I can’t believe that the entire month of May vanished before I got around to posting anything!
It’s not that I haven’t been DOING anything though.
Get Ready Go, as in the social group, has had two camp outs this spring, but the most recent one was in the rain. That meant that almost everyone except a couple of diehards (like me and the Mississippi Hippy) chickened out. I honestly don’t mind camping in the rain, as long as I am prepared. It’s a different experience, and while there are times it can be frightening (lots of wind and lightning are scary) when it’s just a normal rainy weekend, it’s quiet and sort of peaceful.
So what do you do when it’s raining and you are camping?
Being prepared is important. I know that my tent, which is aging, leaks like a sieve. I still stayed dry because I cover it with a tarp–a simple solution to the leaking issue. If you know you are facing rain, bringing along a tarp is a great idea–leaks can spring unexpectedly, and it’s a quick solution to toss a tarp over your tent and tie it down with some cord and stakes. It can save your weekend.
Don’t forget the footprint either. I don’t care how new or expensive your tent is, when the ground is wet, there is going to be some moisture migrating through the floor and into your bed. Nothing makes camping in the rain hit sheer misery faster than even a damp bed, and heaven forbid that it is actually wet. Go cheap–a sheet of plastic (like a painter’s drop cloth) or an inexpensive lightweight tarp will work fine. Just remember, never let the edges of your footprint extend beyond the edge of your floor or it will actually channel rain water under your tent, increasing the likelihood of moisture migrating into the tent. The footprint also keeps your tent floor cleaner on the outside, with fewer bugs as well as less mud and debris, ending up stuck as you are packing up to leave.
Bring a canopy or tarp for your eating and cooking area. This means you have somewhere other than your tent to sit out of the rain. It also gives you a place to cook and eat without contaminating your tent with food odors. (bad news in bear country) This is essential when group camping too, and even if it doesn’t rain, it ensures a place out of the sun for hanging out, cooking, and eating. In rain, the bigger the better, as long as it is supported so that rain does not pool on top. (Water is heavy and can collapse a frame or rip a canopy roof or tarp.) If the wind is blowing, an additional tarp can become a side wall, blocking the wind and rain from your eating and cooking area. Just remember, in high winds, this tarp is going to be like a sail and may result in disaster!
Use weather proof containers for storage. Even if you aren’t leaving items sitting out under your canopy when not in use, you do have to get food and dining gear to and from the vehicle to the canopy and back again. Containers that are actually weather resistant can make a huge difference. However, make sure that lids are on and secured. The best container cannot protect anything if someone forgets to put the lid on the container, and you can just about bet that the rain will find its way in.
For dry goods, such as coffee, sugar, and creamer (hot items at our camp outs) make sure that they are in easy to use containers that are also easy to reclose. Seasonings, especially salt, don’t like rainy weather. Try sealing small amounts in a plastic straw to use as you need it, reducing the chances of an entire container being ruined by wet weather.
Of course, don’t forget the rain gear. Ponchos are great for easy on/off, as well as one-size-fits-all, but aren’t so good for long walks in the rain if there is a breeze. Rain coats & pants offer best protection for extended periods of time in the rain.
Quick drying clothing & shoes make for a better experience if it is on/off rain. Rain resistant clothing helps for extended rainy periods. Don’t forget a spare pair of shoes–soggy footwear can cause blisters and sore feet, as well as being simply miserable to be stuck wearing. I love the rubber/plastic clogs for rainy camping trips–they wipe dry and are great for slogging around the campsite in.
Bring some old towels or a microfiber towel. Those fake chamois-like cloths can soak up a LOT of water to help dry out a tent if it leaks, has rain come through a door, or has water tracked in due to heavy rain. Soaking up water from foot traffic in and out goes a long ways towards keeping everyone happy.
Get your bed up off the floor when you aren’t in it. Tent floors are also what we all walk on, and it is inevitable that mud and water will get tracked in during the day as needed items are retrieved from the tent. Use something to get bedding up off of the floor, whether it is a dry camp chair, a crate, plastic container, cot, or even a big plastic garbage bag.
Avoid going in and out of the tent as much as possible. It really helps reduce debris, water, and mud from getting tracked in.
Pack a microfiber sheet or microfleece throw/blanket into zip lock or vacuum packed bags. This makes great emergency bedding if someone’s bedding does get wet or damp. The bags make sure the bedding stays dry until you really need it.
Bring along some fire starters, whether its cotton balls dipped in petroleum jelly or pine cones dipped in wax or whatever your preference is. Campfires are useful for drying out damp shoes, warming after getting caught in a rain, or just for ambiance. Wet wood, on the other hand, is not cooperative about burning just because you are chilled, and fire starters are very useful for encouraging its cooperation. Having a good fire starting kit with fire starters, dry kindling, matches, etc. is always a good idea on any camping trip. These are easy to assemble, and compact to carry.
Don’t forget some large garbage bags. These can be immensely useful for everything from packing up wet gear & keeping your car dry to using as impromptu rain ponchos.
Traveling with a dog or two? Keep in mind that they get wet & cold too. You’ll need extra towels for frequent toweling off. Rain gear for dogs does help, but you will still need a towel to clean feet and legs, as well as to do additional drying off. A wet dog running into a tent can soon have EVERYTHING soaked, so keep them on leash, dry them off at the door, and discourage puddle jumping!
Entertainment on rainy camping trips is tricky. Electronics are fussy about getting wet–take care to protect them, whether its a tablet, phone, or hand held game. Cards also don’t like moisture. A good substitute for cards? Try dominoes. They stay put in the wind, recover from getting wet well (buy plastic ones) and are very durable. Dice games are another idea, although keeping score on paper can become a bit soggy. Storytelling is a traditional rainy weather activity that works well. So is singing!
Some things to skip?
Don’t bother with the old fashioned recommendation to “trench” around your tent. It isn’t going to do much for channeling water away from your tent, and it does damage the environment. In addition, if you are in a campground, you will have very unhappy park rangers! It’s also a lot of work with little pay off with our modern tents.
Do look up and around before selecting your campsite. Are there dead branches overhead? Trees that are likely to fall if the ground becomes saturated? Dead trees? All of these are referred to as “widow makers” and for good reason. Avoid camping near them.
Look around the campground. Is water pooling in your campsite? Don’t put your tent on low ground–it will flood and inevitably get you wet. Don’t put it in the path of run off either–the last thing you want is a new creek to appear in your tent! You also need to avoid low ground near creeks and rivers–they can have rising waters appear unexpectedly, resulting in disaster.
Don’t get into swollen creeks and rivers. The currents are swifter than they look, and drownings happen every year. This is true on foot or in a vehicle–avoid flood water. Discourage your pets from getting in as well–they also can be swept away and drowned.
Having a positive attitude goes a long ways towards enjoying camping, even when its raining. Whining and complaining about the weather is not going to change it, or make anybody happy. Just grin and bear it! I find I enjoy the more peaceful experience immensely, as the more boisterous campers seem to be water soluble and tend to pack up and head home. At the same time, when weather turns severe, as can happen in the summer, be prepared to abandon camp and seek more secure shelter.
Filed under: Camping, Car Camping, Gear, Gia Scott | Tagged: camping, camping information, car camping, family camping, gear, Get-Ready-Go!, outdoors, tent camping | Leave a comment »