Survival Guide: Camping in Bad Weather

Camping in perfect conditions is one of the most serene and peaceful outdoor activities. There’s nothing better than sitting around an open fire with close friends, swapping stories and gossip, drinking beer, all while taking in a clear starry sky as a creek softly babbles in the distance.

Unfortunately, though, camping is hardly ever so idyllic. The car won’t start or opossums make it into the food or, even worse, the weather turns. Though many campers come prepared for all different types of bizarre situations, dealing with bad weather is tricky and can make for some incredibly frustrating moments. Thankfully, there are ways to prepare for these dreary circumstances that can make them not only bearable, but memorable, and fun!

First, make sure to constantly monitor your surroundings. Is there a sudden stillness in the trees? Have the birds stopped singing? Are there dark clouds gathering in the corner of the sky? By detecting bad weather early, you can start to make preparations: collecting and wrapping wood in waterproof bags, hanging tarps above the campsite, or simply leaving before the storm hits (sometimes, you just need to pack up and head to a hotel). Don’t assume the storm will pass—be proactive and adjust your campsite accordingly. It may be annoying to make these adjustments if it turns out to be a false alarm, but being dry and prepared is always better than being soaking wet and surprised.

In general, there are a few items that you should always keep in your pack in case of bad weather. Newspaper, aside from providing some leisurely entertainment, can be used to start a fire in lieu of wet wood. And plastic bags can be used to hold electronics, food, or anything else you might want to save from getting wet.

As far as clothing’s concerned, you’ll want to make sure to bring along some light rain gear, which can be as simple as a sturdy poncho or as extreme as a full rain suit. For tops, opt for a wicking material, such as lightweight nylon in the summer and polypropylene in the winter. Avoid cotton when you can because, though cotton t-shirts are certainly comfortable, they don’t hold up to extreme weather well at all.

And, perhaps most importantly, remember that bad weather is often not the thing that ruins a camping trip, it’s the bad attitudes and grumpiness that come along with the change in weather. So pack some things to keep up morale in the face of a storm: waterproof cards, a harmonica, a collection of ghost stories. If you approach a storm with creativity and humor, even the most droll weather can become fodder for a great experience.

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