Why does the AMC charge an $10 fee at some backcountry campsites?

Operational and maintenance costs at the AMC’s 14 shelters in the White and Mahoosuc Mountains include caretaker salaries, airlifts, capital improvements, transportation, and food for our caretakers. The $10 fee is meant to help cover roughly 50% of these expenses; the rest of the operational costs are absorbed by the AMC using income from membership dues, endowments, and fundraising.

What does my fee pay for?

The fees collected at AMC campsites help offset the cost of the caretaker program: primarily operating expenses associated with human waste composting and seasonal caretaker wages. To keep expenses low and fees low, we only collect fees at 9 campsites and only staff caretakers during the busiest periods.

The caretaker’s responsibilities include: outreach and education on low-impact hiking and trail use, performing campsite and shelter maintenance, trail reconstruction and maintenance, composting human waste, and participating in Search and Rescue.

One of the caretaker’s most vital roles is minimizing the impact of backcountry use by managing human waste. This is a labor intensive task that involves composting the waste with bark chips in stainless steel bins. Since the 1970s, AMC has developed a composting system that is suited to our short composting season, but the system requires a lot of resources: bark mulch, airlifts, and labor power.

The Annual Numbers of Composting for the 14 AMC campsites:
  • 2,000-2,500 gallons of raw human waste

  • 5 tons (or 10,000 pounds) of hardwood bark mulch

  • $1,650 hourly rate for helicopter

  • $9,000 average total expense for helicopter for bark (excluding AMC labor)

  • The real cost of a 50# bag of bark once it reaches the campsite (following bagging by hand, transport, airlift, and then storage by the caretaker): $69/ bag.

  • The start cost of bark before we touch it: $2.60

(And how much would it cost to do physically? $15,000 per year, excluding associated workman’s compensation claims, fused spines, and impact on trails)

The fee does not help to cover the $45,000 in external grant funding for capital projects received in 2011 and the $1,500 from external sources that AMC invested in the shelter system during 2012, and the additional $500 that AMC received from external sources to supply a bear box for Full Goose Campsite.

Do you give anyone a discount at the shelter and tentsites?

A. Because the shelter program runs at a deficit, we ask everyone for the same fee in exchange for site use. The only exceptions are AMC volunteers who stay at the sites while working on nearby trails.


Why do you have shelters and tentsites?

Shelters and tentsites serve to concentrate overnight use and impact in one area. Shelters and tent platforms also serve as a “hardened” area where a person can tent or camp with minimal impact. Concentrating use in these sites gives us the opportunity to educate users about low-impact camping. Outhouses and privies help to protect water sources by serving as a collection point for human waste, which is then treated by composting.


Why do you have all these rules regarding camping?

Actually, the regulations are developed and enforced by the U.S. Forest Service or Maine Bureau of Public Lands; the AMC does not make the rules. However, we support them by helping to raise awareness of the regulations. Caretakers have more information on backcountry camping regulations in the White Mountain National Forest and will be happy to answer campers’ questions.


Is the water safe to drink in the campsite areas?

You should consider all water taken from streams, springs, or other surface sources suspect. We strongly suggest you boil, filter, or treat with iodine or other effective chemicals any water from sources other than taps.

What can you tell me about bears? Should I be concerned?

The bears in these woods aren’t a problem everywhere. Still, you should hang your food wherever you camp in the White Mountains to protect it not only from bears but also from mice, raccoons, and squirrels. Eleven of our sites have metal food storage boxes, or “Bear boxes” for wildlife protection and camper convenience. Please refer to the individual Campsite Profiles for a complete list of sites with bear boxes. The caretaker at any site can explain how to hang or store your food properly and answer your questions about bears.