Should I Stay or Go? Making the Decision to Camp in Stormy Weather

Our Memorial Day camping trip left a gash in our roof.
It's a tough call to make when it comes to camping in rainy weather.  Many times campers book trips months in advance - especially in peak season.  After months of waiting for a camping trip you've planned, there is rain in the forecast.  Even worse, there are times when the weather might be stormy. Should you stay or go?

During our Memorial Day Trip, we knew rain and possible storms were predicted during the weekend.  I'm a planner and called the state park office the week of our trip.  I asked about the stormy weather and voiced my concerns.

If you are facing stormy weather for an upcoming trip, call the campground and talk to the manager or personnel there.  However, do not count on these persons to really make a good call for you and your family.  I have called park offices twice this year regarding weather.  Both times I was given somewhat vague answers.  I still recommend calling.  Park personnel know about camping safety, recommended procedures and previous weather conditions experienced at the facility.  Its worth the call if they can shed some knowledge on information that will help you.

Gray skies were only a small part of this trip.
I was told upon calling Tishomingo State Park that there were bathroom facilities across from my campsite that we could go to for extra shelter in case of emergency.  This was helpful advice, and I was glad to have the information to consider if needed.  I had not considered the bath house as safe shelter when camping.  The call to the campsite can help you with information such as this.

The camping equipment you use for sleeping will determine how exposed you are in bad weather.  Think this through before going camping and have a plan for severe weather if you go.  When calling the campground, tell the staff what kind of equipment you will be using when voicing your concerns.  This may also help gain additional information for decision making and planning.

We were able to enjoy plenty of time outdoors each day.
On Saturday night around 10:30, we woke up to a large wind gust followed by a huge bang and lots of heavy rain and more wind.  I could hear people at the bathhouse across from our site, but with a 4-year-old, we decided to stick it out.  Our camper was steady and seemed stable.  We stayed awake and didn't hear warning sirens or concerning sounds.

In hind site, we might should have gone to the bathhouse.  Upon waking up in the morning, a large tree had fallen over at the site next to us nearly hitting a truck.  Trees were down across roads and debris was everywhere.

The weather during the day was mostly sunny and warm.  The beautiful weather and scenic views made it worth it!
Our awning flew over the camper.  That was our large banging sound that woke us up.  Lots of tent campers had fled.  And park personnel were out clearing roads.

I felt very fortunate that we were fine.  No tornado.  But, the rain and wind was rough for about an hour.

Do you stay or go when the weather is uncertain?  Watch the weather reports and predictions and make your best educated guess.  If it is just rain, that is usually okay.  We've have rain more than once, and that doesn't bother us.

Our March camping trip was both cold and rainy.
Storms are another story.  If you go in severe weather, have a plan.  Follow through with the plan to ensure your safety.

I don't want to be a scared camper that only camps in sunny weather.  I believe that we can camp in lots of types of weather.  I just want to be smart in our decisions about what types of weather we feel comfortable camping in.

We had a great trip in spite of the weather.  We did get a gash in our roof from the flying awning.  But, we were safe.  The roof can be fixed.  It is on our list of things to do this year anyway - even before this happened.  I'm okay with it.

We also had to replace our lights and had a bent awning pole.  No biggie.  I had a spare set of lights and the pole can be fixed.
Don't let others make your decisions for you either.  No matter what friends and family plan to do, if you are not comfortable with the weather don't go.  Stay home and plan another trip for another time.  There will be other trips to be had.  Only you know how much bad weather you, your family and your camping gear can take.

Finally, if you are camping in weather that might be stormy, take note of the following:
  • Roll up your awning.
  • If the weather is only rainy without winds, tilt one side of the awning for it to drain off and not become heavy with rain pooling.
  • Bring in table cloths or other gear that you feel might get damaged or wet.
  • Store items in your car that you don't want to bring into your camper.  
  • Be sure to waterproof and treat your canvas.  303 is the product we use and recommend.  
  • 303 (30606) Fabric Guard, Upholstery Protector, Water and Stain Repellent, 32 fl. oz.
  • Rub your seams with beeswax if you want extra protection. 
  • Have shoes and rain gear handy in case you need to take shelter elsewhere.
Tilt your awning so that water will run off, but don't leave it out if the weather is going to be windy.  It is better to roll it up.  
This past trip helped up to learn some new things about camping and being prepared.  I'm glad that we went on this trip in spite of the damaged awning.  We had beautiful weather during the day and enjoyed our time as a family.

Every trip is a learning experience for us.  We have encountered plenty of bumps in the road.  The sunny days, laughter around the campfire and night time snuggles make it worth it all.  I'm sure there will be more rainy camping trips in our future.  Hopefully there will be more sunshine than storms, but we will always have each other.  I feel confident that we will make decisions that will keep us safe and dry.