by Steve Moon
Many of the best opportunities for observing Bigfoot involve camping! If you know me, you’ve probably heard me say “It’s a numbers game!” In other words, you need to devote as much time as possible to the search. If you want to actually catch a glimpse of North America’s hominid known as Sasquatch, see and photograph eyeglow, or record some amazing wood knocks and vocalizations, an overnight is one of the best ways to do it. Spending quality time in the back yard or even the living room of a Bigfoot is best done at or near a remote campsite. Over the ten years that I’ve been pursuing our North American hominid I’ve developed a few habits that definitely maximize that experience. I’m presenting my techniques here so that you may also experience more Bigfoot related phenomena.
Many, many of my audio files include the word overnight in their description, and this indicates one of two things; a recorder set out in a location to be retrieved the next morning, or a recorder deployed during an overnight stay in the woods at a remote campsite, or at a campground. Some of my best data were collected while camping at remote locations available only by hiking a trail or old two-track lane. For the last few years my squatching friends and I have returned to our favorite walk-in sites many times. Some of these have become legendary for the high level of activity experienced there, and many of our favorite squatching stories are centered around those places. When I drive through the Cedar River greenbelt near my home in eastern Iowa, my thoughts often turn to the many campsites I’ve utilized in remote areas there. Many of these memories are of thick blankets of snow because I’m just as likely to remote camp in winter as I am during what most people would call good camping weather. If you want to really impress someone, tell them that you winter camp. It sounds impressive, but it’s actually super easy, and just as productive for squatching, because in the upper Midwest the Bigfoots hang out in the same places all year long.
These photos were taken during an epic winter squatching trip in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Camping traditionally involves a big roaring campfire, a comfy cabin tent with sleeping cots, pillows, and let’s not forget that Coleman lantern to light up the scene. A squatching buddy of mine used to, and occasionally still does, set up a camp like this. The inside of his tent can look like a college dorm room! His nest of pillows is, well, downright silly! But after hanging out with me for a few years he’s spent many a night under the stars with far less of these encumbrances. Yes, encumbrances. Let me explain…
I own a lot of tents, but if you buy one good one you’re ready for anything nature has in store for you. The tent pictured above is a single-wall four season tent designed for mountaineering. But any three season tent will work as well as a four season tent in the snow if it has a separate rain fly. The separate rain fly is important, because all you need to do is pile snow around the bottom of the rain fly so breezes don’t blow up under it, and it’s as good as any four season tent. Make sure that any tent you purchase is well made and has overall good reviews. There are a lot of bad tents that don’t cost much, but the savings aren’t worth the grief. I’ve seen many people put a heavy tarp over a tent to insure that it stays dry in heavy rain. This is not at all necessary if you have a decent tent that is waterproof. An old tent probably isn’t going to be as waterproof as a newer one because the seams are sealed with a sealing compound that deteriorates after a few years. If you have an older tent you can purchase seam sealer and reseal the seams, and that works well.
Tents come in all sizes and shapes for different purposes. The tent shown above is what I consider a pretty big tent. One of my favorite tents is a tiny one-person tent designed for backpacking. It’s never a problem finding a place to pitch that tent because its footprint is tiny. I’ve pitched it in a deer trail way up on the side of a hill where no other surface was level enough to sleep on.
Having that capability means your campsite choices are pretty much endless. If you know or suspect a specific area is active, Bigfoot-wise, you can walk in there and spend the night. The larger the tent the harder it is to find a place to pitch it. Big cabin tents can be difficult to pitch even in a campground where there isn’t always a level spot.
Camping on a level site is important. You just don’t sleep well on a slant. Even with your head up, you will slide downhill. It’s just miserable. When choosing a place to pitch your tent, you should hunker down and squint, looking at the lay of the land. You will hopefully find a spot that is level, and not in a low spot. Low spots accumulate water. A flat area on a slight rise is ideal, if you can find one.
Quite often you’ll have a choice between camping under a tree canopy, or out under the stars. Your choice can depend on the weather. A lot of the year dew is on the ground in the morning. If you are out under the stars you can get really wet just from the dew settling on your tent. If you camp under a canopy of tree leaves, you’ll be dry! If it’s raining and you camp under a tree canopy, even when the rain stops you’ll have a constant drip, drip, drip of water on your tent fly. If you camp out under the stars, when it quits raining it will be quiet!
Tents usually come with ground cloths. If you buy a tent and a footprint is available for it, it’s a good value for your money. A footprint is a ground cloth that is made to fit neatly under the tent without sticking out of the sides. Drive through any campground and you will see many tents with tarps or some sort of plastic sheet under the tent, sticking out on all sides. This is a very bad idea! Rain will get caught on the tarp and run under the tent. If you use a plastic sheet or tarp under your tent, fold and tuck it under the edges of the tent so that it’s not visible. This will mean the difference between a dry tent and a wet tent.
A good quality tent with a custom footprint and a good rain fly is just the ticket. They are designed to be lightweight and to keep you dry, and that’s just what they do.
Because summer can be really hot, it is the worst time to go camping. A tent that has good flow-through ventilation will keep you comfortable when it’s hot. Hopefully there will be a slight breeze, and you will be able to take full advantage of that breeze by not putting the rain fly on when you pitch the tent. Rain flies are easy to throw on if rain moves in. You usually don’t need or want your rain fly on unless rain seems likely. Without the rain fly you can also see and hear what’s going on around you more easily. And when you’re squatching that’s a bonus! So, on a hot day find a spot that’s level, on a rise, and has an unobstructed view so you can catch a breeze, and don’t put on the rain fly!
Sleeping bags can be expensive, or not so expensive. The more expensive cold weather bags are lined with goose down and are really lightweight and warm. Warm weather camping can be difficult because most sleeping bags are designed to keep you warm, not cool! I find a cotton quilt just about ideal for warm weather camping. No matter what the weather, you will need a closed-cell foam pad under your bag. This insulates you from the cold ground. Cold weather camping is impossible without a pad under your bag. Your body heat literally leaves your body if you camp directly on the cold ground. A self-inflating pad that incorporates foam is nice because it cushions you. An ideal spot will have a slight depression where your butt is. Sleeping on a platform or spot that is totally flat seems like a good idea, but it can be very uncomfortable. An inflated pad or mattress that is slightly under inflated will let your butt poke down a bit, allowing the natural contours of your backside to lie naturally. Beware of the common air mattress. They’re great, but you will need a closed-cell foam pad underneath to keep your body heat from escaping into the ground.
My friends and I usually remote camp to see and hear Bigfoot, which means a big campfire can be a problem. I disagree with many of my companions on this. Especially in cold weather, it’s nice to have a fire. And it is customary for us to cook food at our campsite, so a fire is good for that. We think it’s important to cook food at our campsite because we believe that it most certainly attracts the attention of any Bigfoot that are in the area. But if you have a small portable camp stove, you won’t need a campfire to cook. So why not use a campfire? Campfires are mesmerizing. Unfortunately, staring at them trashes your night vision! I try to “cold camp,” which means that I don’t use a fire. I’m much more likely to see eyeglow, or a moving shadow nearby, without a fire. And fires make a lot of noise! I record audio one hundred percent of the time while I’m remote camping. Wood knocks can sound just like a campfire popping or crackling. You can’t trust your observations or recordings as much if you have a noisy fire going. Without a fire a wood knock is more obvious, and is harder to question later on when reviewing the sound file. A good strategy is to have a fire early on, cook dinner, and then let it die down. Cooking attracts the attention of the Bigfoot, the glowing coals don’t trash you night vision, and they give off a lot of heat, but you don’t have all the popping and crackling that interferes with your observing.
Obviously, a bright lantern, such as a Coleman lantern, is a really bad idea. They are way brighter than necessary, and can make a lot of noise. I use a candle lantern hung in a nearby tree. Once your eyes are adjusted to the lower level of light present, they are more than adequate.
It’s also a good idea to have a camp chair with a support for your back. This allows you to relax and concentrate on the business at hand, watching for Bigfoot. Sitting on a small foam pad and leaning against a tree can be pretty darned comfortable as well, and a tiny one-foot-square closed-cell foam pad takes up a lot less room than a camp chair.
When you first arrive at your campsite, use your phone or camera to shoot a brief video of the area. Turn in a 360 degree circle, pointing your camera out into the woods from where you are going to camp. In the morning, before vacating the area, do it again. If any changes have occurred during the night, you will know that by carefully reviewing the two videos. Often, we will have a debate such as: “Was that little sapling bent over like that when we got here?” Well, you can usually review your arrival video and find the answer to questions like that. And if there has been a change, it will be documented! You may even have an audio file that captures the sound of the Bigfoot messing around in the immediate area. Now we’re getting somewhere! That’s good data!
In the morning, if you’ve walked in with a small tent and not a lot of extra gear, you can be packed up and ready to walk out in five or ten minutes. You can move on to the next spot, or drive into town for an early breakfast. This gives you a lot of flexibility. If you have a big tent and lots of gear, you’ll often end up driving back after breakfast to break camp. If you don’t have to do that, you can go explore. I’ve known a lot of folks who weren’t done breaking camp until noon or after. This is such a waste of time. After all, why are we there? Our primary goal isn’t camping, as much as we enjoy it, it’s squatching!
If your tent is wet in the morning, just throw it loosely in the back seat when you get to your vehicle, so that it has a chance to dry out. A wet tent will mildew, and that ruins a tent. They are no longer waterproof after they’ve mildewed, and mildew smells really bad! You pretty much have to throw your tent away when that happens, so make sure your tent gets dried out. Sometimes I’ve stopped as soon as the sun comes out and draped my tent over something to let the wind blow through it, and the sun shine on it. Then I can pack it in its stuff bag and be ready to walk into another remote site!
There are many opportunities for remote camping. I’ve camped on B and C maintenance roads many times. And I mean on the road! Nature areas, public hunting areas, county parks, or a friend’s private property can all represent great opportunities for good remote squatching. Once you start looking, you’ll find all sorts of places where you can camp off the beaten path. It’s a blast!
Lowlands Bigfoot Research Group