Lessons learned for cold/wet camp conditions

Camping when weather forecasts call for rain/snow showers is challenging. You’ll need to use your head and take care of yourself and your gear. Here’s some lessons learned (the hard way). Read and learn the easy way, to your advantage.

Base Camp (and backpackers):
— Your tents have vestibules (covered areas at the front of the tent). When entering the tent, sit down at the entrance of the tent and take off your boots. and rain gear. Fold up your wet rain gear and place it over or under your boots, and leave them both in the vestibule. THEN enter the tent. (If you go in and out of the tent wearing wet gear and muddy boots, you’ll get your sleeping bag and dry stuff wet and nasty and have a miserable trip).

— At night: Open the vents/windows at the top of the tent and on the vestibule enough for air to flow through them (but not rain in): this is essential to prevent condensation during the night. Each person exhales about a cup of water during the night. With 4 people in the tent, you’ll be sloshing around in a quart of water along the outside edges of the tent — enough to soak the foot of your sleeping bad. Zip it up tight when you get up in the morning and are dressing — the tent will rapidly heat up 10 degrees or so with 4 people.

— You’ll be coldest first thing in the morning. Before you get out of your tent (even on the first morning): — Neatly roll up your sleeping bag and clothing, and place it in the center of your sleeping pad (this keeps it from getting wet during the day in case heavy rain seeps through the floor). If you have a wet spot on your sleeping bag, make sure it ends up on top, exposed to the air, so it can dry a bit during the day. Gear left scattered about gets stepped on, lost, soaked, etc.

— Unless you are a cook or have another assigned job, after you’ve rolled up your sleeping bag and stowed your gear, stay in the tent (dressed, ready to go out), until instructed to come out. Otherwise, you’ll end up standing around the cook stoves, getting in the way, and getting cold. If you’re out of the tent, be active to stay warm.

— Wear a stocking hat or hood under your rain gear. Don’t wait till you get cold. (If I had a dollar for each time I’ve seen a scout, cold and shivering, with a hood dangling down his back….)

— It is easier to stay warm, than get warmed back up. Think ahead. Take off a layer before you start a hike or heavy activity, then put a layer on when you stop, while you are still warm. Don’t wait to cool off.

— Backpackers:

— Be especially careful about tent placement. Depressions fill with water. If thunder threatens, don’t pitch tents on the tops of ridges or down in ravines near streams — even if that is the flattest ground. Lighting and flash floods are potential issues.

— If you have a goose-down sleeping bag, take extra care in keeping it dry. While these pricy bags are the lightest, best insulators, they are nothing more than a bag of wet feathers if they get wet.

— In the morning. If especially cold, pack up your gear and strike camp without making breakfast. Hike a mile or so, and get warmed up, then stop at any convenient spot, pull out the stove and start heating water. You’ll be warmed up and ready to eat rather than standing around shivering.

Published by h3eagle

Eagle Scout in 1973. Past Scoutmaster and current Committee Chair for Troop 85, St. Luke's Catholic Church, Beavercreek, OH.