Camping this Summer? Be Prepared.

It has come to my attention recently that life gets in the way. This is obvious when you think about it. Whether it’s taking two of your cats and your dog to the vet and having to cancel plans because of that, or having the rain cancel out your beach plans for Memorial Day and then having to work the next weekend, it seems like it’s always something. This weekend I’m determined to get some beach time in. I’m going to take my straw mat, my cooler bag, and my floppy hat and park myself on the closest, most deserted beach that I can find. Maybe I’ll even pack the tent and stay the whole weekend.

When my husband and I were right out of college, we used to live near the Jersey Shore. We were near enough that we could have driven there and back in one day, but we’d usually stay the weekend in one of the State Forests near the Pine Barrens. We’d load up our igloo ice chest at the nearest grocery store, the “Ack-a-may” near the “blinkin’ light” with camping food and pitch our tent in the best spot we could find. Camping is not really one of my most favorite things to do. Too many bugs, never enough insect repellent. But it is peaceful out there in the woods. There’s something about leaving the computer at home and your cell phone locked in the car. It’s just you, your chair, and a fire. Maybe some s’mores. Probably a few ants. You can hear all the night sounds of nature that you’re normally shielded from inside your house. Frog croaks, fox calls, owl hoots, and loon cries are all sounds that we’ve heard while trying to sleep in our tent. I really feel that camping is first and foremost a summer activity. Even though the profusion of bugs can make it unpleasant, I’d rather get bitten by a few mosquitoes than freeze my toes off overnight. Camping in the summer requires little in the way of weatherproofing as well. Bring two tarps, one for under your tent in the event the ground is a little squishy and one that you can either lay over top of your tent or string up to surrounding trees if it decides to rain. Even the most water-resistant of tents aren’t really waterproof.

I have so many camping mishap stories that involve rain. I could tell you about the time I went by myself to camp before going to the beach the next day, and while setting up my tent, discovered that part of one of my tent poles was missing. Okay, not a big deal. I parked myself and my lopsided tent under a tree and went about my business. Then darkness began to fall, and with the darkness came huge storm clouds. I might still have been okay if it had only been raining, but it was super windy. Then it began to rain. Big, fat raindrops. I don’t really know why I didn’t just leave that crappy tent where it was, but I decided I’d pack the whole dang thing up and lug it back to my car. I unceremoniously dumped that piece of garbage in my trunk and climbed in the backseat to spend the most uncomfortable night ever trying and failing to sleep.

Or I could tell you about the time my husband and I chose the exact wrong campsite. It would have been a fine spot, if it hadn’t been the lowest point in the whole campground. Normally, a little rain doesn’t deter us from camping. I expect everything to pretty much be damp anyway because of the inevitable dew and condensation. My husband is a swimmer and he’s pretty much wet all the time anyway, so he doesn’t care either. On this particular occasion, we woke up sometime during a night rainstorm. Nothing new there. I had to use the facilities, so I started to make my way out of the tent. Imagine my surprise when I put my foot on the tent floor and felt a little resistance. …Our tent was floating! There were literally inches of water upon which our tent was resting. I felt a little like Noah and the Ark. Between us, we decided it would be smart to sleep in the car instead of in the tent in which we could potentially float away. That was an uncomfortable night also. Though I suppose HAD we floated away, we had our swimsuits, so we would have been prepared for swimming back to the car. My advice for summer camping at the beach or otherwise is to remember your umbrella, stick to the high ground, and don’t forget your towel. That good old Girl Scout motto is pretty good advice here too: Be Prepared.

Posted: Tuesday, June 21, 2016