Rain. It’s essential for all life and can be amazingly powerful, but sometimes when you’re camping it can feel like the relative you couldn’t leave off the invite list. It’s unwelcome, makes for an awkward situation and kills the mood. Rain that lasts for more than a couple of hours can be frustrating and quickly leads the kids to an ‘I’m bored or ‘this sucks’ attitude, but you can minimise the impact of wet weather on your trip and still have a good time. One of the first things people tend to do when the forecast starts to look dodgy is to cancel altogether. And if it’s just a quick weekend away but the likelihood of constant rain is definite, then it may be easier to just stay home; there will always be another weekend. Even though most people tend to think our country is all sunshine and long sandy beaches, you’ll soon discover that rain is an integral part of the Australian camping experience and with a little pre-trip planning and on-site preparation, you should be well equipped to weather the storm. Savvy campers know that inclement weather is always a possibility, so here are some tips on how to avoid soggy socks or a puddle in your camper trailer.
It goes without saying that you should always pack raincoats and extra sets of clothes, especially for the kids, even if the weather is forecast to be fine. Throwing in gumboots and extra socks – because nobody likes wet feet – takes up very little room and if you’re driving to your campsite, you can afford the space. Spare clothes and shoes should be kept in a separate tub in the car so that they stay dry and can be put on when needed but Ziploc or dry bags will keep everything separate from the wet stuff whilst you’re in the tent. If can, store wet clothes and shoes outside, as the condensation formed overnight will make you and everything else wet too. Having a couple of umbrellas as a constant feature in the back of your car means they will always be on hand if rain sets in and plastic bags take up minimal room but allow you to pack away the messy stuff without getting everything dirty. Towels are always great for mopping up the damp and can be hung up to dry once the fine weather returns.
If you’re well prepared, the sound of rain on canvas can be restful, lulling you to sleep, but for many campers it’s akin to switching on a floodlight. Statistically, you’re less likely to leap from your bed, madly racing to bring items undercover, zip-up windows and adjust the slope of the canvas if you’ve prepared your campsite in advance for bad weather, regardless of how sunny it is appeared when you arrived. Erecting a tarp over your entire camper trailer will provide an additional layer of protection and expand the dry area beyond the edges of your sleeping tent. Setting up to cover all conditions really doesn’t take much extra time if everyone pitches in and should never interfere with the post-arrival check to ensure the beer is cold. Besides, a campsite set up for storms is also one set up for increased shade, so you’ll be sheltered from the hot sun as well.
When your only dining plans involve cooking over an open fire then you’re going to be very disappointed (and quite hungry) if it rains too much. While you can certainly maintain a fire throughout even the most drenching downpour, it’s no fun to stand around in the rain to cook so be sure to have an alternative method on hand. Being flexible with your food options is always a good idea, too. Something that can be reheated on a portable stove or have water added to it is an easy option, but a no-cook backup like a roast chook and salad out of the Engel will do just as well. Tinfoil meals will still cook in the fire if it’s not raining too hard but they may take a little longer if you can’t keep the heat up high enough.
Choose a campsite with a little elevation and away from water in case of flooding; it’s not fun to wake up in a puddle during a downpour or to find yourself floating away. And do not set up under trees; not only will drops keep dripping on you after the rain has stopped, but if the wind picks up overnight, branches can fall and injure someone. Summer storms can enhance this risk as periods of heat followed by rain are notorious for loosening gumtree limbs.
Sometimes it can rain so much and in so short a time that moving around the campsite becomes treacherous. Rocks and muddy areas may become slippery, so if you must be out in it, a sturdy pair of closed-in shoes are a better idea than your summer thongs; a rolled ankle is the last thing that you want. Flash flooding can occur in many parts of Australia, so be aware of your proximity to rivers and streams and be smart about lightening. Lightning can strike before, during and after main thunder clouds have passed overhead, so if you’re swimming or in a canoe, get out of the water immediately. It’s best to hunker down in your camper trailer too – you should have set up away from potential falling branches – as seeking shelter under trees is a dangerous risk.
Once you’re all holed up and everyone is safe, but the conversation is dwindling, break out a deck of cards or a game. Something like Cards Against Humanity will surely make things hilariously awkward in no time (adults only) and for campers of all ages you can try a simple storytelling game – the more outlandish, the better – and a couple of board games are good to keep in reserve too. The best thing about camping in the rain is playing in the rain, even when it’s cold, so let the kids get out there if it’s safe – despite the wet, muddy washing you’ll have when you get home – because they’ll have a ball. If this isn’t an option for you, you can always go for a drive and explore the local area; you may find something to put on your list to visit next time in better weather.
Even when it’s raining, camping is an adventure worth having and although wet weather conditions may not be ideal, nature’s wondrous setting is a better outlook than a cheesy daytime soap on the idiot box. Laugh it off and embrace the challenge; after all, it’s only rain. It may be a nuisance, but so was Uncle so and so when he decided to make an impromptu speech at your wedding! Of course, if it’s all just too much, you’re soaked to the bone and the camper trailer tent floor is sporting a mini lake, pack everyone up and head on home. At least you won’t have to deal with the tent canvas or the washing until the weather improves.
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