Raindrops hitting the canopy added to the beat of the mandolin and guitar music at a campsite recently along the Grande Ronde River in Oregon.
A glowing campfire on the edge of the area covered by the rain shelter, offered heat and ambiance despite the wet weather.
A lot of folks cancel camping trips or pack up and hightail it home from camp because of bad weather. It’s not necessary if you have a good rain shelter.
Let’s just say that there are no bad-weather camping trips, just bad preparation for camping.
The recent rainy camping trip got me to thinking about some of my key pieces of gear that make for a comfortable trip. June is one of those months in Idaho and the West where you have to be prepared for all kinds of weather in the high country.
Rain shelters pay for themselves
The most important gear you can have is a rain shelter of some kind. That is key to enjoying the outdoors no matter the weather. Sitting under a rain shelter at camp during a storm and staring at the flames of a campfire is relaxing. It’s downright mesmerizing.
When we launched on the Grande Ronde River a little more than a week ago, it was stormy, but that wasn’t going to ruin our annual river trip. We were prepared with two Kelty Large Sun Shades, which we put over our cooking tables and a sitting area. With a place out of the rain to cook, sit and hang out, you don’t care about the weather.
Nothing’s worse than trying to set up a tarp during a rainstorm. The Kelty Sunshade is free-standing and goes up in a snap with three poles.
You don’t have to run lines to trees or use oars as tarp poles.
It also provides shade at a hot and sunny campsite. If it’s really windy, you can stake down some lines to keep is secure. The shelter can be adjusted high for head room or lower to increase the area to be covered.
Kelty Sunshades range upwards of $170, but they are worth it.
A handy electronic helper
This may be the mother of all camp gadgets, as well as a mothership for other electronic gadgets —the Eton Raptor.
It’s like the Swiss Army Knife of electronics. Check out all these features: a solar-charging device with the ABCs of the outdoors — altimeter, barometer and compass.
The rechargeable lithium ion battery powers all functions, including the AM/FM/WB digital radio tuner, clock and alarm. You can also charge a cellphone via a USB cable.
If that isn’t enough for you, the Raptor has an LED flashlight and even a bottle opener. It’s all housed in a splash-proof exterior to prevent damage from water and dust.
Price: $100. Buy at Cabela’s or shopetoncorp.com.
Make sure it’s a roomy tent
We’re RV campers, except when we do river trips. A key to comfortable tent camping is having a tent in which you can stand up.
I’ve spent many nights on rivers in a one-man backpacking tent or a two-person tent, mainly to conserve weight on the drift boat or raft. But after going to a larger tent with room to stand up, well, there’s no going back.
Larger tents with stand-up room range in price from $100 to $300.
Lightweight Dutch ovens
Another key item for our campouts is a set of lightweight anodized-aluminum Dutch ovens.
What a convenience on a camping trip. Besides baking, they can be used for a variety of cooking, from frying foods to boiling water.
We have a 10-inch Dutch, which fits inside our 12-incher.
Both fit in a case and don’t take up that much room.
Expect to pay upwards of $60 for a 10-inch anodized aluminum Dutch oven and up to $100 for a 12-incher.
They are worth it for camping convenience.