Brave spring weather and camp without the crowds

Mother Nature loves to play with our feelings in our corner of the world. Last year’s warm temperatures lasted into November, followed by a harsh winter. Warm sunny days in March provoked the onset of spring, turning into dreary April. After months of hiding away or being bombarded when I head out, I can’t wait for some springtime camping. Waterways fill with gushing water, plants show off their elaborate colours, and animals display casually as they work to fill their stomachs after a long winter.

It’s easy to go outside in the summer knowing that even if you get hit by a rainstorm, the temperatures won’t drop to dangerously low levels. In the winter, you can bet you’ll feel cold and prepare accordingly. Spring is a different beast. To prepare for the comfort and safety of spring, I upload everyone My camping bags because it’s hard to know what the weather is like 15 minutes from now, let alone tomorrow. In the lowlands, rain and hail seem just as likely as sunny shirt weather and are often separated by minutes—if not simultaneously. In the mountains, snowfall is not uncommon.

To add an element of control at this time of year, my family and I often start the season by camping in familiar places. If we’re going up into the mountains, Bridge Campground is one of our favorites for its proximity and relative ease of access. Coastal camping is a great option at this time of year when fallen mountains often leave clear skies along the water. Birch Bay, Larrabee, Bay View, Deception Pass, and Fort Ibe are all coastal state parks. Don’t forget your Washington State Discovery Card, which is required at all state parks.

Our 1985 Volkswagen Westphalia Rumple Blankets bed can stand up to cold spring nights. Image credit: Tony Mosseri

If the tent is camping, make sure the rainfly is in good working order. If you’re in a pickup truck or other type of camper, staying dry shouldn’t be a problem (if that’s the case, you might have a bigger problem with your hand!), but you should still make sure you stay warm. The breathable yet waterproof layers are perfect for spring. However, I admit that I often don’t get caught in the rain wearing a sweatshirt. The next must-have is a good sleeping bag or appropriate blankets. Rumple blankets have served us well, whether used for bedding or wrapped around our bodies while lounging in a camping chair with a good book or your favorite WhatcomTalk article.

We do most of the camping on our Project M, which is a no-frills pop-up camper on the back of our truck. While it keeps us dry, there is no heating element. To solve this problem on cold spring nights, we bring a Little Buddy propane heater with you, which heats up quickly, but because of the off-gassing, we don’t sleep with our running, resulting in a cool morning. Some areas in state parks provide connections that allow an electric heater option.

Hot dogs are always a great choice for an easy meal over a campfire. Image credit: Tony Mosseri

My favorite part of spring camping is lounging around the campfire. With a low probability of a burn ban in effect, it will allow fires in most locations, providing warmth and a great cooking option. From hot dog roasting sticks that resemble fishing poles to clips that collapse to fit in a backpack, there are a plethora of options for efficiently cooking over an open flame.

We often cook over a fire but also always have a Coleman camp stove and a Jet Boil. With the two-burner stovetop it’s easy to prepare a full meal, and the Jet Boil makes heating water for pouring some coffee or cooking a freeze-dried meal a breeze. We always keep a few freeze-dried meals on hand for an easy meal to tackle a hunger emergency — or laziness. My favorite is the Mountain House Teriyaki Chicken. My daughter prefers beef stroganoff.

Jet Boil heats water quickly so we can have our favorite mountain home meals in minutes. Our meal is laid out on a REI camping table that collapses to fit the bag. Image credit: Tony Mosseri

While camping light is always our goal, during spring trips we find ourselves loaded with extra gear to make it even more fun. We have a simple pop up tent to extend our dry area in case of wet weather. We bring in dry firewood and extra lights because it gets dark now much faster than in the summer months.

While the weather can be challenging, spring camping is a great time to enjoy popular campgrounds without the crowd. Camping has had a boom in the past few years, resulting in fully booked sites and many people outside and about to share the outdoors with. So if you want a little more room for elbows and access to the best spots, defy the weather and head out to some spring camps.

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