Brave the Spring Weather and Camp Without the Crowds

Mother Nature loves toying with our emotions in our corner of the world. Warm temperatures last year lingered into November, followed by a brutal winter. Sunny warm days in March teased an early spring, only to unfold into a dreary April. After months of either hiding away or getting pounded when I went outside, I can’t wait for some spring camping. Waterways are full of rushing water, plants show off their elaborate colors, and animals put on a show as they work to fill their bellies after a long winter.

Knowing that, even if hit by a rainstorm, temperatures won’t dip dangerously low levels. In winter, you can bet on being cold and prepare accordingly. Spring is a different beast. To prepare for comfort and safety in the spring, I load up can my camping totes because it’s hard to know what the weather will be like 15 minutes from now, let alone tomorrow. In the lowlands, rain and hail seem like sunny t-shirt weather and often separated by minutes – if not happening simultaneously. In the mountains, surprise snow is not uncommon.

To add an element of control this time of year, my family and I often start the season by camping in familiar places. If we’re going to head up into the mountains, Bridge Campground is one of our favorites for its close proximity and relatively easy access. Coastal camping is a great option this time of year as the socked-in mountains leave clear skies along the water. Birch Bay, Larrabee, Bay View, Deception Pass, and Fort Ebey are all coastal state parks. Don’t forget your Washington State Discover Pass, which is required in all state parks.

Our bed of Rumple Blankets in our 1985 VW Westfalia can hold up to cooler spring nights. Photo credit: Tony Moceri

If tent camping, be sure your rainfly is in good working order. If you are in a van or other type of camper, staying dry shouldn’t be an issue (if you have a significant problem on your hand!), But you still need to make sure to keep warm . Layers that are breathable but water-resistant are perfect for spring. However, I admit to wearing a cotton sweatshirt. The next must-have piece is a good sleeping bag or proper blankets. Rumple Blankets have served us well, whether used for bedding or wrapping around our body while hanging out in a camping chair with a good book or your favorite WhatcomTalk article.

We do most of our camping in our Four Wheel Camper Project M, which is a no-frills pop-up camper on the back of our truck. While it does keep us dry, there’s no heating component. To solve this problem on cold spring nights, we bring along the Little Buddy propane heater, which because of off-gassing, we don’t sleep with it running, which results in chilly mornings. Some of the spaces at the state parks offer hookups that allow for an electric heater option.

Hot dogs are always a great option for an easy meal over the campfire. Photo credit: Tony Moceri

A favorite part of spring camping is hanging out around the campfire. With a low likelihood of burning in effect, fires will be allowed in most locations, providing warmth and a great cooking option. From hot dog roasting sticks that look like fishing poles to grates that collapse into a backpack, there are a plethora of options for cooking efficiently over the open flames.

We often have our Coleman camp stove and Jet Boil in tow. With the two-burner stove, a complete meal is easy to prepare, and the Jet Boil makes it a breeze to heat water for some pour-over coffee or freeze-dried meal. We always keep a free and easy-to-eat meal for a hunger emergency – or laziness. My personal favorite is the Mountain House chicken teriyaki; my daughter prefers the beef stroganoff.

The Jet Boil heats up water quickly to have our favorite Mountain house meals in minutes. Our meal is sitting on the REI camping table that collapses to fit into a bag. Photo credit: Tony Moceri

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

While the weather can be a challenge, spring camping is a great time to enjoy popular camp spots without a crowd. Camping has seen a boom in the last few years. So, if you want a little more elbow room and access to the best spots, brave the weather and head out on some spring camping.

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