Springtime is one of the trickiest times to go camping, depending on where you are of course, because spring weather tends to be, typically, very temperamental. Like a toddler… or a teenager… or even worse… a printer. Yikes!
During the spring the skies tend to pummel the Earth with rain, wind, thunder, cold days, and may even hit us with an occasional frost. Bears come out of their hibernation and animals have begun scavenging for food.
Keep in mind that if you’re heading somewhere that gets a lot of snow during the winter then you are most definitely going to be surrounded by slush and mud.
Disgusting, brown, wet, maybe salty, mud.
But, weather is not a good enough reason to stay inside. It’s warming up, the trees are beginning to bloom and life is beginning to renew. It’s a beautiful time to head outside and enjoy nature.
Pack accordingly, grab your rain gear and a tarp and head out to the woods! Springtime is finally here and you shouldn’t let it go to waste!
Geography is one of the more important things to consider while camping in the springtime. Even dry California gets rain during the spring and you don’t want to be caught outside unprepared.
It is paramount that you pay close attention to both weather and terrain conditions. You could be planning on going on a mountain hike and the valley below is 75 degrees while the summit is covered with several feet of snow.
It’s a crazy time that can also lead to annoying colds. The drastic changes in temperature can take our bodies for an unpleasant loop. I recommend doTERRA’s On Guard Beadlets. They keep your immune system up and running properly! I’ve literally drunk water out of my cold-ridden husband’s cup, took some On Guard and I didn’t catch a thing.
As for keeping track of the weather, the best option is to call the state or national park office. Meteorologists can be wrong but the rangers and employees are physically out there, experiencing the conditions around them. I find them to be the most trustworthy source of information when it comes to current conditions.
If you can’t figure out where to call you can look up the weather on the National Weather Service (NOAA).
Bugs are another reason for paying attention to your geography. Mosquitos thrive after rainstorms and near ponds and rivers because that is where their larvae fester.
Sorry, that was a gross word choice.
Black flies, or gnats, also thrive in a northeastern spring. Pay attention to your surroundings and your location because different bugs live in different environments and parts of the country. For example, if you are camping up in the northeast you have to be made aware of our current epidemic of ticks. Ticks and Lyme disease are at an all-time high so stay on high alert for these little disease carriers.
Black fly season, which is usually in May, is a challenging season to get caught in. Dark clouds of gnats will surround and bite you incessently–alongside mosquitos!
Bring along your bug spray, witch hazel or vinegar (good for itches), long-sleeved shirts, pants, unscented toiletries and searching eyes!
I know, I know, winter is receding and the warm weather is beginning to surface. It’s exciting! It makes you want to run outside in your shorts in 50-degree weather to jump around in the slush. That does not, however, mean it’s time to throw your health aside like a sack of potatoes.
If you’re an avid hiker then you are, no doubt, excited to get up on those summits and trails but you have to keep your fitness in mind. Working out in a gym is very different than hiking up a large mountain.
You also must pay attention to the amount of gear that you’ll be lugging along through temperamental spring weather conditions.
You could be carrying a much heavier backpack and tent through a foot of mud, or several inches of snow and if you’re unprepared you could be left dehydrated, weak and possibly injured. Don’t push your stamina too hard.
Pace yourself and bring plenty of water and energizing, protein-filled snacks for any gallivanting adventures you plan on doing.
Keep your first camping trip of the season on the easier side so that you can gauge how you need to adjust your gear, stamina, and strength for the rest of the season.
Another reason to take it easy is because the trails you once knew like the back of your hand may be completely different. Between erosion, flooding, snow, and fallen trees and branches your usual spots may look completely new.
This means you’re on exciting, new terrain but it could also mean that your path is more difficult then you are expecting. Pace yourself and prepare for the worst! Don’t pack away those boots with extra traction in case you run into some unsavory spots on the trail.
Mother nature can be unforgiving.
Since the weather changes at any whim and fancy that our planet feels you could find yourself trekking through thick mud or crossing irregular streams running across well-worn paths.
As I mentioned earlier, wildlife is changing. It’s a beautiful time but it can also be dangerous. Make sure you keep away from any wildlife you run across because they are probably hungry and looking for food, or they are mothers watching over their young. Always stay away from young animals and never get close to the mothers guarding them.
Just like humans, mothers are fierce forces of nature that should not be messed with.
It’s also a good time of year to invest in a bear bag , if you don’t have one. They’re waking up and they just slept off last year’s meal which means they’re hungry! Protect yourself and your food from any bears that might wander along looking for a snack.
First and foremost, get yourself a three-season tent because you’re most likely going to get hit with three of the four seasons during a spring excursion.
Three season tents refer to how the tent handles snow and wind - which are extremely important in the spring.
It’s also good to pick a large tent because you may spend more time in it than out of it.
Make sure you’re keeping yourself and your tent warm and dry as well! Bring a tarp for underneath your tent, a clothesline, a bivy sack, sleeping pads (try getting an insulated one with a metallic layer), a sleeping bag, extra blankets, pillows, hand warmers, tent sealant, and appropriate clothing. If you want more information on how to keep your tent dry then read about tent care on REI’s website.
Another important thing to bring with you is a waterproof bag. Look for a treated down bag. It will keep your belongings dry but will maintain its light weight. No one wants to heave a heavy bag up to camp just to find all their clothes and sleeping gear soaked through. That’s how you get hypothermia.
A second way to avoid hypothermia is to avoid wearing cotton clothing. It does you no good out in the cold and it holds onto moisture. Make your base layer wool or polyester, cover up with a few over layers, and finish off your outfit with a raincoat or rain poncho. This way you will be warm and well-guarded against rain and wind.
Keep your other pair of clothes inside of a plastic bag to keep them as dry as possible. Another great trick is to shove your clothes for the next day into the bottom of your sleeping bag. That way they’ll be nice and warm and you’ll be ready to go in the morning!
Clothes are not something you can really overpack. I’d rather get stuck out there with more layers than I need than less!
Speaking of over-preparedness, make sure you pack extra water! You’re walking through harsh conditions in unpredictable weather and dehydration is a serious threat. The usual recommendation is a gallon of water per person, per day but in this case, you should bring extra.
As always, pack up headlamps, flashlights, lanterns as well as extra batteries (lithium batteries can withstand colder temperatures). Kitchen tools are another important factor of outdoor living so plan out your meals and pack your tools accordingly. Don’t forget the little things like can-openers and paring knives! A strainer or large slotted spoon is also good for any boiling you might do.
Bring along a day pack so you don’t have to lug around all your belongings all day.
And don’t forget that you’re here for fun! Layer up and go kayaking, canoeing, hiking, or biking.
You’re out here to enjoy the outdoors, not cower away from any weather that mother nature throws at you. Stay prepared, vigilant, warm and hydrated and all will be well!
Go see the world, get bitten by bugs, and protect yourself from the elements. Camping is a great escape during all seasons and can get you away from the stress of everyday life, so live it up!
Photo by Oleg Magni on Reshot