On our latest wild camping trip in the Burren, we planned to be up on the hills for 4 nights, getting as much photography done as possible, before the bump gets too big for me to carry my share of the camping and photography gear, and before "José" shows up in December...
The weather, however, had other ideas for us. It began to rain on the first night, late enough that we were still able to cook dinner and get a quick time lapse in before bed. By the next morning, the rain was shockingly heavy, even for Ireland. And it literally didn't let up at all all day. Lunch came and went in the tent, and it looked like we were going to have to sit there through dinner too. That's when we decided we couldn't take it any more, and we went on out for a quick hike. After about 2 hours, we were forced to turn back due to winds that could have blown you off your feet - not good sporting a bump in the Burren limestone pavements where, if you stumble, it could be down a crevasse to break your ankle.
On the return to the tent, the rain which had been happily at our backs, was coming horizontally at us, straight in the face. By the time we got back to the tent, the waterproofs were starting to let in at the cuffs, and we were now resigned to having to eat dinner in the tent. However, it wasn't the worst day, so here's a list of things to do when the weather is against you when wild camping.
1 Enjoy the laziness
I had luckily brought my Game of Thrones tome with me, and had no shortage of pages still to get through. Aaron, who normally doesn't bring a book as he is usually so busy with photography had the good fortune to have packed one too. Normally our trips and travels are action packed, and relaxing in their own way, they are also quite exhausting. And so, I thought I would take full advantage of the trapped-ness, and luxuriate in being able to read my book literally all day, and not even feel guilty about it. We also had a lovely lie in, again a bit of a novelty on a photo camping trip.
And since there wasn't much else to do, we got stuck into our camping food supplies. Not quite Marks and Spencer's cheese cake, but it's always nice to work your way through a pack of short bread in one sitting!
2 Keep an eye on the weather
We had a good idea that the weather was going to take a turn for the worse, and so we made sure we had full waterproofs with us, plenty of food and a good book each. The river that we had crossed to get to our camping spot was in spate, so we couldn't get across back to the car if we'd needed anything. It's also good to know the patterns of rain heaviness so that you can nip out to the loo when it is slightly less rainy.
We use a great app called Dark Sky. It not only tells you the % chance of rain hour by hour over the next few days, but it even gives you a little graph showing exactly how heavy it will be over the next hour. This is invaluable, as there is nothing worse than holding on when you need to go to the loo, only to find the rain actually gets heavier!
3 Get on out in it
You're not made of sugar, and you're an organised camper who's brought full waterproofs with you, so stop reading Game of Thrones and eating shortbread, and get on out there! A rainy day can have just as much beauty in it as a sunny day, and at least you're not going to get too hot walking up hill!
A word of caution though - keep an eye on the weather, use your common sense and avoid the mountains, you don't want to end up needing mountain rescue if you lose your way in the mist, and you're soaked through.
4 Make sure your gear is up to the adventure
We've been on wet camping trips before (Scotland in April was pretty bad!), where all your clothes get soaked through your waterproofs, your tent lets in, and you can't cook in the vestibule. At best, it is miserable, at worst it can be dangerous if you get too cold, and have nowhere to take shelter.
So if you are going to go camping in the northern climes, (and let's face it, there is no more picturesque place to be than Ireland, Iceland, Scotland and the Faroes) remember there is a reason they are so beautiful, wild and relatively tourist-free: it rains there. It rains a lot. That's no reason at all to stay away - with a bit of preparation, you can get through the rainy patches hassle-free, and then you are there when the sun pops from behind a cloud, lighting up the moody sky just beautifully.
The first place to start is a good tent. We have a Hilleberg Staika. It is pricey, but we've had it now for about 6 years, spending about 30 nights a year in it, bringing it's nightly cost down to about £2 each. It is still in perfect nick despite the high usage. We've taken it up mountains, and pitched it in considerable winds, and it is totally solid. Our old tent, which was a cheapie, vacuum packed you in it with the slightest bit of wind. For more info on the Staika, see my blog post - "Camping gear must-haves"
Then you will definitely need full waterproofs - jacket and trousers. It is much easier to pop them on at the first sign of rain, pop them off again when it passes, and even if you can't get them fully dried out between showers, you aren't going to get cold, wet and miserable if you have a good set that can handle a determined downpour.
I've been through quite a range in the past - you're basically trading waterproof-ness for breathability. The more you have of both, the pricier they get. I think it is worth spending as much as you can on the jacket - a good waterproof will also act as a windbreaker to keep you warm on blustery days. Rab was founded by a Scottish man, and so they know a good downpour!
We both have the neo stretch jacketsand find them to be great, we've had them for about 5 years, and they still look pretty new. The only way the rain ever gets us in these is that mine's not quite long enough in the sleeves (I'm pretty tall) and so the cuffs of my hoodie can soak up a bit of rain. Not a problem for women of average height, but I wish I'd gone for the men's version - less flattering but at least I would have dry cuffs!
We also have Rab waterproof trousers - very lightweight (handy for stuffing away), but seem a bit delicate as a result. They are pretty good at keeping the rain out, except when I can't fit them up over the bump, and the jacket won't stay down over the bump, so I ended up letting in rain at the waist - not the jacket's fault!
5 Be grateful for the rain
We feel pretty lucky - we have had some weather horror stories (getting caught in a hurricane while wild camping in Iceland's interior being the most extreme), but we generally get good enough weather to enjoy ourselves.
Sure, it may rain a bit, or be a bit windy, but it's nothing good gear, and an upbeat outlook can't get around.
So when the weather really does take a turn for the worse, it's important not to get too cross about it - the beautiful landscapes you want to spend time in are beautiful because of the weather - Ireland is only so green because it rains so much.
Sometimes bad weather is the prettiest - stormy dark clouds threatening on the horizon.
And if it was always perfect weather, you would have to share the beautiful landscapes with every other person who wants to be there, and is only put off by the chance of bad weather.
Best of all, if the weather wasn't awful every now and again, you wouldn't appreciate it when the sun pops out, the light is perfect, and you have the view all to yourself.