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Primitive Camping Tips

Helpful Primitive Camping Tips for Your Kayak, Canoe Paddling Adventures

Above all have fun! Primitive camping is an incredibly rewarding experience. It will increase self-confidence, build great memories, enhance survival skills and allow you to truly be one with all that nature has to offer. Mastering primitive camping is truly a life changing experience. 


Camping is permissible on  any National Forest Island unless posted otherwise. Many islands are privately owned and need permission prior to camping. Build your campfire within a stone fire ring and use only downed and dead trees and branches.


When camping on one of Allegheny River  7  Wilderness Islands, motorized vehicles and tools (including chainsaws) are not permited and fires must be in a fire ring and extinguished upon leaving.


Move Canoes and Kayaks to high ground after you unload them for overnight camping on the islands. Turn them over to keep them dry during rain storms and heavy dew during the night.


Seal away your food items before you settle in for the night to keep the night animals away from your camp.  Do NOT just put them into your tent. Lock them away in your ice chest or sealed food box. Burn up any dinner leftovers. Screaming Raccoons fighting over your food items can ruin a good night’s sleep.

When planning an island camping site, be aware of pending weather conditions and prepare for  rising water levels which can occur after a heavy storm. Select a high spot to pitch your tent in the event of rain.

Watch out for bugs. Hornets, bees, wasps, and yellow jackets are a problem at some campsites. Avoid attracting stinging insects by wearing light-colored clothing and not wearing perfumes or colognes. Should such an insect approach, do not wave wildly and swat blindly, instead, use a gentle pushing or brushing motion to deter them.


Pitch your tent entrance facing into the wind to discourage mosquitos from congregating. Look up and be aware of dead branches or trees that could fall in strong winds. Select a high spot to pitch your tent  to prevent pooling in the event of rain. Keep the entrance screen zipped up when not in use to prevent spiders and bugs entering.


Avoid drinking spring water in the wild, even if the stream looks pristine and pure. Each person will need about 1.5 liters of water a day. Remember to bring along water filters, because drinking directly from the stream could be dangerous. Cooking water should  be boiled for five minutes and treated with purifying tablets.


Respect wildlife - Observe wildlife from a distance. Never follow or feed them and always store food and trash well away from their reach. 


Life preservers - Children 12 and under are required to wear personal flotation devices while in a boat. Also a good idea when playing on the beach or in the water swimming. 


Avoid wearing shorts when walking around in the tall weeds.  Stinging nettles (plant) which are common on the river islands can be painful for hours after exposure.


Bring a fold up shovel to cover human waste and tissues.  Also a fold - up toilet seat is a  good idea when primitive camping. 


Sunburn can ruin a great camping adventure. Protect your skin with lotion or clothing. Even on an overcast day you can get fried in a short amount of time.


Lightning storms - Get off the river and out of your canoe / kayak till it passes.


After use, your tent should be thoroughly aired-out before being stored. Even if you camped in perfect weather. It will also last longer if you avoid storing it in its stuff sack. Instead, hang it up or keep it in a large and breathable storage bag. 

Canoe Camping
Hungry Racoon in Camp
Camping along wild an scenic rivers in PA
Children canoeing wearing life vests.



IF YOU CAN PACK IT INTO CAMP, YOU CAN PACK IT OUT.  Keep your camp area clean and leave no trace behind.

Canoe on shore


Please respect the privacy and rights of landowners along the river by obtaining permission before entering any privately owned land.


Owners of unpowered boats can launch their boats at Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) lakes and access areas if their boats display a PFBC launch use permit, OR boat registration OR PA state Parks launch permit, OR mooring permit. These river access areas are indicated in all River Fun Guides offered for sale on this website.

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