Long term camping in hot hot weather. What should I not forget!?
June 11, 2015 6:47 AM   Subscribe

I will be doing about 4-5 weeks of camping in the mountains in West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee this Summer. I think I'm pretty well prepared, but I don't want to forget anything, and would love to hear your tips for what to bring, what to remember, etc. Extra bonus points for good recipes and tips on powering devices!

As the question says, I'm doing several weeks in the woods in the mountains this Summer. I'm not at all new to camping, even for longer periods, but I want to be extra prepared this time around. I'll be relatively close to something not entirely unlike civilization, but would like to be as minimally reliant on trips into 'town' as I can. I will have a car--a small newer coupe--but am not sure how close it will be to my camping area: it might be right there, or it might be up to a half mile or so away. I will also have a gym I can utilize, but it will be 1-2 hours drive each way from my campsite, so I will only be doing that once a week or so at the most.

So, to start: if you're not familiar with the area, central Appalachia gets hot. I think I can expect temperatures to be in the mid-high 80s with a lot of humidity during the day, with nighttime lows in the mid-upper 60s. I use a nice 2 person MSR tent with minimal air-restriction and a thermarest sleeping pad. I think I'll bring my lightweight sleeping bag also, but will likely use a light wool blanket. I also will have an ENO hammock with mosquito cover, and am happy to sleep in that when the weather and mood suit.

I will cook using a rocket stove and standard MSR cooking set. I don't want to haul a bunch of food in, but I do generally try to eat a pretty healthy diet that's higher in fat and protein, lower in carbs. Not a lot of meat, but I do eat lots of seafood in my normal life.

Charging, etc.
I will need to periodically charge small devices. Mostly just a smartphone and small digital voice recorder, but also occasionally a DSLR battery and Macbook Air. The phone and recorder can be charged via USB, the Mac and DSLR need a full outlet.

My spitball solutions to the above are: stay cool by the usual methods of setting up my camp wisely, avoiding sunny spots and maximizing shade. Eat lentils and rice a lot, along with fruits and veggies and nuts obtained on trips into town. Charge USB stuff on those trips using car chargers, and try to get an hour or 2 of charging for Mac and DSLR out of coffeeshops and libraries or the like on those trips.

My pie in the sky solutions are: stay cool at night using a tent fan (anyone got reviews or suggestions? The ones Amazon has look not so great). Eat the things above, supplemented with things I can safely forage (anyone got any suggestions for books of wild edible plants?). Charge my devices at will using a solar pad, solar stove, or 'leisure battery' type set up.

So, MeFi, if you were doing this--or if you have done this--what would you want to bring? What would you cook, and how would you handle storing, buying, managing food? How would you charge your devices? I'm open to any solutions or input about these things, and do not spending a little cash to get the best solution.
posted by still bill to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I've never used a tent fan. Usually if it's hot and there's no bugs I just do without a tent. If there's bugs, I set up a tent (no rainfly) and sweat.

As for charging, I have a GoalZero solar panel attached to a couple of their Guide 10 Plus battery packs. I daisy chain everything together so the device gets charged, then the batteries, keeping the device topped off (if you want to be most efficient about it, let your phone get to about 10%, then plug it in, and unplug it around 80%, or so I've heard).

As far as food goes, I like the simple dehydrated stuff. No mess, don't have to worry about burning anything, just boil water, pour in bag, wait 5-10 minutes, then eat it right out the bag. I seem to be in the minority there, as most other people like to really go full bore with the campfire.

I will say, if you're just car camping and are going to have a fire, that using a pie iron is pretty freakin' sweet. Bread-->Canned Peaches-->Bread, close, stick in the coals, then let it cool and eat. Yummy.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 6:54 AM on June 11, 2015

If you haven't seen the Biolite, you might check it out: http://www.biolitestove.com/
posted by stormyteal at 6:59 AM on June 11, 2015

Best answer: Eat the things above, supplemented with things I can safely forage (anyone got any suggestions for books of wild edible plants?).

Euell Gibbons, Stalking the Wild Asparagus. I would suggest verifying some of his info online; I know his canning recommendations are fully out of date at this point, and I assume some of his food safety recommendations are likewise. But it's a good read and a good place to start.

Do you have (or can you get) a fishing license, and are you willing to fish? If so, you may be able to supplement your protein that way as well. (Or you could in my area, where a tourist's fishing license is cheap; not sure about fishing requirements where you will be.)
posted by pie ninja at 7:18 AM on June 11, 2015

Response by poster: A few things I should have mentioned, perhaps: yes, I'm happy to fish and will have a license. However, in the immediate area, the fishing might be great but I'm not keen on eating much of it (lots of coal mining has left the water in rough shape). I will likely go to some lakes and ponds, though, so there will be days that I'll have things like bluegill to munch on.

I love the BioLite, and have it sitting in an Amazon cart, but I think it would only really keep my phone going, and I don't know that it's worth the cost for that.

Great great advice so far! Thanks, and keep it flowing!
posted by still bill at 7:21 AM on June 11, 2015

You can use a power inverter to charge the laptop and DSLR from the car - here are some at Amazon. You'll probably want the engine running to avoid draining the car battery.
posted by exogenous at 7:33 AM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Don't forget to prepare for thunderstorms.
posted by effluvia at 7:46 AM on June 11, 2015

Best answer: I'd consider a solar charger for the USB devices, if they're something you plan on using every day (i.e. the phone is not just an emergency contact device but a tool for for journaling, mapping, photos, etc.) I think it's good that you'd have the car as a way to get them fully charged, I'm not confident that solar chargers would really have the oomph to keep things fully powered with heavy use, but it would be a good alternative to having to use the car when you don't actually need to go anyplace. (also depends on how often you anticipate needing to go someplace)
posted by aimedwander at 8:09 AM on June 11, 2015

Best answer: I'm in a hot and humid area also. We just tested out a tent fan a couple weeks ago. It was kinda worthless. The fan blades were foam (typical for a tent fan) so don't move a ton of air. Ran on four D batteries which according to the manual will last 3 or 4 nights. If your nights will get down to the 60s, I'd say you don't need one. But if the nights ARE hot, a tent fan is better than nothing. The one I got and then returned was $30.
posted by LoveHam at 8:30 AM on June 11, 2015

I've honestly never experienced that much nighttime temperature discomfort with summer camping in the Appalachians, as most parklands tend to have at least some elevation and plenty of tree cover. Granted my experience is in Virginia and West Virginia and not Tennessee, but I've usually found July/August nighttime lows in the lower 60s or upper 50s even, and I've often needed long sleeves and sweatpants in the early morning!

You are right about the humidity, though, with the added bonus that the shadiness of most campsites in the mountains also means it's sometimes hard to even find just a sunny spot to hang at wet towel to dry. Plan your clothing rotation for things that wick and/or dry quickly.

Also, I am old, and if I were likely to be not backpacking and setting up camp within 1/2 mile of my vehicle, I'd for sure pack an air mattress for 4-5 weeks of camping. Thermarests are fine if you're backpacking all day and could sleep on a bed of nails due to exhaustion, but if it's just a short hike-in situation I see no real need to sacrifice that much comfort. For me, a decent camp chair would be worth hauling in if I were going to be spending a few days and were nearish my car.
posted by drlith at 8:49 AM on June 11, 2015

I grew up in Arkansas and did a lot of long term camping (mostly in the Ozarks, which are arguably hotter, more humid, and generally full of bitey things).

My nighttime cooling always included keeping a water bottle near me that I could open and splash on my skin to let evaporative cooling do what it could. That's not much when it's crazy humid, but when it's a little drier this works great. I always opted for mostly-screen tents to maximize airflow.

Do you have a dutch oven? Using one can really kick up your eating option by a notch or two, if that's something you want. And you really have to want it if you're going to lug around a cast iron cauldron. We have a camping tradition of making green bean casserole in the first couple nights as a sort of apology for eventually getting down to rehydrated stuff. But Generally the duth oven stays out and gets repurposed to cook potatoes, artichokes (we're in California now), and badass chili. My one little note is if you're cooking dried beans (not using cooked-and-dehydrated beans), do yourself a favor and soak them good and long before cooking them--overnight or so. Even for lentils, this can make for a more easily digestible final product.

Foraging is great, but you've really got to trust your instincts or have a really good reference guide (in the form of a book or, even better, a person). Good foraging guides will tell you whether something is relatively safe to eat from a layperson's ID or whether a given plant has poisonous analogues that make guessing extremely risky. If you're anywhere near a ranger's station, rangers are often happy to talk to you about what's easy to ID and ok (e.g. not endangered) to eat. That said, I've camped some places where they specifically forbid foraging for specific plants or even generally.

Lastly, all tent fans suck. That's ok, because during supremely humid, stagnant nights, even a tiny wisp of breeze will feel like cool silk. Those O2 battery-powered fans are really inexpensive and pack flat, and if you get rechargable batteries and a solar charger you can keep it in business without much fuss.

Have fun! I'm envious!
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 8:57 AM on June 11, 2015

Solar showers are fabulous things for long term camping in a base camp.
posted by janell at 9:35 AM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

I lived and worked outside in Western NC for two summers. I think your sleeping plan is totally fine, and there will be times that you will want your sleeping bag, but I would suggest probably something lighter than a wool blanket, like a cotton sheet. Cotton is dangerous in cold weather, but it feels so good in hot humid weather.

For food, I would plan for variety however you can get it--beans and rice get old really fast. Even if you don't want to go the freeze-dried route (and that can get expensive really fast), dried spices, dehydrated veggies, dried fruit, and jerky would help make the beans and rice more interesting on days in between shopping trips.

For power, remember that there is no guarantee of sunshine and every guarantee of rain every day. Solar is awesome, but you will need to be vigilant about thunderstorms to use it.

Mostly, from my experience, I'm worried about how wet you are going to be all the time and how that affects your electronic devices, your health, and your soul. You want a dry bag (or multiple ones) to keep your devices in, for when your bag and/or your tent inevitably start leaking. Stick some desiccant packs in there for good measure. You want enough socks and underwear that you're not expecting to be able to wash them out and wear them again between trips to the laundromat, because they will never ever dry enough to rewear them. I also strongly recommend baby wipes and baby powder for all parts of you that tend to be damp, to try to fend off jungle rot. On those days you get to go to the gym and take a shower, put on your clean clothes and go enjoy air conditioning at a library, coffee shop, and/or movie theater, and marvel at how amazing it is to be dry.
posted by hydropsyche at 9:38 AM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Forget fans. You want a good summer tent with large unzippable mesh windows for ventilation. The ones where at least two sides come off, including some roof. Take a cotton sheet to put between yourself and any artificial material. I actually have found that thin cotton flannel material feels cooler to lay on because it's less likley to stick to the skin, but YMMV.
posted by zennie at 3:16 PM on June 11, 2015

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