Be Prepared: A Guide to Camping in Inclement Weather

Camping, Outdoor Activities, Traveling Tips -

Be Prepared: A Guide to Camping in Inclement Weather

The spring & summer camping seasons can offer a number of unique inclement weather scenarios for campers.

Review these best practices and protocols for handling different types of inclement weather scenarios, and add emergency preparedness to your outdoor tool belt. Though we hope you’ll never need to put some of these into practice, they could come in handy if bad weather rears its ugly head.

Thunderstorms & Flash Flooding

As a rule of thumb, checking the weather before heading out on an overnight camping trip is always a good idea. If you see thunderstorms in the forecast, you’ll want to seek more specific information about the movement of the weather patterns in question before deciding to go ahead with your trip. 

Seek Shelter

If you find yourself stuck in a surprise thunderstorm, seek shelter in a low-lying area to reduce the risk of a lightning strike. Make sure to avoid tall trees and metal objects, and wait at least thirty minutes after the last thunderclap before resuming your outdoor activities. 

Flash Floods & Landslides

In the case of heavy rain, be aware of the dangers of flash flooding. If caught in high-standing waters while driving, do not attempt to drive through the waters. These waters may be deeper than they appear, and you could get swept away. 


Flash flooding and the subsequent landslides that often follow can happen extremely quickly, so always be on alert when trekking through an area that has experienced long periods of heavy rainfall.

Hypothermia

If you find that you’ve been exposed to wet weather and your clothing and gear have been soaked, you also need to be aware of the risk of hypothermia. A person can present symptoms of hypothermia in weather . Hypothermia occurs when a person’s body temperature drops below 95° Fahrenheit and can be extremely lethal. The following table includes a list of common symptoms of hypothermia

Common Symptoms of Hypothermia

Drowsiness

Weakness and loss of coordination

Pale and cold skin

Confusion

Uncontrollable shivering, although at extremely low body temperatures, shivering may stop

Slowed breathing or heart rate


If someone in your group is exhibiting these symptoms, you need to act quickly. Follow the following steps from the CDC to make sure you get their body temperature back to safe levels.

  1. Get the person into a warm room or shelter.
  2. Remove any wet clothing the person is wearing.
  3. Warm the center of the person’s body—chest, neck, head, and groin—using an electric blanket, if available. You can also use skin-to-skin contact under loose, dry layers of blankets, clothing, towels, or sheets [burrito wrap technique.]
  4. Warm drinks can help increase body temperature but do not give alcoholic drinks. Do not try to give beverages to an unconscious person.
  5. After body temperature increases, keep the person dry and wrap their body, including their head and neck, in a warm blanket.
  6. Get the person proper medical attention as soon as possible.

Make sure you complete these steps and avoid applying direct sources of heat such as hot water or some sort of heating pad to the affected person. Also, make sure to avoid giving them any alcohol. If a person in your group is suffering from symptoms of hypothermia, you should treat the situation very seriously. Apply the steps above, then immediately contact emergency services or a park ranger to assist you in getting the affected group member to a hospital as quickly as possible. 

Heat Waves

As the weather begins to warm up, another inclement weather scenario to prepare for in certain parts of the country is heat waves. In this situation, it’s prudent to check the weather before heading out to make sure you have the proper gear to weather any climate. 

In the event of a heat wave, make sure you have plenty of water and fluids to stay hydrated. Dehydration can be fatal if not treated in a timely manner. Drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol and caffeine, which dehydrate the body faster. Wear lightweight and light-colored clothing to reflect sunlight and remember to take breaks in the shade or indoors during the hottest parts of the day. Also, make sure you use sunscreen with a high SPF to protect your skin from the sun's harmful rays, which can be more intense during a heat wave. 

High Winds

When dealing with a high wind scenario, make sure you take the following precautions to ensure the safety of everyone in your group.

  • Secure loose objects around your campsite or area.

  • Avoid setting up camp near trees that are not sturdy or near cliff edges.

  • Use a sturdy tent or shelter that can withstand high winds.

  • If hiking, be mindful of your balance and footing to avoid getting blown over.

We hope these tips help you prepare for and handle different types of inclement weather scenarios. Always remember to prioritize your safety and take necessary precautions before heading out.


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