You pull up to the campsite after a long day on the trails. You’re tired and anxious for the evening to begin. A light drizzle has followed you along all afternoon, with no end in sight. So much for relaxing around the campfire. What to do?
Get creative during inclement weather
Though sunny weather is preferred, we four-wheelers shouldn’t be deterred by inclement weather. Enterprising souls that we are, we’ll make the best of a crummy situation.
Over the years I – with some help of my good buddy, Bruce – have compiled a list of suggestions. I’ve found it useful to turn to on those days when Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate.
“Inclement weather” to me is poor weather: high winds with very heavy rain, maybe very cold. It’s not bad enough to chase me and my group to the nearest hotel. A situation we expect to resolve itself in a day or two. We can sit it out then continue. But everyone’s tolerance is different.
Start by relaxing
It’s natural to be upset when the weather turns ugly. Especially if it’s been that way for hours. After a long day behind the wheel, you just want to plop down by the campfire with a cold one in hand.
A campfire may be out, but a warm, dry sleeping bag always entices. Take care when setting up your tent, then climb in. Kick off your boots and lie back. Close your eyes and let your body unwind. Perhaps even catch a couple Z’s. A rest can do wonders for the psyche.
Learn or brush up on a skill
We’ll assume that there no internet service at the campsite. And that cell service is spotty at best. Turn to the material you’ve downloaded or brought with you. (This is another reason for downloading resources before leaving home.)
That quiet time can be very productive time. Crack open a book or fire up the laptop to burnish your skill sets. Some to consider include:
- Learn a new knot. Knot-tying is a very valuable skill in the outdoors. Have a knowledgeable expert in the group teach you a new know. Practice tying the basics one handed with your eyes closed. Pretend someone dropped a rescue rope and you have to tie it with just one end.
- Map reading, especially local topographical maps. Orient the map without a compass. Identify the contour intervals. Brush up on UTM grid and draw all the 1000-meter lines on the map both vertical and horizonal. Use your phone (without cell service) to give you your UTM position. Hint: Gaia will do this without having to down load a map; Avenza can if you down load a local map.
- Refresh your knowledge of interesting sites or significant portions of the trail ahead. Be more prepared to drive the route and discuss noteworthy features. Consult the trail book you brought along.
- Review the principles of a Trail Leader. Perhaps you’ll find a tip that will enhance your abilities for the remainder of the trip. Here are the references to two articles I have on the subject. There are four or five more. Of course, without an internet connection, you have to have downloaded them in advance. (Musing – An interesting concept that people would have downloaded any Badlands Off-Road Adventures’ articles.)
Bad weather moving in
Other worthwhile activities to consider
After a while your energy and spirits return. Check out these possible activities:
- Plan the next leg of the trip. Combine with map reading.
- Write a letter or record an entry in your journal. Make someone close to you happy to receive a handwritten letter (posted later) expressing how much they mean to you. If this is way out of character for you, they may think you have gone off the deep end. Like the time, this guy said, “Psst let me show you something,” as I walked by the jewelry store. It was such a good deal, I bought my wife a set of diamond earrings on the spur of the moment. I’ll never surprise her again unless it is a birthday or anniversary!
- Read books or magazines. I prefer hard copies, but many people today carry an e-reader. Just remember to download the material in advance. You may have a paperback, that seemed like a good idea but just too difficult to plow through. Like “The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons” by John Wesley Powell. Now you have nothing better to do then plow through the book.
- Watch movies or other programs, if downloaded onto a device.
- Fire up the ham radio gear and make some contacts. Share your experiences and discoveries with the outside world.
- Turn in early. Get a good night’s rest so you’re fresh in the morning.
Repair/restitch gear and clothing
Downtime is a great time to tackle those minor repairs. Look around you. What clothing items, sport bags, or even sections of the tent need repair or patching?
Time to dig out the Speedy Stitcher. This handy device allows you to stitch rips and tears in most fabrics. Small and compact, it’s easy to learn and very effective.
It’s always ready to go. If you run out of thread, merely rewind the internal spool with a backup spool. (Make sure to buy one at the same time.) The needle is very sharp and will stitch anything you can punch through by hand. I’ve stitched some light leather and cloth handles on camping bags. The Speedy Stitcher can be purchased at numerous retailers for under $20. It should be a part of everyone’s camping gear.
Good cowboys, mountain men, and outdoorspeople take care of their gear. Use this time to sharpen knives, clean guns and equipment, and polish or waterproof boots.
Consider this “Round Tuit Time.” As in, “I’ll get ‘round to it when I have the time.” Well, now you have that time. If you don’t have a camp repair kit prepare one before the next trip. All the details are here: https://www.4x4training.com/w/camping-gear-repair-kit/
Pass the time with buddies
Downtime shouldn’t be all work and no play. Get together with buddies over a cold one. Tell some tall tales and good jokes. (And not-so-good ones, as well.) Memorize a good campfire joke. Have your buddy teach you his best jokes. Tell it until you own it.
In essence, have a campfire event without the campfire. The gloomy weather is forgotten when you’re among friends.
Relive the day and previous four-wheeling experiences. Break out a deck of cards or a board game. A deck of card is not just to see who can shoot the heart out at 50 yards. It’s also great fun to see who can hit the hat at the length of the tent. You have a new deck, don’t you?
You can still prepare meals in this weather
While grilling is not an option, it is still possible to cook a meal. One possibility involves a camping stove placed on the tailgate. Drape a tarp over the open lift gate and along the sides. Positioned properly, the tarp will protect against the rain and block much of the wind. Cook whatever you like, as well as boil water for coffee, soup or hot cocoa. I’ve used this method several times; it works well.
If you’re really careful, you could boil some water in the tent. Use the vestibule area, if your tent is so equipped. Use a smaller stove, such as Jetboil or MSR brand. Make sure the cooker is on a hard and level surface. Even better, crack open an MRE packet. You can enjoy a hot meal safely.
And there’s nothing wrong with capping off a long day (and a fine meal) with a tasty beverage. You’re not going anywhere, so enjoy!
Of course, there are days when the weather is so horrendous you can’t cook. Open the snack box and dive in. Crackers, cheese dip, salsa, and beef jerky can cover for one night.
You can’t always count on perfect weather for four-wheeling. As long it’s not too bad, stay in camp. There are many options for biding your time and enjoying the trip.
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