Here in Pennsylvania, we have a variety of landscapes to choose from when camping. With a combination of sweeping rivers, roaring waterfalls, smooth valleys and towering mountains across the state, you’ll never run out of beautiful campgrounds.
Although the rounded peaks of the Appalachians may look intimidating, we can guarantee that the experience camping in the mountains is unforgettable. But such a beautiful landscape comes with a lot of danger, and camping in the mountains is particularly risky. At Juniata Valley RV, we want to be sure that your experience along the Appalachian trail is all positive. So, we made this list of tips for safely camping in the mountains.
If you’ve never been overlanding, or even camped, in the mountains you’ll need to plan ahead. Our best advice for camping in the mountains is to make sure you set up camp on the leeward side of the mountain. On the leeward side, you’re better protected from the wind. Especially at a higher altitude, you’ll have less wind to deal with. The weather is often milder in general on the leeward side of the mountain.
Once you’ve researched the area and have an idea of where you’re headed, you need to prepare for anything. Make sure to bring extra fuel, in case you end up somewhere you didn’t expect and need to do a little more driving than planned.
It’s also a good idea to bring any maps you can find of the area, and a GPS if you have one. These will help you figure out where you are in case of an emergency. Plus, it’s a good camping (or hiking) rule of thumb to keep a standalone GPS on you at all times.
Part of planning ahead is planning with other people. Traveling in groups is always safer than traveling alone. Even if you’re an experienced off-road RVer, we strongly recommend bringing at least one other person with you. If you don’t have a family member or friend willing to adventure through the mountains with you, try joining a local camping group. This can be an in-person group or an online group. An easy way to meet people with common interests is through a Facebook group, for example, for RV enthusiasts in your state. If you prefer to meet the old fashioned in-person way, research local clubs, trainings or seminars focused on RVing or camping. These are great ways to find people interested in RVing and willing to join you on your next trip.
If bringing someone with you isn’t an option, we strongly recommend telling someone where you’re going. Let them know the general area you plan to stay in, or the campground you’re staying at, and how long you plan to be there. This is a last line of safety precautions when it comes to overlanding, camping, or even hiking safely.
Bring the right supplies
The right supplies are essential to safely camping in the mountains. This, of course, starts with your basic RV safety supplies. Bring a first-aid kit, basic tools, extra food and water, and any other supplies you’d normally take on a camping trip.
But, camping in the mountains comes with extra risks. Aside from plenty of water, we recommend bringing a whole bunch of bananas. In high altitude areas, staying hydrated is essential to keeping your electrolytes balanced. While water is helpful, we also recommend high-potassium foods like bananas. Potassium helps prevent muscle cramps and headaches that can occur in high altitudes, especially when people aren’t used to the elevation.
If you’re like the writer of this blog and hate bananas, that’s okay! Here are some other high potassium foods: oranges, cantaloupe, honeydew, potatoes, peas, cucumbers, apricots and grapefruits.
Aside from high altitude food, we recommend bringing some mountain-specific supplies. This includes extra stakes and ropes. In mountainous areas, winds are going to be much stronger than they are near sea level. You’ll need to tie down nearly everything, like tablecloths and tarps. Having supplies to secure your materials in place will make your trip much easier.
A working vehicle is essential for safely RVing, especially in the mountains. The Appalachian Mountains are known for their notoriously rough terrain and steep slopes. Your vehicle needs to be prepared to handle rocky paths, rushing streams and sharp inclines.
You need to trust the truck you take RVing. The first thing you should do is check all the fluids in your vehicle. Check the fluid level and cleanliness, and take your car for a preemptive oil change if one is needed soon.
Next thing to check is underneath your truck. Make sure that the steering and suspension links are tightened and in good shape. Check that the brakes are operating well, and that the brake pads are in good condition.
The last thing to check before your trip is your tires. They should be in good shape, not well worn, and have the appropriate tread for the environment you’re about to take on. Mud tires are often a good choice when you’re driving off-road, but you should research the best tires for wherever you’re headed. If you don’t want to change tires every time you go camping off-grid, all-terrain tires are a good way to meet in the middle.
While all of these are important parts of your vehicle to check, you should be confident in the truck you take RVing. A well-maintained vehicle is essential for safely camping in the mountains. When you’re camped out in the middle of the Appalachians, the last thing you need is a vehicle malfunction. And stuck on the mountainside is the last place you want to be.
This blog includes just the basics when it comes to camping in the mountains. While bringing the right supplies and checking on your truck are important steps, it will always be dangerous to camp off-grid. We strongly urge you to bring other people with you, newbie or not.
Once you’ve got your supplies and you’re ready to take on the Appalachian Mountain range, Juniata Valley RV is here to assist you in the most important step – choosing your trailer. We’ve got plenty of RVs on the lot, and many are equipped for off-road camping. Stop in to take a look at our units in person, or give us a call to find out what we can do for you.