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The Elements

One of my favorite things about camping is being exposed to the elements: the sun, the wind, the rain. When the elements are in beautiful balance with one another, enjoying them is so much more…..enjoyable. But, when any one of these elements swings to an extreme, the enjoyment factor can plummet. I mean, who relishes being completely soaked from an unexpected deluge, or being thoroughly baked by Death Valley-strength sun? While the elements can’t be avoided at a festival, a little know-how and planning can make dealing with the extreme ones more tolerable.

 

While wind can be a factor, it’s one of the easiest elements to deal with. Basically, tie everything down. Tightly! One night while I was camped out in a low spot between peaks in the White Mountains the wind came up furiously and shook and rattled the tent so violently I was a little afraid that I would be blown off the side of the mountain. Once I was sure that I was safe from being swept away, I had a really hard time getting back to sleep because the sound of the flapping tent and rainfly was so loud. Even after tightening all the stays and straps to pull the sides of the tent and fly as tightly as possible, the flapping remained. The wind eventually died down, and because I had put everything that could be blown away into my tent and tied down the remaining items, I left with everything that I had taken with me. While tent stakes usually hold tents and EZ-ups well enough, extra weight on the corners doesn’t hurt! Sand bags, rocks, or weights from a weight-lifting set double nicely as tent ballast, especially in Delaware’s sandy soil.

 

The sun can be a bit more difficult to manage, but there are some basics to making sure that you don’t turn your tent into an Easy Bake Oven that will have you sweating all day or all night long. First, you’ll want to make sure you know how to ventilate your tent. Open any vents that your tent has. During the heat of the day, either tie back all the windows (the solid parts, not the screens/mesh….) or take off the rainfly (if there’s no precipitation forecasted) to allow for the most air-flow through the tent; or if your tent goes up and down easily, collapse the whole thing to keep the heat from building up inside. If there is no shade in which to set up your tent, then using an EZ-up tent to create some shade can help. You can also use some extra tent poles and your car (if it’s close enough) to set up a tarp above your tent to create some shade. Just make sure that there is enough space between the tarp and tent to allow air to flow.

 

For me, rain is the most difficult element to deal with when camping. Keeping the inside of the tent dry is key to surviving with your spirits intact, and the construction of your tent has a lot to do with whether or not the rain will encroach upon your space. If your tent is meant for backpacking and trekking, then it will probably have the necessary ingredients for a dry experience: a well-constructed rainfly that is fully coated with a waterproof layer, sealed seams, and a bathtub floor construction (the floor material wraps up and forms a part of the wall before a seam transitions into the wall). Ages ago, I learned the hard way that a quality tent is necessary when there is rain in the forecast. I spent a virtually sleepless night near Mt. Katahdin in Maine because the tent did not have sealed seams or a bathtub floor construction. We also had so many people packed into the tent, that we were all squished up against walls of the tent — allowing the water to seep in. We were all soaking wet and got wetter and wetter as our sleeping bags sponged up the water all night long. Miserable! If your seams are not factory-sealed, camping goods stores sell sealer that you can apply yourself. If your tent has a floor that ends on the ground with seams at ground-level that rise up into the wall, these seams will definitely take in water should it rain hard. An extra ground-cloth or tarp underneath your tent that extends beyond the walls of the tent will help to keep water from soaking in through the floor. If your tent does not have an adequate rain fly, an extra tarp can be strung up over the tent, just be sure to angle the tarp so that the rain runs off the tarp and dumps somewhere other than on you, your tent, or your neighbor’s tent! Plastic zip-loc bags are crucial for keeping small items dry in the event of real drenching rain.

 

Keeping yourself cool and dry is as important to enjoying your excursion as keeping your tent cool and dry. To keep yourself from being sunburned, the good-old standbys of sunscreen (reapply throughout the day), a hat with a brim, sunglasses, and light-colored, lightweight cotton clothing will protect you the most from the sun. And hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! While all liquid beverages have some aspect of water to them, not all hydrate equally. Make sure you balance out the diuretics (caffeinated or alcoholic drinks) with liquids that will be absorbed by your body.

 

As with keeping your tent dry, keeping yourself dry in the rain can be tricky. While I own rain gear, I almost never use it in the summer because I sweat very easily. I’m either wet from sweating under the rain gear, or I’m wet from the rain without the rain gear. A large, loose poncho may be the cheapest, most versatile option since it can be worn over top of any pack that you have on your back. (I don’t have one of those, but if there is rain in the forecast for the festival, I will probably pick one up — hopefully I can find a hot pink one!) Keeping the feet dry is probably the most difficult thing to do. I have found that the only way to keep my feet completely dry is to wear lightweight wool socks inside Gore Tex boots with gaiters that shed the rain from my rain pants. If you really want to remain dry, that’s the way to go. But we won’t be hiking through the woods; we’ll be dancing to great music and hanging out. In that case, I prefer to wear sandals that my feet are used to so that I don’t get blisters. Yes, my feet will be wet, but if it is warm, that’s alright! There are some products called hydrophobic balms that let your skin shed water if there is extended rain in the forecast. Hydropel or BodyGlide Liquified Powder are probably the best for shedding water and not being too slippery. Bag Balm, Vaseline, Desitin, or other similar products will repel water, but may be a little slick on the feet. Plastic bags inside shoes are not the best idea, because plastic makes skin sweat and sweat makes feet wet!

 

We can spend some time doing a Sun Dance if there is rain in the forecast, or a Rain Dance if there is a heat wave forecasted. If you let me know what bands you think might be good for each, I’ll be sure to meet you there!

 

– Steffi (Firefly Camping Ambassador)