Your campsite’s booked, your bags are packed, you’re ready to get away for the weekend on that first spring camping trip. There’s only one thing standing in the way of your plans for a weekend of sleeping under the stars and cooking by the campfire: the weather.
When Siri calls for a downpour during your camping trip it can be tempting to give up hope and just stay home where it’s warm and dry. Don’t throw in the towel so quickly (in fact, bring it with you… you’re going to need it!) - you can prepare for a drizzly camping trip before you head out so you can avoid a potentially soggy and miserable excursion into the woods.
What to Pack
- Waterproof, waterproof, waterproof! Water resistant clothing isn’t the same as water proof - it’s great for a short drizzle or shower, but won’t keep you dry for long in a downpour. Check your jackets, hiking pants, and boots for waterproof or repellant technology so you stay dry in case of a deluge.
- Extra Everything: pack plenty of extra base layers in case you get caught in the rain without your outer layers on. The added weight is worth it when you switch out of your soggy socks into warm, dry ones. Fresh socks = a fresh outlook on life every time.
- Ditch the Cotton! It may be the fabric of our lives, but cotton is a big no-no when hiking in the rain. It absorbs moisture and doesn’t let it evaporate, keeping its cold wetness close to your body all day long. Wet cotton clothing is the best way to give yourself hypothermia, so leave the flannels and jeans for wearing to the craft brewery and bring wool or synthetic fabrics instead.
- Microfiber Towel: packs up small, soaks up big time. Something is bound to get a little wet during a rainy spring camping trip; don’t resort to using your last pair of dry socks to clean it up.
- Backpack Rain Cover: it doesn’t help to bring dry clothes if they just get soaked while inside your backpack. Most packs come with a rain cover, but double check that you’ve still got it or invest in one to keep your things nice and dry. A dry hiker is a happy hiker.
Setting Up Camp
If your spring camping excursion involves a trip to a cabin or nodding off in the back of your van, you can relax and fall asleep to the calming sound of rain on your roof. If you’re camping out tent-style, you have a few more things to consider before you call it a night.
First, make sure your tent is waterproof! Just like jackets, not all tents are created equal - there really are tents out there that don’t keep the water out. Once you’ve got your waterproof tent, pack the rain fly and some extra tent patches - the middle of a downpour is not the time to find out you’ve got a leaky seam. When pitching the tent, find an elevated spot that’s well drained, avoiding divots in the ground so you don’t wake up inside a puddle. Stake your rain fly carefully so it’s pulled away from the walls of your tent (use rocks if the tent stakes don’t stay down in wet ground) and keep tent vents open; you don’t want to spend all that time preventing rain water inside your tent just to wake up wet from condensation.
Cooking in the Rain
It may seem pretty obvious, but campfire meals are likely out of the question if it’s going to be raining heavily on your trip. Bring a cookset and a stove for cooking your meals, so the pot protects your stove flame from going out in the rain. Use the protection of your rain fly or tree canopy to whip up your dinner where your stove is well ventilated - NEVER cook inside your tent! Bring some dehydrated hummus, trail mix, or jerky to tide you over if the deluge is too much for stovetop cooking.
Now What Do We Do?
If your hike or sunset photo op gets a rain delay, you might get a little cabin fever from being in a small space all day. If you’re camping solo, bring a book you don’t mind getting a little damp or some playing cards for solitaire. Stuck in a tent with your buddies? Tell some scary stories that involve getting caught in a rain storm. Bring a notebook and markers for charades or pictionary with your tent mates. For a little more fun try one of Outside Inside Gifts’ many travel backpack games that fold up small for easy transport: play cribbage, backgammon, chess, mancala, or more to pass the time.
Spring camping can be a great way to get outside before the summer crowds, but can also mean getting stuck in some unpleasant weather. Instead of cancelling your outdoor plans, you can do a little preparation to make sure you’re ready for whatever precipitation comes your way.