Camping - Trail Boss Primer

October 12th 2019

by Camperman

Why be a Trail Boss?

The fun thing about being the trail boss is that you get to pick. You pick the trail, the camp site, the type of camp site, when to stop for lunch & dinner, and the order of the line up if you think it is important.

Where to go?

The first thing you must do as trail boss is to pick a trail. It does not matter the difficulty level as long as you are comfortable with it. When publishing the event on the website you will rate the trail difficulty and specify the minimum rig requirements for the run. The club web site has the difficulty ratings defined so just pick the one that applies to your run. The people who show up are responsible for meeting the minimum rig requirements and have the skill level to match the trail difficulty.

You should be familiar with the trail you are running. This usually involves a pre-run unless you are very familiar with the trail. It's not so much the trail condition you are concerned with but rather your ability to find your way thru without getting everyone lost. Lost in itself is not a bad thing. Many of us go thru life lost. But if you have six vehicles lost, you will have six opinions on how to get unlost. Try to avoid the embarrassment of getting lost.

How Many in the Run?

You should limit the number of vehicles in your run. A rule of thumb is the larger the group the slower the run. Don't plan to cover a 100 miles in one day with 25 vehicles. Also, the more vehicles the higher the likely hood someone will break down regardless of how easy the trail may be. It is not uncommon for the run to take twice as long as a pre-run. Also, placing a limit on the number of vehicles will ensure there is enough flat space for tents, tables, and vehicles in the campground.

Where to Stop?

You get to pick the stops. Try to make them shady in the summer time and sunny in the winter time. Also, if there are ladies in the group you should make the stops where there are some trees or bushes. They will appreciate it. If you do not, they will tell you about it. They like to pee in private. More on this later.

Where to Camp?

Pick a camp site that can handle the expected group. Most of us pick a camp site we have used before. Think flat when selecting a location. People need a flat spot for their tent, table, and Jeep. Also, if there are ladies in the group you should camp in a spot where there are some trees or bushes. They will appreciate it. If you do not, they will tell you about it, again. I hope you get the hint by now. The people who show up are responsible for their own camp supplies & equipment, not you. One item you should ask folks to bring is firewood if you plan a campfire.

Include in your run description on the web site what the camp conditions will be:

  • Dry camping - Bring everything, everything, everything, including a shovel and toilet paper.
  • Campground – Describe the amenities, such as showers, BBQs, Pit toilets, etc..
  • Motel – Provide the motel name and reservation phone number… and bring money.

A group site at an organized campground always requires a reservation. The club will usually pay the fee.

If you are planning a multiple day run you need to decide on a base camp or a trail camp(s). A base camp has a huge advantage for people who tow their rig.

It is also possible to leave a tow rig at a gas station or ranger station near the trail and camp in the outback somewhere else, then, return to the tow vehicles at the end of the run on the way home. We do this often. Take towing into account when planning the run. Ask the folks who sign up if they intend to tow.

Trail camping also has some advantages. You can usually put more miles on the run and camp in some very remote locations. This usually takes a bit more planning and a pre-run. Fire wood collecting is usually illegal, or non-existent when trail camping so tell folks to bring firewood. Again, the number of vehicles and a large flat spot become very important when trail camping. Also, this try of camping is usually dry camping.


Giving adequate instructions to the campsite or trail head or meeting point is your responsibility and real important. You will give directions on web site to the meeting place. It's fairly easy if your meeting place is in a civilized location on pavement. It's like explaining to someone how to get to your house. Meeting deep in the bush is another story. If you are the only one who shows up at the campsite you will know you goofed up the driving instructions. We had this happen to us some years back. We ended up ten miles from pavement at night in the mountains and no campsite or trail boss anywhere to be found. Try to avoid the embarrassment of getting everyone lost at night. Sign placement becomes important for the participants who make their way to camp in the dark. Consider putting up your signs so people can see them in the dark while driving.

To help with this we have four good size metal sign posts with the club logo on them and adjustable pointer arrows. The signs can be ponded into the ground at critical turns to direct people towards camp. Old highway cones with the signs can also be of help. Plastic "Caution Tape," lots of it will get people’s attention. Ask at the club meeting if you need signs, cones, or caution tape.


The people who show up are responsible for their own safety. You can't fix stupid. You should show up with the club 1st aid kit or one of your own. Ask at a club meeting who has the kit and they will pass it on to you. You are not responsible for administering 1st aid. However, it is nice to be able to provide the kit to someone who has a problem.

Where to get help?

Many of us have been a trail boss and some of us will be on your run. Ask one of us if you have questions or are unsure of how to proceed in the face of uncertainty. Advice is free. Good advice will cost you a beer when we get to camp.