As I canoed a popular lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area after a storm, I came upon a snug camp occupied by a troop of older Scouts. The guys were relaxing by a blazing fire and sipping hot chocolate. Nearby stood a crisply rigged tarp with several dry packs around it.
I told the Scoutmaster that every camp I’d passed that morning (except his) was a disaster: flooded tents, lines brimming with wet clothes, not a campfire in sight. He listened with a smile and then proudly answered, “Yep, we got us one bomb-proof canoe camp here!”
A “bomb-proof” camp doesn’t just happen; you must meticulously plan and execute one. To become a hero during a storm, follow these rules:
1. First of all, know the weather forecast. Check the weather before you head out on a campout, and have a plan if the weather gets bad. At least one leader attending the outing should have completed “Weather Hazards” safety training on my.scouting.org.
2. Set up a rain fly shelter immediately when you get to camp. This way, if the weather quickly changes, you’ll have a place to stay dry (or keep your gear dry). A 10-by-12-foot tarp, with enough cord and stakes to rig it, provides a dry place to cook and make repairs.
3. Always use a waterproof plastic ground cloth inside your tent.
4. Did your Scouts bring rain gear? This article examines how to select the best rain gear. Don’t let your Scouts leave home without it, particularly if there’s a risk of rain in the forecast.
5. Sew additional stake loops to the body of your tent. The common three or four loops per side provided by the manufacturer usually aren’t enough to secure a tent in a bad storm. It’s easy to sew these additional storm loops. You need a few feet of inch-wide, lightweight nylon webbing. You can sew the loops by hand or with a sewing machine. Ordinarily, you won’t have to stake the extra loops, but if a high wind comes up, those “storm loops” can make the difference between a tent that survives the storm and one that doesn’t.
6. Bring tools to make a rainy-day fire (if local restrictions allow fires): candle, fire-starters and a sturdy knife. Use a splitting wedge or hand-axe for splitting small logs to get at the dry heartwood inside. Better yet, bring a camp stoves for cooking to avoid the need to make a fire in the rain altogether.
7. Everyone needs a sitting pad. The ground gets wet during a rain, so bring a piece of closed-cell foam. This is particularly handy when temperatures plummet, too.