Camping - What’s the worst that could happen?
January 14, 2014
If you’ve never camped, or haven’t camped in a while or haven’t taken your little ones camping yet, you may be nervous about the whole camping experience. You may have some fears. I imagine this because I myself fear the unknown. So, to put a little known into the unknown, I’d like to brainstorm with you some of the possible disasters that could happen, share with you what are our worst camping experiences and what you could do to minimize the damage.
Generally, the various sources of adverse experiences can be classed into these four categories: extreme weather, large animals, small animals and theft.
No matter where you camp and what time of year, unexpected weather can occur. The most extreme weather types are hurricanes, snow storms and floods. Although these can occur, there are areas and times of year when these are unlikely. For my situation, I would like to acknowledge but make the choice not to plan for these, to focus on more likely weather occurrences. For example, if we’re camping in summer and the weather is expected to be sunny and around 25 ℃ or 77 ℉, I will pack for rain and around 10 ℃ or 50 ℉. Rain gear is especially important when tent camping because if the rainy weather continues, you will not be able to dry your clothes once you get them wet. Imagine getting your only pants and sweater wet. You will not want to put on damp pants. (That is why we wear shorts in the summer in the rain – so we don’t get the bottoms of our pants wet – the top is better covered by a raincoat or jacket.) My rule is to pack a layer of clothes or bedding for the night over and beyond what you need for the coldest temperature forecasted. For example, if you think that it might dip to 10°C / 50°F and that you would need a sweater for that, bring a sweater and a sweatshirt. If you think it might be cool at night and you may need extra socks, bring socks, hat and an extra blanket.
Our actual worst camping weather:
When we were on our November road trip from Ontario to Alberta, we spent a couple of nights tenting it. One night, while we were in a Manitoba park, it got down to -12 ℃ (10 ℉). I could have died that night. We knew that it would get a little cold, so we piled up the blankets and we thought that if we get too cold, we’d just go to the car at night. But I was so cold that I could not make myself come out from my blankets to come out of the tent to go to the car to warm up. Don’t camp when it’s -12 ℃ outside.
Storm - a couple of years ago when we were camping with our 3 year old and 1 year old in Gatineau Provincial Park. Our campsite was a little peninsula that jutted out into the lake. It was a beautiful site. But one evening, we got some unexpected rain and the wind really picked up. Because we were on a peninsula, we had less shielding from trees, so we really felt the wind. While we were in our food tent, it collapsed on us. It wasn’t really a big deal yet (we were more worried about the tent being blown out into the lake), but the kids got really scared. The rain was pretty torrential at the time, and we had seconds to think of what to do. Because of the kids we couldn’t even try to take care of our gear because we had to take care of the kiddies so they wouldn’t be traumatized. The tent survived, whew!
I’ve also been at a survival camp during a pretty bad rain storm. We did not have regular tents, only made up ones (survival style), which did not have a front door. I had to dig a trench around the tent so water wouldn’t get onto the floor and spent several evening and night hours getting up every 15 minutes to check the trench and shake water off the roof so it wouldn’t leak through. All in all, I have pretty good memories from the camp!
You may be thinking bears and cougars (or deer and moose). Many Canadians have seen larger animals when camping. Meeting them is entirely possible. In areas where there are animals which may pose danger to humans, there will be some kind of watch for them. If there is a nuisance bear in the park, you will be warned. You have to take the recommended safety actions, such keeping food safely stored so as not to attract the animals, not going into remote areas by yourself, and not approaching the animals if seen. Remember, when you disregard these rules because you are not scared, you are putting other people in danger too.
Our actual animal experiences:
We have had some kind of hooved animal walk through our campsite at night once. We also saw a bear once in a campground, but it was after 10 years of camping. It was a younger bear, and although he ended up leaving in peace, it could have turned ugly because there were quite a few people gathering around him (about 10 feet back) to take a look.
In our experience, small animals have caused more actual harm and loss of enjoyment than large animals. Raccoons are most likely to be a serious nuisance and when you’re sitting around the fire in the dark, their noises can be quite scary.
Our actual small animal experiences:
I’m talking raccoons and that crazy squirrel that got caught between our tent and fly at 7:30 in the morning. We got a little tense because, that darn thing started squeaking like crazy and we didn’t want our tent ripped up by its panicked dash. Raccoons can be incredibly persistent. Once they get their eye on you, they will not be deterred by human presence, fire, things thrown at them. We once had a mom with babies be around us. We thought that she’d shoo off easily because she would want to protect her young, but she did not. We spent hours trying to get rid of her.
Can happen. Use your head.
Our actual theft experiences:
We feel pretty comfortable leaving the obvious things out (like tent, bikes) because we feel that we’re in the company of likeminded people who would rather help than harm a fellow camper. But we don’t invite trouble and take standard precautions of locking the car and not leaving our stuff out when we’re up and about.