Camping in the rain is not for the faint of heart but that didn't stop us!
Check out the crazy downpour of rain! We filmed this from our tent at Sandbanks Provincial Park, one of several wet and windy camping experiences we had this summer. And yet we keep coming back for more! So why, exactly, would anyone chose to go camping in the rain?
Well, I don't know if anyone actually WOULD chose to go camping in the rain but sometimes it's unavoidable. Often camping reservations are made months in advance and most of us don't have much flexibility when it comes to summer vacation plans. So come rain or sleet or shine, camping it is!
Have you ever read Garth Stein's book "The Art of Racing In The Rain"? It's a terrific read for anyone who loves travel and dogs and it always reminds me that there's a bit of an art to doing just about anything in the rain - even camping! Here are some important lessons I learned about doing it with good grace at Pittock Conservation Area near Woodstock, Ontario.
Leave the tent at home.
Camping without tents? It’s not what you think! I don’t mean sleeping under the stars. As romantic as that sounds, it definitely doesn’t help you out in the rain. What I’m talking about is taking the stress of tent set-up and take down out of the equation entirely and having someone else do it for you.
You don’t have to have a private butler to make this happen. Savvy campgrounds such as Pittock Conservation are offering it as a standard service as part of their Step Into Nature program. I was admittedly a bit uncertain at first. When I was packing at home, I was plagued by the lingering feeling that I was forgetting something. And I was – the tent! It felt so strange to go through my camping checklist and deliberately skip the most important item on the list.
I was also worried about what kind of tent would be waiting for us when we arrived. It’s normally just the two of us when we camp (sometimes three, when Oliver the dog comes along!) but we really prefer to have a large tent so we can bring all our gear inside at night and still have room to move around. What if a camping reservation for two meant we had a real ‘two person’ tent waiting for us? I envisioned having to sleep in the kind of tiny bivouac style tents that expedition hikers use! We were very happy, and a little bit relieved, to see that all the tents were large 6-8 person tents that were properly set up, securely pegged, and swept out from the previous occupants.
Arriving during the warm, sunny mid-day weather, not having to set the tent was a nice little treat but we still had the rest of our gear to organize – blowing up our air mattress, setting up our bed, getting our stove and food organized. We appreciated not having to set up the tent but we still weren’t entirely convinced that such a service would make a big difference for the average camper. But then the rain came.
Boy, did it rain! I’d rank our night at Pittock Conservation as one of our top three craziest rain storms ever. And we still had an awesome time! The tent was so well set up that no rain leaked in and the roomy interior meant we had plenty of space to move around and set things up so we could be comfortable and enjoy ourselves. And as the rain pounded through the night, we kept saying “Thank God we don’t have to take this tent down in the morning!”
I’ve been in the unfortunate position of having to pack up a wet tent only to have to set that wet tent back up in order to dry out when we get home. It is, without a doubt, the worst part of camping. I am now 100% convinced on the merits of camping without your tent and I wish every campground offered it. You save a little room in your car, you save a little time on set up, and most of all you save your sanity when it’s raining.
Be sure you have provisions.
What is camping without tons of tasty goodies? We had visions of going for a late afternoon paddle to catch our own fish for an old fashioned camping fish fry dinner (especially since our Nature package included worms and canoe rental!) But the looming clouds in the sky told us that Mother Nature had other ideas in store for us!
You never know when the weather might take a turn when your travels are taking place entirely outdoors and it’s a smart idea to have some no-cook provisions on hand. Our favourite treats this time were the homemade pies and tarts from the Leaping Deer Adventure Farm. We absolutely loved all the goodies from their bakery and general store. They also have a huge assortment of local jams, jellies, condiments, and sauces - perfect for a budding camping chef in finer weather!
It's okay to abandon ship sometimes.
Camping – and travel – is all about enjoying yourself. When the heavens open up, there’s nothing wrong with abandoning ship – or tent as it may be – to head for dryer quarters while the worst passes. In our case, we headed into town for a hot meal. I must admit that I didn’t have high expectations for Woodstock’s Tandoori Knight. You rarely find great Indian food in smaller towns but I’m so glad to be proved wrong.
This was some of the best Indian food we’ve ever had! Their vindaloo in particular won high marks. Ryan is absolutely obsessed with beef vindaloo and he is almost always disappointed. It never carries the heat or depth of flavour he’s looking for and requests to make his dish extra hot are always rejected with a dubious frown. But Tandoori Knight got it RIGHT. His vindaloo had an intense heat that built with every bite but the flavour was never sacrificed. (I also thought my chicken korma was excellent but what is that compared to vindaloo?)
It’s a little less exciting than finding the perfect vindaloo but I was thrilled that Tandoori Knight made the perfect cup of hot, milky chai. The spices were fresh and intensely concentrated and it had the ideal level of sweetness. With our bellies full of warmth and spice, we were happy to head back out into the rain and cuddle up for the night.
Step out of the tent and head next door.
Our biggest regret while camping at Pittock is that we didn’t take the opportunity to get to know some of our neighbours –particularly the neighbours who had a large cauldron style pot of bubbling stew suspended over their fire earlier in the day! I was worried about appearing too nosy (yes, occasionally I do feel self-conscious about this!) and I was eager to get in some nature walks before the poor weather rolled in.
One of the neat things about Pittock and many campgrounds is that there is a mix of tent spaces and RV spaces and some of the RV spaces have evolved into semi-permanent structures, complete with gazebos and decks, that are occupied by all-season residents. These guys weren’t bothered by the rain at all! And if it wasn’t for my impending food coma, I might have just gone over and introduced myself. When in doubt, bring beer and snacks (like the butter tarts!) and you’ll always be welcome.
If you’re feeling on the shy side and would rather die than just walk on over to your neighbours’ site uninvited, there’s a nice alternative. Pittock, is like many campgrounds in that there are planned events throughout the week for campers. Activities such as pancake breakfasts and BBQ lunches are a great way to meet other campers and find a few friends to hang out with around the campfire. Plus, if you’re new to camping and lack confidence in your outdoor cooking skills, this is an easy and economical way to get some grub.
Unless there’s danger from thunder and lightning, not much harm can come from frolicking in the rain. So you'll look like a drowned rat and get covered in mud. Oh well! You might as well dive in and try to have some fun!
Pittock has washrooms. REAL washrooms! With private showers with hot water! There are even hot air hand dryers which, with a bit of contortion, you can use to dry your hair. There’s nothing so great as a camping shower. Even if you’re not doing any hard core activities, you’re probably feeling a bit more dusty and sweaty than usual. A long hot shower to clean up and then dry off before diving into bed and butter tarts is the best feeling in the world! PS -Most campgrounds these days also have laundromats so if the downpour comes at the beginning of a long trip you can still have clean, dry sheets and clothing.
Here's to sunnier trips!
One of the best things about camping in the rain is the knowledge that summer rains, while intense, rarely last very long. We were still able to enjoy gorgeous sunny weather during our time at Pittock and we had so much fun relaxing at our site, exploring the campground, and enjoying the Woodstock area. We were rained on for a night - it happens! But we were able to make the best of it. Dare I say it, we even mastered the art of camping in the rain this year. And with a little luck, we won't have to put that knowledge into action again next summer!
How do you make the most of your travel time in the rain?
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