Tents and Trails

Camping in the rain

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It’s cold and rainy here in Georgia this weekend. A friend posted on Facebook, “I’m so glad we decided not to camp this weekend!” Boy, isn’t that the truth.

We seem to have had a string of bad luck when it comes to weather the past few years. I think it’s because our camping trips have been more planned, less spontaneous – we used to wait until we were close enough to check the weather and then decide to camp. (That’s one reason why we haven’t camped in some of the more popular campgrounds.) But the past few years, we’ve been in situations where we’ve chosen to camp anyway despite the weather forecasts.

I have to admit, I really really hate camping in the rain. Even more than that, I really hate camping in thunderstorms.

Our first time camping in the rain, we strung up a tarp over our campsite which worked okay (though the tarp split as you can see from the picture – I highly recommend getting a heavy duty tarp for camping). We found a large stick for support and put the fire underneath so we were still able to use that (though we had to be very careful not to damage the tarp – the fire didn’t cause the rip).

One thing I didn’t count on was how boring it can be to camp when it’s wet and rainy. In this instance, it rained during the nights, and just off and on during the day. Our tent kept us nice and dry, but you can’t stay there all weekend. We normally like to explore the campground and hiking trails during the day. On this particular trip, we found ourselves stuck under a pavilion during a sudden downpour. We entertained ourselves, so it wasn’t a terrible experience; just not ideal. We also decided not to do any hiking because everything was so wet.

Our second time we planned a bit better – we had a heavy duty tarp and better stick supports, so we had a nice little area to move around. We had some activities for our daughter, and I believe that it stayed dry most of our visit at that campground so we were able to enjoy the activities the park offered.

The last two times though – phew, those were the worst. The first of those was actually not in a campground, but rather in Indiana, in the backyard of some friends we were visiting who didn’t have enough room for us to sleep inside (we were one of several families visiting that weekend). It only rained one night, and my husband and I awoke in the middle of the night to a horrible thunderstorm. For the next two hours, we laid there with hearts pounding as we listened to the wind slash angrily at our tent, to the thunder and lightning. At one point, the tornado siren went off, and we bolted upright, unsure of what to do. We didn’t necessarily want to make a dash to the house with our toddler, and then sit up the rest of the night. But, we didn’t want to stay outside in a tornado either! I don’t remember that we made a decision before the storm died, but I was so scared. I swore up and down I would never camp in a thunderstorm again.

However, we all know what happens when you say “never”. I got my chance about a month ago, when we went on a family camping trip down to Richmond Hill. The days were dry, but the second night it stormed the entire night. I could not let myself fall asleep with the storm raging around me, and I got about an hour of sleep that night. Our tent started leaking too, so in some ways it was good that I was awake to move everything out of the way. (It was a small leak.) Unlike my previous experience, with a fast and furious storm, this one lasted all night and would alternate between raging and quiet. During the quiet times, the trees swaying (and leaves brushing against our tent) and long shadows cast on the tent made my imagination go wild, which was almost worst. At 7am my husband woke me up and said that the rain had stopped but was supposed to start again in an hour, so we needed to hurry and pack up. We did, and sure enough right at 8am the rain started up again. It’s miserable to pack up in the rain, and it’s miserable to pack up wet camping gear. I am so glad we were able to make it out of the there without too much trouble.

And now in a future blog post, I plan to discuss what to do when you don’t unpack your wet tent soon enough and it gets all mildewy…

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