Experiences, anecdotes, tips, how-tos, hiking, nature, motherhood, memories.

Adventures in Camping with Kids

Camping with kids is like pitching a tent upside down. Both are bound to fill with laughter and raindrops.

--Victoria Marie

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Difference Between Weather and Climate When Camping

Oh sure, with the sun out it's warm.
These things are drafty!
It’s important to understand the difference between weather and climate when camping.  Simply put, weather is day to day.  Climate is not.  Climate is how a region behaves over the long term.

Case in point.  Wisconsin is just below the Canadian border.  It’s by the Great Lakes.  It has cooler summers than New Jersey, way south of it.  We forgot about this when we went camping one summer.  I mean we knew to take layers: long pants, tee-shirts, long-sleeved flannel shirts, sweatshirts, windbreakers, quilted raincoats. 

But we never thought of winter coats and hats and scarves.  It was July!  New Jerseyans don’t think of winter coats in the summertime.  We’re too busy melting in the humid weather.

When camping with the family, you need to remember where you are heading and bring appropriate accessories: blankets, warmer clothing, even heavy coats. 

We were visiting state parks in Wisconsin and Minnesota, right in the middle of the lumberjack championship competition.  We found that out once we got up there.  It was why the campgrounds were so full.  Our son and the twins wanted to go to the competitions.  This was Paul Bunyan territory, with Babe his humongous blue ox.  We even saw the huge statues of Paul and Babe at Paul Bunyan Park by Lake Bemidji in Minnesota.  But the competitions were sold out.  So the children had to satisfy their curiosity watching the lumberjacks practice at camp.  Large piles of logs were splintered daily.  The kids loved it!

But back to my climate story. 

It was maybe 60 degrees and drizzly.  The sun hadn’t shown its warm face for two days.  Then one night the temperatures dipped to 40 degrees. 

This was colder than when we camped in Newfoundland.  And would you believe, that was the only night we had rented a reproduction of a Native American Plains teepee for the family at camp—with no hook-ups.  We thought it would be a novelty for everyone. 

Oh, it was a novelty all right.

“Rent a teepee!”   My husband grumbled as his whole body shivered violently.

“It sounded good in theory.”  I tried to console him—and steal some of his heat.  But he kept moving away.  I needed contact for this heat thing to work.

We all slept in a huddle in the middle of the teepee and wore all our clothes and then heaped whatever didn’t fit over everything else on top of the blankets. 

My husband tried to roll over again.  He fluffed the blankets; and then fluffed them again.

I never knew such a disruptive heat source!  You would think with seven warm bodies inside a tiny teepee, we could produce enough heat to warm up the space slightly.

Unfortunately not.  Did you know that real teepees have open air space at the bottom?  This teepee came within three inches of the ground.  The thick canvas was attached to long wooden poles secured to a concrete pad covered in what looked like AstroTurf.  Even the top of the teepee was open, just like you see in books and Native American artwork.  You know, the flap that is peeled back to let the smoke from the fire out the top of the teepee.

Fire!  Gosh, did we wish we had the benefit of a warm fire that night.  But nooo, only the rain came through that opening.  It also dripped down the outer log poles and left puddles around the base of the teepee.  I thought for sure they’d become ice before dawn. 
My noes hurt it was soo cold.  I shivered and shook so much; I almost fell off the port-a-potty.  

It was a fluke, the locals said the next morning while wearing their winter coats—complete with hats and gloves.  It never goes below 50 degrees in the summer; they assured us. 

We learned our lesson.  When heading north, bring out the heavier coats. 

The sun finally returned to the area, though, while we hiked to the source of the Mississippi River at Itasca State Park in Minnesota.  It burned brightly in a crystal blue sky and the temperature shot up to a toasty 65 degrees.  The next night wasn’t so cold and the week continued to warm up for us.  However, we were very happy to be back inside our camper for the rest of the camping vacation.

When you want to try something unique at camp, make sure you know what is provided.  Somehow we missed the fact that the teepee was just that, a teepee…with nothing inside.  We had our camping gear, but we didn’t know it would be so airy.  Of course knowing about the climate of a region you plan to camp in helps too.

            I hope spring returns soon to your area.