Sunday, August 21, 2011

Camping in the Rain

   I love to camp but have to admit that camping in the rain sucks. Twice this summer, my kids and I have done it; once at Ohiopyle State Park and the second time in Acadia National Park. Gaining some experience, I have noticed how people protect themselves differently from the elements. The most important is to have a dry tent. The second is to have a dry area to congregate and eat.
   About ten years ago, I purchased our first family tent when my daughter was born, a four-person Eureka. I love this tent. It has held up in lots of rain. The rain fly is attached to the body allowing for rain to drain away well. We were expecting rain in Acadia; therefore, placement of the tent was really important particularly since the site was sloped (made it fun to sleep also!) I staked it on the up slope against a large log that cribbed the site. My daughter and I dug drainage ditches at the ends of the log out away from the sides of the tent. Lastly, I dug a small drainage ditch at the edge of the vestibule on the up slope side. When rain drained off the vestibule, it pooled at the corner.
   At any campground, it is hard not to notice the different styles and strategies people use for car camping, particularly when it rains. Tents are all different shapes, sizes, and colors: A-frames, domes, pyramids, rectangles, and many more that can't be summed up in one word. Each tent and owner protects their bags and pads differently from rain: a fly at the apex of the tent, full coverage staked away from the body, vestibule flies, and supported screened vestibules and flies. Knowing the rainy forecast, many people hung large tarps in addition to the flies above their tents for extra protection. Some choose to do the combo of tarping their picnic table and the entrance to their tent, creating a covered walkway. Those who didn't protect their tent sufficiently were forced to sleep in their cars (love being a fly on the bathroom wall after rain). Thankfully, our family was not one of them. We had a dry tent!
   Just like with tents, campers use varying strategies for protecting a congregating/eating area. Some use canopies, while others put up screen houses for both rain and bugs. I placed the picnic table under some trees. Thankfully someone had left a line across the site where I hung a trap from and tied off the corners. A slope in the tarp is important to wick away the rain. If not, then a big, sagging pool of rain collects and it becomes extremely difficult to drain. Looking around, I noticed some staked one or two sides to the ground or placed poles in the grommets and tied the other corners to a tree, others tied three ropes parallel and hung the tarp with flaps on each side to ward off diagonal rain, and yet another tied one corner to the hitch of their car. Hanging and tying a tarp involves problem solving to achieve the best set-up to ward against the elements. This summer I have gained more practice than I've liked in hanging a tarp.
   I have to admit, I considered a hotel room after 20 hours of constant, steady rain in Acadia because my kids and I were wet and cold. However, our tent stayed dry and we opted for a hot shower instead (coined operated outside the park). Clean, warm and in our jammies, we quickly negotiated the rain and climbed into our sleeping bags. The pitter patter of the rain on the tent peacefully and gently put us to sleep. Even though I don't like camping in the rain, I love listening to the rain on my tent!

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