Like many Sydneysiders, we were looking forward to a week at the beach during the long school holidays.
Days spent lounging under sunny skies with a good book and the cooling sea sounded good to us.
The weather forecast, however, put a bit of a damper on our plans. Despite the bad news, I was determined not to cancel our south coast camping trip.. (Ever tried getting a beachside campsite in Australia for January?! I was not going to give that up!)
The forecast proved accurate (for once) and we ended up getting drenched for 4 out of the 5 days. The area where we camped hadn’t seen this much rain in 15 years! We ended up calling it ‘The Big Wet.’ Mother Nature always has other plans!
Can you say soggy? Yeah, not fun, right?!
That’s the thing – it can be a great escape!
Preparation is the key. You don’t want to find yourself digging out of a muddy mess.
Here are some of our favourite tips for rainy day camping:
1. Invest in Your Shelter.
Obviously, you will need a quality tent. But, consider investing in a canopy to shelter the tent in the event of wild weather. An extra canopy will provide extra rain and wind protection as well as considerable shading for your campsite.
As frugal as I am, I was really reluctant to pay $300 for a pop-up canopy. So, I got on Pinterest, determined to find a solution.
Yes. Pinterest. Don’t scoff. Pinterest is amazing for stuff like this. I found a number of pins showing how to erect a tarp shelter using tent poles. We already had a couple of tarps lying around, so I found some good quality tent poles at Kmart on the cheap. Yeah, Kmart!
Lesson Learned: Don’t use a worn out tarp. You’ll have leaks all over the place.
2. Practice your Setup.
While I’m frugal, I’m also a planner. You need to know how to set up your equipment before you get to your campsite. If conditions are poor, and performance anxiety creeps in, you’ll be glad you made a practice run or two.
Before we headed to the South Coast, I grabbed all the stuff we needed and headed to my local park to practice setting it up. Good thing we did a practice run, because when we arrived at our campsite in Narooma, it was raining. It took a while to set up, especially since the rain was counteracting our efforts in trying to raise the canopy!
Lesson Learned: Know what you are doing before you leave home or suck it up and buy a pop-up shelter. Then, set up your tent under it to keep things as dry as possible.
3. Buy a Foldable Table and Chairs.
I was a lucky girl this year. I was given a foldable camping table for Christmas (I am regretting selling some of my market stuff now!). It was a godsend.
Not all campgrounds offer picnic tables. If they do, they are not always convenient to your campsite. Between the table and the foldable chairs, Nat and I were able to sit beneath the shelter and just hang out. We played cards, we worked on our writing and we read books. All the while the rain came down around us.
Lesson Learned: Despite the room it takes in your car, pack a foldable table and chairs. There’s nothing worse than sitting on the floor of your tent, waiting out the rain. Seriously: Been there, done that. Never again!
4. Tarps and Bungee Cords Will Save You.
Aussies amaze me every time I camp. They really know how to erect a campsite. Every camper there for more than an overnight stay had a tarp over their pop-ups and over their tents. They had rigged it with bungee cords (or occy straps as they are known in Australia) so that the water ran away from their campsite. Brilliant.
Lesson Learned: I took note of this. We erected our tent under the tarp. Using strong metal stakes and bungee cords, I pulled the tarp out and away. The angle I created channelled the rain away, saving us from sleeping in a pool of water.
5. Have Some Way To Hang The Wet Stuff.
Even with all of the effort to keep the rain out, your stuff will still get wet: Towels from your showers, clothes when you dash out in a sprinkle to be caught out in a downpour, swimsuits– because you didn’t let the rain wreck your beach vacation!
Whatever it is, you’ll need a solution to hang it to dry.
Thankfully I took my travel clothesline. We wrapped it around two trees (protected of course!) and hung the wet stuff out to dry when the sun peeked out. That was the drawback of using a tarp for shelter. It’s not quite stable enough to support wet towels, but we saw plenty of people hanging from their crossbeams under their canopies.
Lesson Learned: If I camped more than a few times a year, I would invest in a canopy for the sole reason to hang the wet stuff when it’s still raining. OK, maybe to make set up easier too.
6. Have Food You Don’t Have to Cook.
Now I know that half the fun of camping is the campfire or being able to cook outside. There really is nothing like it.
When you need to cook under a canopy or a shelter, make sure it’s well ventilated. Seriously. Smoke and propane gas has a way of sneaking up on you quickly if you’re not careful. You HAVE to be well ventilated.
The better alternative to risking a flame? Have food you don’t have to cook. We save money when we are travelling by taking ‘picnic’ foods or nibblies. I’m talking cheese, crackers, hummus, carrots, strawberries, olives… you get the idea.
Pinterest comes in great handy for good recipes here too. Check out the pizza bread recipe we found on Pinterest. Make it at home before you go and it’ll suit a few meals! We LOVE this recipe! Especially for road trips!
Lesson Learned: Plan ahead by buying crackers, fruit and some bread. A PB&J tastes awfully good when the weather turns nasty. G&T with nibblies for dinner? Yes, please!
7. Be Prepared To Spend Hours Just Hanging Out.
Pull out the board games. Grab the books – not the kindles, the books! Grab some colouring books with coloured pencils. If you are a writer… oh this time, it’s bliss.
As a parent, I know my daughter is not going to survive a week without some electronics. I limit it though. To me, camping is not spent with your head stuck in a video game, or constantly texting on your phone. But I also know that it’s a okay for an hour or so a day when you have a teenager. Otherwise the crazy teenager returns.
We saw families gathered under their canopies – large groups of them – playing cards or board games. Some had additional board games piled in the corner, ready to be played later. We heard lots of laughter, insults too, which usually created more laughter…
That’s what camping is all about.
8. Have the Mozzie Repellent Ready.
I can hear my foreign friends from here saying “Mozzie Repellent?! What the hell is that!?” Mosquito Repellent that is. Once the rain is gone, they will come, and they will come in droves.
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