile up the road, so we figured we were paid and proper.

    So anyways, what happened was, my brother folded it all up and put it off to the side, up closer to the entrance to the site. We anticipated that maybe somebody might come looking for it, but who knows really, it was in poor shape. Well, we got there on Thursday, and who comes rolling up at 10:30 pm Saturday night? (2 full days later after we've been there) The owner of this tent. It was just him and a woman, in a Ford truck with a shell and their own tent. Just those 2, trying to reserve this large spot, for who knows how long. He drives into the spot among our 5 trailers and trucks. It sounded like English wasn't his first language, so it was a bit hard to understand him.

    My brother in law was talking to him, and I kind of wish I had the chance to talk before he pulled out of there, but he tried to say the tent was here on Friday. But, we arrived on Thursday, so the whole thing sounded sketchy like he had been saving the spot for a lot longer than a couple of days.

    I told my brother the next time we pull into a prime spot and somebody staked their chair down, we should fold it up nicely and place it by the entrance of the camp so they can come pick it up, then they don't even have to bother us asking where it is.

    Luckily for the couple, we all vacated the spot the next morning, 12 hours later. He saw us all pulling out down the road at our original planned time, so he was free to come in and grab his spot. Unfortunately for other neighboring campers, they saw the tent and decided not to take the spot, which ended up very well for us.

    So, has anybody else removed a tent or chair from a spot? Or do you have a story about saving a spot for yourselves, and it gets taken? What are the rules? How long should we expect the spot to stay vacant?

    For reference, the red square is where the tent was, after we made our way down this road.

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  3. #2
    I know people well enough to know that staking a chair and an old ratty tent in a spot ain't gonna keep folks out. At all. Your example proved that -- you just brushed it aside, like any reasonable person would.


    About the only thing that can keep other people out is an actual living, breathing, person who is preferably very intimidating looking, and talks really loud and menacing. Especially if that person has a current camp permit in hand. Or that person is carrying a sidearm.

    Aside from that, you're gambling.
    It's only "science" if it supports the narrative.

  4. #3
    I would have moved the tent and chair, probably up them by the entrance, and then played stupid... What tent and chair? Those up at the road were there when we got here, wasn't us, maybe it was the campervan that was just pulling out when we arrived. Then it's on him to prove otherwise.... doing anything else is just going to be an argument. Better to place the blame on a strawman and leave him nothing to fight about with you...

  5. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Iceaxe View Post
    I would have moved the tent and chair, probably up them by the entrance, and then played stupid... What tent and chair? Those up at the road were there when we got here, wasn't us, maybe it was the campervan that was just pulling out when we arrived. Then it's on him to prove otherwise.... doing anything else is just going to be an argument. Better to place the blame on a strawman and leave him nothing to fight about with you...
    Yeah that's what I suggested we do next time, let them come by, see their crap right there by the road, and have no need to come talk to us.

    As for any rules, for which I'm sure there aren't, but if they really wanted to reserve the spot they may have a bit of leverage if they proved paying the recreation fee for the additional days. But nobody's going to do that.

  6. #5
    I tend to be in a popular northern Utah canyon mid week at least weekly during the summer. Non regulated dispersed camping is the normal routine on FS land and BLM. To help entertain myself on the drive I count camps with unoccupied tents, chairs and trailers. Last week it was 23. That was the fewest I've seen since before Memorial day.

    There is a normal 14 day limit on most forests with with a 24 hour limit as unoccupied. It is very seldom enforced. In the end it is up to you if you want to have those type of conversations. I personally don't like to put myself in those situations and leave others as much space as possible.If someone was to threaten me with a weapon it would not end well for anyone.

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  8. #6
    We took a drive up around the main Christmas Meadows campground, I saw a couple of spots with chairs set up right in the parking area. I really should have taken a picture and posted "Free Chairs at Christmas Meadows".

    It's either balls, or stupidity to expect you can reserve one of the most popular spots on the Northern side, on a busy weekend. I'll bet those chairs didn't last the night.

  9. #7
    The only time I ever see this is at BLM/NF type paid campsites. They'll have a tag and at least a little cooler on the picnic table...these people are all camping out of their vehicles one way or another.

    Never seen it out in the backcountry. People get weird the closer you get to town, I figure. I keep up on "nomad" people...singles and couples that live full time in RVs, big and tiny. Seems like most of them get tired of it within 2 years and move back into the rat race. There's a lot of people living in their cars and trucks. If we see them starting to stake out wild lands to build their own structure and live it out like Jerimiah Johnson, and it's tolerated, then that's a sure sign society is on the verge.

    That's way too many people that want to ditch it all and go full on caveman. I know there's a lot of people that can't keep up too well, but that's getting off the hook. You guys that recreate close to the city will be first to see it.

    Heard back in March that the deserts east of L.A. and San Diego were filled with campers. But that was mainly the Covid thing.
    "You can stay 20 feet away from me if that makes you feel better"
    Dumbass.

  10. #8
    Moderator jman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Byron View Post
    The only time I ever see this is at BLM/NF type paid campsites. They'll have a tag and at least a little cooler on the picnic table...these people are all camping out of their vehicles one way or another.

    Never seen it out in the backcountry. People get weird the closer you get to town, I figure. I keep up on "nomad" people...singles and couples that live full time in RVs, big and tiny. Seems like most of them get tired of it within 2 years and move back into the rat race. There's a lot of people living in their cars and trucks. If we see them starting to stake out wild lands to build their own structure and live it out like Jerimiah Johnson, and it's tolerated, then that's a sure sign society is on the verge.

    That's way too many people that want to ditch it all and go full on caveman. I know there's a lot of people that can't keep up too well, but that's getting off the hook. You guys that recreate close to the city will be first to see it.

    Heard back in March that the deserts east of L.A. and San Diego were filled with campers. But that was mainly the Covid thing.
    That reminds me of my timpanagous Cave parking experience.

    First, parking is quite limited there. Anyway, I pull to the national monument and see a close parking stall.

    As I drive a bit closer to it, I see these two young University if Utah students emerging from the shadows and walking literally into that same parking spot.

    I stop my car, roll down the window and ask if anything was wrong. They replied “you can’t park here because this spot is reserved for our family”. I said “that’s nice of you guys but unfortunately I’m going to take it”. The lady scoffed and said “we’re not moving and if you hit us, we will sue you”. “Okay, you win ill park somewhere else.

    I find a spot maybe a 1/4 mile a way and start walking. I was thinking I would see their family show up by now but nope and I could see them telling others to find a different spot.

    Annoyed, I walked down to them and said “I’m going to take your picture”, as the lady annoyingly said “why?!?!” I said “because what you two are doing is wrong, definitely not ethical or fair to everyone else as we all play by the same rules, and probably illegal”. The lady said something quietly and left and the guy just waved his hand as I took a few pics.

    ...Good times...


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  11. #9
    I would've just S-L-O-W-L-Y pulled into the spot and nudged them aside with my bumper, filming it the entire time with family members as witnesses so that they couldn't claim I hit them. Maybe get family members to film from multiple angles, narrating and giving an explanation for the judge who will surely throw the case out should it make it that far.
    It's only "science" if it supports the narrative.

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  13. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by jman View Post
    That reminds me of my timpanagous Cave parking experience.
    You're such a nice guy, I would have said "No car? no spot!" and pulled right in. Sucks to be you, honey. I would have told them they're being foolish and rude.

    But then again, it would depend on my mood and if either one got really agitated...you'd have to consider vandalism to the vehicle. Tell you what, something like this would NOT go over well at a place like Pine Creek. I'd show no mercy whatsoever in that case.

    A couple of dumb kids ready to be chewed out...but if it were two blacks all gansta like I'd say "No problem!". No sense in starting a riot over a parking spot.
    "You can stay 20 feet away from me if that makes you feel better"
    Dumbass.

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  15. #11
    Moderator jman's Avatar
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    I had all of those thoughts don’t worry but then I got too worried someone else would record us, edit the video, I’d be on KSL news, police called, etc. etc. I wasn’t willing to do that right before my cave trip.

    We all play by the same rules, park somewhere else and walk just like everyone else.


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    "He who walks on the edge...will eventually fall."
    "There are two ways to die in the desert - dehydration and drowning." -overhearing a Park Ranger at Capitol Reef N.P.
    "...the first law of gear-dynamics: gear is like a gas - it will expand to fit the available space." -Wortman, Outside magazine.
    "SEND IT, BRO!!"

  16. #12
    #LetsGoBrandon BasinCruiser's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Byron View Post
    You're such a nice guy, I would have said "No car? no spot!" and pulled right in. Sucks to be you, honey. I would have told them they're being foolish and rude.


    A couple of dumb kids ready to be chewed out...but if it were two blacks all gansta like I'd say "No problem!". No sense in starting a riot over a parking spot.
    Is this White privilege?
    I learn from the mistakes of people who took my advice.

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  17. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by BasinCruiser View Post
    Is this White privilege?
    It was at one time! There was a time when I could pull up and say "Get the hell outta the way, you stinking coons" and totally get away with it. That's the way it was, and they know it.

    It's payback time!...but truth be told, just about anyone really tough looking would get the right of way, regardless of skin color. Seen some pretty burly looking rednecks.

    That kid in the picture doesn't look like he'd wanna get his clothes dirty...so you could mouth him around.
    "You can stay 20 feet away from me if that makes you feel better"
    Dumbass.

  18. #14
    Moderator jman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Byron View Post
    It was at one time! There was a time when I could pull up and say "Get the hell outta the way, you stinking coons" and totally get away with it. That's the way it was, and they know it.

    It's payback time!...but truth be told, just about anyone really tough looking would get the right of way, regardless of skin color. Seen some pretty burly looking rednecks.

    That kid in the picture doesn't look like he'd wanna get his clothes dirty...so you could mouth him around.
    Yeah, they weren’t intimidating but I was more anxious of the “what if” and other people around us and their interpretation.

    Let’s say I do inch up and he or she doesn’t move and I nudge them. I physically touch them with my car. I called their bluff and they got hit. Now imagine the nightmare as police are called, there isn’t any video proof (or maybe there is) of me nudging him or her. Yeah...I didn’t like that rabbit hole.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    ●Canyoneering 'Canyon Conditions' @ www.candition.com
    ●Hiking Treks (my younger brother's website): hiking guides @ www.thetrekplanner.com
    "He who walks on the edge...will eventually fall."
    "There are two ways to die in the desert - dehydration and drowning." -overhearing a Park Ranger at Capitol Reef N.P.
    "...the first law of gear-dynamics: gear is like a gas - it will expand to fit the available space." -Wortman, Outside magazine.
    "SEND IT, BRO!!"

  19. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by jman View Post

    Let’s say I do inch up and he or she doesn’t move and I nudge them.
    I found out the best way to do it is, turn your music up loud with your windows rolled up, so you wouldn't be able to hear them yelling. Wear sunglasses so they can't see your eyes. And hold your phone like you're texting and totally not paying attention.

    They won't move out of the way if they see you paying attention, but they'll jump for the bushes if you're coming in hot and not looking.

    You creep in, they have no idea you see them, they are forced to move or get run over. You can't hear them yelling, and apparently you don't see them. You win.

    If they hit your vehicle with their hands, you can totally go off on them, because we all know the person experiencing the most outrage wins.

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  21. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Sombeech View Post
    I found out the best way to do it is, turn your music up loud with your windows rolled up, so you wouldn't be able to hear them yelling. Wear sunglasses so they can't see your eyes. And hold your phone like you're texting and totally not paying attention.

    They won't move out of the way if they see you paying attention, but they'll jump for the bushes if you're coming in hot and not looking.

    You creep in, they have no idea you see them, they are forced to move or get run over. You can't hear them yelling, and apparently you don't see them. You win.

    If they hit your vehicle with their hands, you can totally go off on them, because we all know the person experiencing the most outrage wins.
    Outstanding tactic! Gonna save that one in the brain file. However, you may have to already be aware that they're "holding" the spot.
    "You can stay 20 feet away from me if that makes you feel better"
    Dumbass.

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  23. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by jman View Post
    Yeah, they weren’t intimidating but I was more anxious of the “what if” and other people around us and their interpretation.

    Let’s say I do inch up and he or she doesn’t move and I nudge them. I physically touch them with my car. I called their bluff and they got hit. Now imagine the nightmare as police are called, there isn’t any video proof (or maybe there is) of me nudging him or her. Yeah...I didn’t like that rabbit hole.


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    That's actually smart thinking. These days with people goin' haywire with the slightest of ease...

    Ah, the good old days when everyone carried a gun and knew to leave others alone.
    "You can stay 20 feet away from me if that makes you feel better"
    Dumbass.

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    Adventurer at Large! BruteForce's Avatar
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    So, I'm one of those largish and loud and intimidating folks(with a loaded and cocked 1911 .45) that would just tear the tent down, toss it at the trailhead and think nothing of it. BTDT, never been challenged. I think its crap when folks stage their campers 2 weeks in advance of a holiday or try to setup fake chairs/tents.

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  26. #19
    Moderator jman's Avatar
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    What are the rules on reserving a campsite with a chair?

    This also reminded me of “reserving spots” at parades!

    So the Kaysville July4th parade draws out a huge crowd. It’s long, lots of candy, and a giant water-fight at the end.

    And the night before people will bring strings and ropes and couple of lawn chairs to mark the 4 corners of their parade location for their family. Sometimes people reserve what feels like 100 yards worth!

    So being the hell-raiser that I am, some years in the morning when my girlfriend and I or family is looking for a spot and if people aren’t physically in those spots...I have no problem whatsoever touching their equipment and moving it 50 feet out of the way and taking their spot.

    Sometimes they show up later and asking everyone if they have seen their chairs to which we say it may be over there??? “But good luck - it’s considered abandoned property when you aren’t there!”

    Lol - one family was extremely upset and the whole community around us said defending us “it’s silly to think you can reserve a spot on public land. You weren’t here and so they took your spot.” He was so mad that he took a picture of everyone lol.

    So yup, if you aren’t there in your “spot” on public property, then too bad, it’s being moved. Not destroyed mind you, just moved. There’s a big difference there.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    ●Canyoneering 'Canyon Conditions' @ www.candition.com
    ●Hiking Treks (my younger brother's website): hiking guides @ www.thetrekplanner.com
    "He who walks on the edge...will eventually fall."
    "There are two ways to die in the desert - dehydration and drowning." -overhearing a Park Ranger at Capitol Reef N.P.
    "...the first law of gear-dynamics: gear is like a gas - it will expand to fit the available space." -Wortman, Outside magazine.
    "SEND IT, BRO!!"

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  28. #20
    Yes, parades are another common place and event people will leave their chairs out, even for a few days in advance. I know a guy up in Brigham City, he lives right on the main street and people will put their chairs on his sidewalk strip in front of his house. He will let his sprinklers continue to spray all over their blankets and chairs in that early morning.

    I've seen a few posts from others showing pictures of empty chairs, saying "The city is giving out free chairs today, hurry and get them before they are gone". That was funny, some people actually defended placing the chairs there.

    You could get some really fancy velvet rope and posts with a sign in cursive, saying "reserved for parade marshal". I'll bet nobody would touch it then ha ha. Or come up with some stakes you have to pound into the ground, go get some at Lowe's, the 5 foot wooden stakes you hammer into the ground and wrap some rope around it. But then don't even claim it, just make somebody spend all their time pulling it out, splinters and all, and then you don't even sit there. Just sit 10 feet away and watch the chaos, but get it on camera.

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