How to Prepare for (and get through!) Camping in Bad Weather. -
Camping is not for everyone, and anyone who says they don’t like it or doesn’t want to do it usually says it’s because of the weather (as well as the lack of certain home comforts) and we get it. But what if I told you that there are things you can do to prepare yourself for bad weather so that it doesn’t completely ruin your time camping or scar you for life?
I don’t think I’ll ever forget the Camp Bestival of 2018 or our first time glamping. Bad weather does that to you. You can have the most amazing weather any other time you go camping, but when you’re just settling down in front of the fire you won’t be able to help yourself and mention “that camping trip” or how you’re glad the weather isn’t like that other time camping. You’ll also probably wear that tough time camping as a badge of honour; always referring back to it when people talk about The Weather. It pretty much becomes the punchline of every weather joke. Bad weather during a camping holiday does that to you.
We’ve been camping a few times now, and whilst we wouldn’t call ourselves Veterans we have dealt with all kinds of weather – especially living in the UK. I’d go as far as to say we would be pretty confident now if the weather turned nasty during a camping trip.
If you’re interested in ways you can prepare for bad weather, or would like to start camping but you’re fearful of those grey clouds, here are a few things that could help you. This can be applied to both camping and glamping and is mainly for weather such as wind, rain and general stormy weather.
Preparing for hot weather is a different kettle of fish and a post about this is coming soon!
It really is important to prepare for wet weather, even if the forecast says otherwise. Cornwall, and pretty much most of the West Country, has it’s own weather and can be completely unpredictable. Mornings alone can go from glorious sunshine to hail a few hours later.
- If you’re taking your own tent, make sure it can handle strong winds. If it’s new, weather it. After, but before every camping season, apply a new waterproof coating. Depending on the quality of coating, your coating should then last a few trips.
- Give your tent the once over before you pitch. Check for any holes or rips, as well as any developing mould. This is going to be your home for a few days or more, look after it.
- Pack a variety of clothes and spare changes of clothing (and spares for your spares). I’ve detailed some suggestions below, but prepare yourselves to pack double what you think you need – especially if you’re camping with children.
- Pack camping equipment away in plastic / water-tight containers or bags. Avoid taking items down in their box or original packaging in the hope that it will return that way. If it rains, you’ll just have the added task of finding somewhere to recycle soggy cardboard. Instead, buy dedicated bags and/or plastic boxes and leave the cardboard boxes at home or ditch them altogether. This will make future storage easier for you as well, not to mention protect your items from slugs and other bugs.
- Research! Seriously. Tents aren’t always easy to navigate, even more so in the dark or in the rain. Do a couple of practise sessions putting up and taking down your tent. Get to know the guy ropes so you know when they need tightening (but not too tight!)
- Research 2.0 relates to weather forecasts. Although I hate looking at the weather and knowing that we’re going to into bad weather (I call it schrodinger’s camping trip), when it comes to camping it’s best to be prepared.
- Get to know your local area. Browse your camp site before hand. Do you know where the exits are? How about the first aid tent? Are there any shops nearby where you can get extra gas?
Tip: Before you even think about pitching, make sure the location is suitable for all weather. Can you see any pools of water nearby? Are you at the bottom of a hill or valley? Are you on a corner where there’ll be cross winds? Consider an extra groundsheet if you know rain is on the way.
What to pack?
One of the most popular questions we get asked relates to what to take when you go camping. Whilst you know the basics like cooking equipment it’s the things when you’re knee-deep in mud and guy ropes that will matter. Like that headlamp. Here are a few weather related items that have helped us in the past. It’s by no means exhaustive, so if you think we should add anything, let us know!
- Drying rack. Stay with us. It’s chucking it down, your wet-suits that were on the *cough* guy ropes are now heaped on your previously dry tent floor. Keep them, and any other wet clothes, drying with ease.
- Tent or Gaffa Tape. Trust us. Accidents happen. During one camping trip we saw all sorts flying through the air like The Wizard of Oz. If something does happen to your tent you want to be able to fix that asap.
- Door mat. This is great for wet wellies as you enter the tent or just as a spot for the shoes so they don’t get lost or cause unnecessary mess.
- Extra Pegs and Mallets. You will inevitably lose pegs upon leaving so always make sure you have a decent collection. An extra mallet will mean more than one person can secure the ropes during a storm. Likewise, kids bloody love a mallet so take a spare in case one goes missing.
- Wellies & Rain coats. Enough said.
- Tarpaulin. It sounds extreme, but it acts as a great protective base layer or barrier from the wind. If you know you’re going to be camping in bad weather, lay that tarp as the first layer and put another piece on top.
- Extra Lighting. We have a lantern for each “room” in our tent and a torch for toilet breaks, but it’s always worth having an extra torch and/or lantern charged for emergencies. In the event of having to regularly adjust guy ropes, a headlamp was our gold-star accessory.
- Emergency food. Store some extra food for the event of food vans closing due to extreme weather. A pot noodle and a flapjack will act as a great tension breaker if you’re stuck inside.
- Spare clothes. It goes without saying. Pack your regular variety of all-weather clothes, but take extra if not double. During the storm of CB18, Sharon probably changed her clothes three times – pants, socks and all – when we were battening down the hatches through the night. Having a fresh new pair of socks will calm any emotions – trust me.
- Games. A game of Uno! may be the last thing on your mind but once everything is secure you’re going to need something to keep everyone occupied if you can’t / don’t want to go outside.
- Dry Bags. Although they can be expensive, they’re stronger and more environmentally than your supermarket bag. You can also keep a variety of things in them, from laptops to wallets to your spare boots.
- Cash. Remote areas, let alone storms, can often cause a disruption to phone networks and card machines. Plus, let’s not talk about the time that I almost lost my credit card on a bouncy castle. With this, so you can still get around and grab food, pack some spare cash in a waterproof pouch that’s for emergencies only.
Tip: Prioritise lightweight, thin layers rather than thick wool jumpers to stay warm. Once you get that chill through to the bone it’s hard to warm up, but wool will be no good when soggy. Start with vests, even thermals, underneath leggings and try to avoid any jeans. They’re incredibly unpleasant when wet and will make it difficult if you need to crawl into awkward spaces to secure your tent.
During the storm.
You’ve prepared the best you can and now the storm has hit. It’s now a waiting game until it passes. If it hits at night try and sleep if you can, but if the weather is really bad you may need to periodically check your guy ropes regardless of time.
- Stay breezy! Although during a rain storm you’ll be less-inclined to open a vent or two, doing this for a few minutes during calmer moments will keep fresh air circulating inside the tent.
- Let it all out. Prevent damp and condensation that inevitably gathers when you’re in a tent by opening doors and/or vents when it’s stopped raining. Packing your tent away in the rain is never fun, but a mouldy tent is worse. With this, make sure you get your tent back out if you’ve had to pack it away wet and allow it dry out.
- Quarantine. Not the COVID kind, but if the inevitable happens and you’re having to go out during a storm try and reserve space in your tent that’s solely for wet gear. On the same note, make sure there’s a space that’s to remain dry. T slept in with us during one storm which meant his “room” was the wet room.
- Hands and legs to remain inside. Avoid a soggy tent by keeping everything away from the walls. A connection of any kind will allow water to get in.
- Avoid cooking inside. Sorry, folks. As much as it sounds appealing to pop the warm stove on for a cuppa, the last thing you want is a fire.
Tip: Communicate how you’re feeling throughout the storm and what you’re going to do, especially if anyone experiences anxiety. Camping during a storm is probably one of the most stressful experiences. You don’t know how long it’s going to go on for and it’s bloody scary when cross winds cause your tent walls to come in on themselves. With this in mind, if you’re going to be opening a vent, explain why so that the other person doesn’t close it thinking they’re being helpful. Likewise, if you’re the unlucky wotsit that has to go outside, tell the other person so they can check in on you and pass you anything you might need.
You’ve made it through and you just want to get home now, I get it, but there’s just a few more things you need to consider before throwing everything in the car and getting the hell out of there.
- Give everything the once over. If you’re staying another night after a storm, check your tent for any damage. Tape up any rips and, if necessary, replace any overworked guy ropes with new ones. Consider upgrading your pegs to your heavy duty ones too if you have them. They’re your Ace card!
- Respect your surroundings. If you’ve pitched on a site that’s not normally a camp site – for example a farm – make sure you remove all tent pegs before leaving. Leave no trace and take ALL your rubbish home, including popped airbeds.
- Shake it off! If you’re lucky enough to go home in decent weather, take advantage of this and wipe down any excess condensation inside. Why not take a small brush with you and give your tent a sweep before rolling it away. Although we would advise giving it another air before your next trip, this will preserve it’s life.
- Don’t rush. Not only could you hurt yourself, but rushing to pack everything away means potential accidents such as rips and tears. Taking your time will also mean you avoid those crowds and bottlenecks at the exits.
If you’re camping in the UK it’s inevitable that you’re going to experience a diverse range of weather, but don’t let that put you off. You can still have a relatively pleasant camping trip even if the weather is poor. It’s all about the preparation and expecting the worse.
I hope this post has helped you. If you’d like to add anything, from tips to must-have equipment, or want to share your own horror stories, share them below!