A warm summer shower is usually an interesting diversion on a camping trip. A cold, all-day rain can ruin everything. Unless you are well protected from the rain, you might as well head for the nearest motel or pack up and go home. So, you need proper guidance and tips for camping in the rain before planning the trip, cause in some areas rain come often without any warning.
The movies may show your favorite western hero spreading out his blanket roll in the pouring rain, cooking supper, and then going to sleep with a smile on his made-up face. But remember, right after the movie fade-out the hero is wrapped in blankets and hustled off to his heated dressing room, there to be tended lovingly until the next rain shot.
Campers don’t have it so lucky, and only foolhardy ones-or those wishing to prove a point should try to stick out a prolonged rain without good protection. So, one must think about the protection for camping in the rain.
In wet weather, if you are planning to go camping, you need to have the proper equipment with you. Wet weather protection is available and is neither expensive to buy nor bulky to pack. But it is not always only the protection materials that matter, having proper guidance and tips in rain is also required. With our experiences in such a situation, we have made a camping in the main checklist.
There are certain precautions that all campers should take, rain or not. Gather wood while it’s dry, stack it neatly and cover it with a tarp. Come prepared with proper clothing raincoats or ponchos, rain hats, boots or rubbers.
Some people like to fashion a set of leggings from plastic for more convenient and thorough protection. A plastic or canvas dining fly is a necessary item.
A 9 ft. x 9 ft. size is available, but we find the 12 ft. x 16 ft. size is much better for a family with children. A canvas tarp larger than this is too heavy to handle, particularly when it’s wet.
The 12 ft. x 16 ft. size neatly shelters the average picnic table, with room left over for the camp stove and even a simultaneous game of jacks and hopscotch.
A man and wife can manage to keep a stiff upper lip cooped up in a small tent. Adults enjoy the relaxation. They can read, and they can see far enough ahead to know that it can’t last forever. But in this types of family camping with kids, you need extra precaution, especially in the rainy season.
A couple of young children, a small tent, and an all-day rain add up to frayed nerves and a firm resolution never to camp again.
So, camping in the rain with children needs little different approaches and precautions.
The dining fly is the best insurance against short tempers and disappointments. Be sure the kids have their games and toys. Don’t yell at them if they get wet and muddy-as long as they don’t track the mud into the tent. Expect them to get soaked and prepare for it.
Kids like to get wet and muddy, and it’s even more fun when they’re camping. So have plenty of warm, dry clothes available. Remember the oft-repeated admonition: Relax, Enjoy it. Camping is fun.
As long as you’re protected by the dining fly, cooking when it’s raining is no problem. The old reliable camp stove can be safely used under the tarp. Even a charcoal fire is perfectly safe under modern, flame-retardant canvas.
You can cook in comfort, eat a delicious meal and sing a few songs around the gas lantern which throws just enough heat to chase the chill from under the wet tarp.
The next best insurance against rain-induced temper flare-ups is the auto-explore. Most campgrounds are situated within an hour’s drive of one or more indoor historic, or otherwise interesting sites. And if it looks like an all-day rain, an hour’s drive is more of a blessing than a chore.
Check with your neighbor in the tent next door, or the ranger, or consult your travel guide. Maybe there’s a pioneer museum, an abandoned mine, a narrow-gauge train ride nearby. Or maybe … swallow your pride … there’s a Walt Disney movie showing in the nearest village. You may find your tent-neighbors there too.
During rainy weather, and sleeping bags and clothing for rainy camping tend to soak up the dampness. Damp clothing is uncomfortable, and damp sleeping bags are downright cold because the dampness tends to destroy the fluffiness of the filling.
Loss of fluffiness means loss of insulation. Guard against this by rolling up the bag in the morning and keeping it in the tightly closed car along with your next day’s clothing. If the car is loaded with children going to the Disney movie, put the clothing inside the sleeping bags and roll them up tightly and leave them in the tent.
If you have forgotten to gather wood and stack it under the protective tarp, all is not lost. In many wilderness and semi-wilderness areas, there is still plenty of dry wood around. The lower dead branches of trees, called “squaw wood,” are usually dry enough to burn.
The inside of a wet log is always dry. Split a rain-splattered log into several dry pieces, carve one of the smaller pieces into a fuzz stick, which will light with a single match.
If you leave camp for an all-day trip, be sure to secure the tent against rain, whether it looks like rain or not. Lower the window flaps, zip up the door and loosen the guy lines.
A wet tent and wet ropes shrink enough and with sufficient force to rip the tent or pull out the stakes and dump the tent on the ground. Your camping trip could end right then and there.
Slack off on the ropes so they are loose, not sloppy. Some modern tents come equipped with springs on the ends of the guy ropes or where the tent is suspended from the outside frame. These springs will protect the tent when it shrinks, so it is not necessary to loosen the ropes.
You can equip your ropes with springs, obtainable at good army-navy stores or sporting goods stores, or you can fashion your own by cutting up an inner tube into inch-wide bands. These home-made stress-removers work fine, but continued baking under the sun will rot them, so carry several spares.
When the tent and ropes are thoroughly dry, after a rainstorm, the tent will sag like an old mule. Tighten up the ropes. When it looks like rain again, loosen them. That’s camping.
We always carry a dozen or so home-made fire starters, and they have come in mighty handy on many a wet evening. Donna, our Girl Scout daughter, taught us this simple and effective trick and, under adult supervision, the making of these fire starters can provide an engaging evening for youngsters of nine or ten and up.
Cut a section of the newspaper (about four or five sheets) into strips about five inches wide. Roll the strips up moderately tight and tie a string around each one. Dip the rolls into melted wax or paraffin for at least thirty seconds so that they are coated. Lay them out to dry. They never fail, and one will light a fair size log without the use of kindling. They’re useful, too, for lighting the fire in your fireplace at home.
You need to organize these items properly in order to find them easily when you need it. Also, great care must be taken in the melting of the wax. ALWAYS use a double boiler. Young children enjoy making these fire starters, sometimes called trench candles, but they must be made aware of the danger in melted wax. Dry trench candles are completely safe and burn with a slow, steady flame.
A single match will start one going, even in the rain, and it will burn long enough to start damp wood.
In some areas of the country, it is necessary to carry along your own firewood. Hardy campers going above the timberline in the mountains. Or they are going to the far north country in Canada and Alaska will be without the warmth of a fire unless they take along their own fuel.
But the most bothersome places without firewood are the heavily forested popular campgrounds where the ground has been picked clean of every last stick. Wood supply at these campgrounds is unreliable, at best.
Occasionally loads of scrap from nearby lumber mills are trucked in. Occasionally forest clearing operations enable the ranger to bring in a pile of logs. But more likely you’ll have to buy firewood at fairly expensive rates. It just doesn’t seem like camping when you are in a forest and have to purchase firewood.
A gasoline stove looks indestructible for camping in rain and rainy weather, and it very nearly is. However, the insides must be protected from the rain. The burners on a camp stove, once wet, are extremely difficult to dry out in a hurry, and they will not ignite until they are dry. Always keep the stove top closed when it is not in use.
This can also happen with other cooking gadgets as well. So, you need to protect them in the rainy condition to make sure they work well afterward in need. Using proper rapping with the plastic bag can be good for patrol cook kits, stoves, burners etc.
On the extremely rare occasions when winds approach hurricane or tornado proportions, drop the tent quickly, flatten it out, cover the door as well as you can, jump into the car and drive away. This is not a prior tip, but an effective tip for camping in the rain and stormy weather.
There is very little danger from high winds in the average campground, but it is wise to keep out of reach of the tallest tree in the area, and it’s best not to set up camp on a bare hilltop.
In the West, never pitch your tent in a dry gully or wash. A sudden rain many miles away-a rain that you are probably not aware of-can rush down the wash and inundate you in your sleep
Plastic sheeting can come in very handy. Because rains are usually accompanied by a darkened sky, the camp cook will appreciate the use of transparent sheeting over the kitchen area to admit as much light and as little rain as possible.
Modern polyethylene plastic is quite strong. Use nothing lighter than 6-mil sheeting, which is about as heavy as is easily available. The 39¢ drop-cloths for home painters are much too thin to be of any use at all; 6-mil sheeting will cost about 3¢ a square ft.
To use it as a tarp, tie knots in the corners, and tie ropes above the knots. Better yet, buy or borrow a grommet set and, folding the plastic edges over at least twice, set in grommets every three or four feet. You will find that a 6 ft. x 9 ft. plastic sheet makes a fine windbreak, too. It can be secured, in emergencies, with clip-type clothespins.
When you leave camp to be sure your food is put away, pots and pans are covered, and everything is protected from the rain. A few wet-weather precautions will pay big dividends in keeping your camping trip a gay one. Expect rain. Accept it calmly.
Let the kids get wet. Have dry clothes ready. But if it rains for seven days and seven nights, we have no answer you are on your own.