Rain — a tent camper’s nemesis

Published 4:41 pm Tuesday, April 30, 2019

in the woods header

If there is one thing that can put a damper on a camping or backpacking trip, it’s rain.

And nowadays, it seems harder and harder to get three days in a row without rain in the forecast, unless, of course, it’s during the workweek.

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That is one reason why my previous scorn of RV and campers has evaporated. Not enough to buy one, but I get it. Guaranteed coverage and oftentimes, climate-control.

For those of us who insist on staying in a tent — whether it’s a “luxury” tent that is large enough to be a soft-sided room, or a one-man tent that weighs less than a pound — rain is a real pain in the butt.

On the other hand, if it’s 40 degrees and raining for days on end, you can pretty much have the place to yourself, crowds being another annoyance, as you are the only idiot crazy enough to stay out there so exposed.

There is always one yahoo that is crazier — such as the couple who had nothing for shelter but a hammock covered with a tarp for two days in those conditions.

They spent an inordinate amount of time trying to start a campfire in the rain. It was an activity that required a lot of pounding on firewood with a hammer, i.e., hell is other people’s noise. During the day they sat under their tiny tarp on chairs in the mud. To each his own.

Knowing the weather was going to be bad and refusing to cancel the trip, I wisely bought a canopy shelter at True Value and was even able to cook outside as the rain fell — very cool, actually.

It seems amazing that one can stay dry despite torrential rains that continue for hours and hours and hours. My record is 15 hours in a tent in a wildly wet storm out in the Allegheny Highlands.

So what does one do with all that time to kill? If luxury camping, meaning in the big tent at a state park, sightseeing is an option during the day. If backpacking, well, there is the lone paperback to read. Sometimes you can pull a space blanket over your head and wait it out.

Rain means no campfires in the evening, but you can sit and listen to the loud pelting of rain on nylon and marvel how it does not leak. Sometimes an adult beverage can take the sting out tent fever. You can pull out that book and read, or not. If blessed with dry paper and pen, one can make lists.

One good thing about all the hammering noise is that it blocks out other creepy sounds that go on in the night.

There is also the option, while luxury camping, of using a portable DVD player to watch a movie. It used to seem like cheating, but not anymore. Who am I trying to impress anyway? Certainly not that yahoo and his girlfriend sitting in the mud with a pack of wet matches.

Rain is not continuously torrential. There are breaks in the downpours. When those occur, it’s time to run outside and remember why you subjected yourself to this in the first place.