Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘planning’ Category

We think of summer days as being sunny and warm (and sometimes they even are!), but when it comes to summer nights, things can get mighty chilly.  Even in the summer, nighttime temperatures in Olympic National Park can get down in the lower 40s, even below freezing.  Out by the coast, fog can blanket the land in chill damp for days at a time, and higher elevations mean you’re that much closer to the freezing void of outer space on a clear night (and the stars are that much more beautiful because of it).

No matter the reason, not being prepared for a cold night can lead to uncomfortable, fitful sleep, and potentially cranky campers the next day.  Here are some lessons I’ve learned the hard way that can help ensure you have a warm and cozy night.

Use an appropriate tent—  For camping in the summer, you shouldn’t need anything more than a three season tent, but which tent you have still matters.  Try not to use on that’s bigger than you need.  Your body heat will keep your tent warmer than the outside air, and the smaller the space to heat, the warmer it will get.  Also keep in mind your tent’s construction.  The tent I use for camping has great ventilation–the top couple of feet underneath the small rain fly is netting–but that also means all my body heat goes right out the top of the tent!  Not very cozy when you’re camping in Yellowstone and it snows in June.  Such a situation is not hopeless, however: draping some towels or a windbreaker over the netting makes a huge difference, or if you’re really ambitious you can knit yourself a tent-cozy.

Wear appropriate pajamas—  Here’s a good rule of thumb: if it came from a plant, don’t wear it to bed.  Cotton and linen are very light and comfy–and horrible at retaining heat!  Synthetic fibers are good at keeping you warm, and great for keeping you dry.  Animal fiber, be it from sheep, alpaca, goats, or rabbits, is even better for warmth, but not as quick-drying (you’ll be warm, but you might also feel a little clammy.)  Also, tighter fitting pajamas keep you warmer than loose ones.  And, no matter how counter-intuitive it seems, wearing multiple layers inside your sleeping bag will actually make you colder because your body heat will be soaked up by the clothing instead of being held by the insulation on your bag; in a mummy bag, you’ll actually be the warmest if you sleep naked!  My camping pajamas are the only pieces of clothing I have bought specifically for camping: a set of wool-synthetic blend long underwear (which I also use for layering when I’m not sleeping.)

Get off the ground— Aside from being hard and often lumpy, the ground is also cold.  In the same way a down jacket insulates you from cold air, a foam or inflatable sleeping pad traps air that is heated by your body and insulates you from the cold ground.

Fill up empty space— A snug sleeping bag is a warm sleeping bag.  Mummy bags are so warm in part because they are so skinny and hug your sleeping body.  I, unfortunately, do not have a mummy bag.  What I have is a hand-me-down, well made, rectangular REI bag that used to be my father’s (which means, since he’s a good 7 inches taller than me, that it’s bigger than I need.)  Even when I zip it up all the way and cinch the top drawstring tight, there’s a lot of empty space inside, meaning a lot of air to heat.  I fix this problem by bringing my wool sweater and sometimes my next day’s clothes into my sleeping bag with me.  I don’t wear them, I use them to fill up the empty space.  Then, in the morning, or if I have to get up in the night, I have a nice preheated sweater to wear.

Preheat—  Speaking of preheating, it always helps to warm yourself up a bit before hopping into a cold sleeping bag.  Take a walk around the campground, or drink some hot chocolate (but not too much, unless you want to be forced to go look at the stars at 3am).  If you have a fire, rake out the coals–it helps put out the fire faster and also releases a lot of heat you can soak up.  I always put on my long-john pajamas under my clothes an hour or two before bed, then all I have to do is take off my outer layers and I’m still nice and warm.  Consider eating a small snack before bedtime so that your metabolism can keep you toasty.

Hopefully these tips can be useful to you in your cool weather camping adventures.  What other ways have you found to keep warm at night in the great outdoors?

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Friday morning saw camping-buddy Lavon and myself heading out to the Olympic peninsula for a weekend of camping.  The plan was to spend two nights at the Hoh rainforest, with a roughly six mile hike up the river as our Saturday activity.  First things first, though; Friday was also an eventful day for our little town: the grand opening of our very own Trader Joe’s.  We stopped in on our way out of town and experienced live music, hula dancers, and something I’d never seen in a grocery store before: lines 15 people deep in which every person was cheerful and smiling.  We picked up some of Joe’s Spicy Chai Latte just-add-water mix, which turned out to be quite tasty and an excellent thing to take camping because it meany we could have chai without bringing along milk.

It’s 160 miles from my house to the Hoh, so we made a couple of stops along the way.  The first, at Hurricane Coffee in Sequim, is a stop we make nearly every time we pass by.  The place has a really nice atmosphere and some pretty delicious coffee and bagels.  Later, we had a picnic lunch (falafel with olives, capers, tsaziki, and tomatoes in pita) at La Poel, a small peninsula that sticks out into Lake Crescent, which, I learned on this trip, used to contain a truck stop with cabins and a tavern, but now just has picnic tables and fire pits.  No overnight camping is allowed at La Poel, but it makes a tranquil mid-day retreat.

As we passed through Forks, Lavon and I started planning an imaginary Twilight themed ice cream shop.  We had fun thinking up flavors to go with books we’d never read until we came to the turn off to get to the Hoh…  where we were stopped by a ranger.  He informed us that there was a mother elk that had just given birth and was charging at people, so they had to close the area.  There went that plan.  We turned around, made our way back through the Twilight Zone–I mean, Forks–and headed to the coast to camp at Mora, right across the Quillayute River from La Push.

There appears to be some force in the universe that is constantly driving me towards Mora.  I have camped there four or five times, yet only one of those times was intentional.  When other campgrounds are full or close, Mora is where I end up.  And I don’t mind, because Mora is actually my favorite campground of any that I’ve been to.

So we snagged site 31 at Mora, a cozy little site with a tent pad set back in what Lavon called a grotto made of vine maple and elderberry bushes.  Most of the rest of the afternoon was spent mapping out the campground, which took quite a while as there are nearly 100 sites between five irregularly shaped loops.  Loops C and D were closed because the campground wasn’t very busy, and A hardly had anyone in it, so we got to walk into a whole bunch of the sites to really get a feel for them.  #18, in loop A, had this really cool stump in it:

For dinner we had sausages with sauted onions and mushrooms and polenta (perfect camp fare: hearty and delicious), after which we went a mile further down the road to its end at Rialto Beach, where we watched the waves under a darkening grey sky.  Back at camp, my home-made fire starters worked reasonably well.  I wish I had taken the time to fill them up further with wax so they would burn longer, but they got the job done.

Sleep that night should have been easy.  There was a lovely chorus of frogs, and while our neighbor did snore, he was far enough away not to be a nuisance.  The rain that started around 11:30, on the other hand, was a problem.  Our lovely little tent grotto sent large drips hammering down on the tent’s rain fly, making a terrible racket.  The noise, along with my constant worry that all our stuff would become soaked as it touched the edge of the tent, kept me awake, though I know I did get some sleep, and probably more than I thought.

The rain was still going come morning, though by that time it was more of a heavy mist.  After breakfast, when we had saturated a towel mopping up small puddles in the tent, we decided to cut our losses and pack up.  When I lifted my sleeping pad off the tent floor, I discovered a small lake waiting underneath.  By some miracle I had remained dry for the night, but I doubt I would have remained so for a second one.

We made our way home, tired and damp, but still glad we had gone.

Read Full Post »

While I work on my map making skills so I can show you all some more results from my trip to Staircase two weeks ago, let me tell you how excited I am about my next planned camping trip–and it’s not even in the Olympics!

Next weekend I’ll be chaperoning somewhere between ten and fifteen junior high students from the church youth group on a “Rock and Roll” trip, meaning we’ll be going rock climbing and river rafting.  I’m going because I know how to belay.  (I’ve actually taken a group of junior highers camping and rock climbing in the same spot we’ll be going to when I worked for a summer at Tall Timber Ranch.)  The other half, the river rafting, I’ve never done before, and I’m both excited and a little nervous to do it.  It’s not that I think I’ll drown, I just don’t want to get wet and cold.  I know, I’m a sissy.

It is my plan to be thoroughly over prepared for this trip.  Most of the gear will be provided by someone else, but I still intend on bringing most of my camping supplies–just in case, right?  And anyway, when you’re responsible for a bunch of younger teens, it never hurts to have some extra stuff, which is why I’m bringing two sleeping bags and three waterbottles, as well as extra sweaters.

Those extra sweaters might turn out quite handy, if I am to believe one of the ladies who went on the trip last year.  Apparently all the guys were warm, but the gals, who were informed by one of those guys that it wouldn’t get too cold on the trip, were all freezing.  I’m not surprised.  Staying warm is always my biggest problem on camping trips, which is why I fell in love with wool last year.

Wool is amazing!  I don’t understand why it’s gotten such a bad rap.  It’s warm, durable, doesn’t hold odors, and isn’t even itchy if you get stuff that’s been handled well.  Last spring I bought myself a set of wool/synthetic blend long underwear and it pretty much saved my life when we were camping in Yellowstone in June and the temperature dropped to around 25 degrees every night and it snowed half of the days we were there.  I recently knitted myself two sweaters out of 100% wool, and let me tell you, they are warm and comfy and not scratchy at all.  I have a feeling they will come in quite handy next weekend.

Read Full Post »

So today is the second day of Spring. (Actually, the third now, because wordpress was down yesterday when I tried to post this.)  It’s the time of year when my camping planning is in full force.  It’s almost like an addiction—no, a ritual, yes, that sounds much better: a ritual.  Some time in mid-February I just can’t take the cold and the dark overcast skies (despite what I tell all my friends about liking overcast days) and the tremendous work ethic one is supposed to have in the winter months, and I just have to start plotting how I can spend multiple days outside—in nicer weather, of course, because I am a bit of a wimp.

Last year it was a trip to Yellowstone for a week.  It was very fitting that all my planning had been done in February because, despite it being June by the time I got there, the weather was much the same: cold and wet.  Actually, not that wet because the precipitation that fell came in the form of snow!  I was very glad that I had invested in some thermal underwear before we left.

This year I will be sticking closer to home.  You see, I have this crazy goal to visit all of the campgrounds in Olympic National Park, and then to write a guide book about them.  I guess the urge comes out of my obsessive spring camp-planning.  Each year, as I decide on an exciting new place to visit, I start collecting as much information as I can: natural features to visit, weather patterns, what wild flowers grow in the area… I look at tons of maps, check out guide books from the library, and visit National Park websites countless times.  I gather lots of good information, but one thing I can never find much of is info about campgrounds in the park.  The official park sites give you two sentences of description if you’re lucky, along with the number of sites and if there are flush toilets.  Guide books try to cover so much that you’re lucky if the campground you’re looking at gets half a page devoted to it.

So I’m going to try to step in and fill the void.  I want to provide people with the kind of information I want to know when planning a camping trip to a national park:

What kind of plants and animals I expect to see in and around the campground?

Can I eat those wild berries?

What can I do nearby?

Who is my neighbor likely to be?  A giant RV?  20 college students out to drink all weekend in the woods?

What are the best campsites like and which ones are they?

How about a map of the campground? And another of the nearby park features?

What should I do if it pours all week?

Can the vampires get me if I camp at Mora?

Join me as I try to answer these questions over the next several months.

Read Full Post »