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Camping Skills

Camping in Montana

Camping is one of the best ways to experience Montana’s great outdoors. It gives you a direct connection to the outdoor world that’s not easily achieved through day visits and hotel stays. Cooking, eating, sleeping and living in the outdoors gives you a whole new perspective about our wild places. There are a lot of different ways to enjoy camping in Montana and we will discuss them more fully. 

Car Camping

Car camping is undoubtedly the most popular type of camping and Montana has great car camping opportunities in all parts of the state. With campsites ranging from totally undeveloped near-wilderness to fully developed deluxe campgrounds, Montana has something for everyone.

Car camping has a lot of advantages. You can drive to a new location every day or you can set up a base-camp. You can bring lots of gear and food which can make for a luxurious camp. Once you have your camping equipment it is much more economical than staying in hotels. Car campers can sleep in tents, trailers or even motor homes and all car campers enjoy the outdoor experience.

Even the smallest car provides enough room to pack gear that will allow you to camp in comfort. Car campers can usually pack coolers, chairs, fresh foods, liquid beverages and other large or heavy items that other types of campers cannot. This gives you a lot of freedom to take the items that make a very comfortable camp. Most of the content on this site is geared for car campers.

Photo of typical car camping camp
This camp is set up in a public campground with a picnic table and fire ring. The gear needed for car camping can be carried in most vehicles.

Back Packing

Back packing is both the simplest and most complicated method of going camping. It’s the simplest because you don’t have very much stuff. You can only take what you can carry and the reality is, that’s not very much.

For a typical trip you need a tent, sleeping bag, pad, cook stove, cooking gear, food, water, clothing, personal accessories and more. That’s what makes backpacking the most complicated way of going camping. You somehow have to figure out how to get all of the above into a small pack that you can reasonably carry.

Well, it can be done and lots of people love it. Successful backpacking requires skills and equipment that this site does not address. This site is primarily geared toward car camping but you will find a lot of practical backpacking advice mixed in throughout the site.

If you want to learn about backpacking there are a lot of excellent books, including: How to Survive Your First Trip in the Wild: Backpacking for Beginners

Float Camping

Float camping is a great way to experience Montana. From the wild and scenic Missouri to a wilderness float on the North Fork of the Flathead River there are fantastic opportunities on the major rivers and lakes all across the state. There are float camping opportunities for kayakers, canoeists and rafters.

The type of boat you are in will dictate what type of camping gear you need to take. Most kayaks have little if any space or gear and camping in these boats is similar to ultralight backpacking, unless they have a support boat that carries gear for them. Canoeists can take a fair amount of gear, somewhat more than a backpacker. A raft can often take as much gear as a car campers can, allowing for very comfortable float camping.

A young eagle sits on the river bank
Float camping in Montana often includes spotting birds and wildlife. Here a floater gets close-up with a young eagle.

There are a number of great float camping opportunities in Montana some of which are discussed in depth. Although most of our camping advice is aimed at car campers, much of what we discuss can be applied to float camping as well.

If you want to learn more about float camping in Montana Paddling Montana: A Guide to the State’s Best Rivers is a great place to begin.

Bicycle Camping

Montana’s wide open spaces and beautiful back roads provide great opportunities for bicycle campers. A lot of wind and a lot of hilly terrain, as well as roads with narrow to nonexistent shoulders, can make for some challenging conditions. However, the spectacular scenery and open vistas provide great rewards.

I’m not a bicycle camper myself so, rather than try to provide information that may or may not be accurate, I suggest you check out Basic Illustrated Bike Touring and Bikepacking

More about camping from MontanaHikes.com: