A few years ago we went on a trip with 7 children under the age of seven. It rained for seven of the eight days we were out there. Almost everyone who asked about our trip thought that we might be crazy. They wondered how we could consider this to be a vacation. The disbelief grew when we said that we actually had a great time in the rain. This year we did a twelve-day trip with 9 children and it rained for 10 days. It was an awesome trip! Really, it was. What people often don’t realize is that children thrive in the wilderness, even when it’s raining, as long as their parents have a positive attitude and everyone has proper rain gear.
Proper rain gear and a good tarp system are what make the difference between a disaster of a trip and a great trip when there’s a lot of rain.
Rain gear is one area where we don’t cheap out. Everyone in our family has high quality rain gear and for the younger children we bring back up sets as well.
For babies/toddlers I highly recommend the Newt Rain Suit from MEC. The suit may seem a bit pricey, but we usually buy one size larger than we need and find that we can get 2-3 years out of one size. They have held up through several children and heavy use since we use them at home as well. We usually bring two pairs of rain boots for the younger children so they always have a dry pair when they happen to get a soaker.
Our older kids have the MEC Reflective Rain Jackets and the MEC Rain Pants. MEC has child and youth sizes for these suits, and again, if you buy a size up you can get a couple of years out of them. I have also found that they hold up well and can be passed on to younger siblings. The only potential drawback is that these suits aren’t breathable, however we haven’t found this to be an issue.
Dan, Dave, Lisa, Anna and I use a mix of MEC and North Face Rain Gear. For us, it is important that the suits are both waterproof and breathable. I can’t stress enough how important it is for parents to keep dry as well. If you’re cold and wet, staying positive takes a lot more effort.
For footwear we use Bogs Boots for everyone other than the toddlers and babies. We like to bring Bogs on our camping trips because they not only keep our feet dry, they also keep our feet warm, even in the off chance that you happen to get them wet inside. For the kids, I prefer the Kids’ Classic High without the handles because they give better coverage, but we also use the Kids’ Classic Highs with Handles. The ones with handles are easier to find in stores and they come in larger variety of colours . Our kids end up wearing their Bogs three out of four seasons and we’ve found they hold up well. I believe they are definitely worth the investment.
Good rain wear is necessary, but not sufficient when it comes to rainy trips. To enjoy a rainy backcountry trip, it is advisable to have several high quality tarps. Over the years we've invested in a set of tarps and our favourite and most useful ones have come from Cook Custom Sewing. I’ll leave it to Uncle Dave to write a review of these tarps because I won’t do them justice. Let’s just say that they are amazing. We have one that we use to store any gear that is not in use. Then we have a second tarp that we use for cooking, playing games, and hanging out under.
We also bring a small tarp to hang up over the bathroom area. We have found this to be invaluable when you have little people who often need help with toileting. Finally, we always bring a cheap tarpaulin from Canadian Tire to hang up over our fire area.
So, what do we do when it’s raining? Because we’ve invested in good gear, we pretty much carry on as usual.
Over the years our kids have learned the importance of a warm fire, especially when it’s raining. They love to gather wood, even in the rain. They will spend hours collecting and preparing firewood. The older boys are at the point where they look forward to the challenge of starting a fire with wet wood. The younger kids enjoy sawing wood with their very own little saws. With our cheap tarp over the fire area the kids can prepare wood and sit by the fire while staying warm and dry. A few marshmallows to roast and life is good!
Our toddlers often entertain themselves with the water that drips off of the tarp strings. I usually give them a couple of spoons, a cup and a bowl, and they will spend hours amusing themselves with the dripping water. And who knew that stuffing wet pine needles into a pot and then dumping them back out again could be so much fun?!?
On our last trip we had a lot of drizzly rain, with virtually no wind, which meant that the lake water was calm. The calm water made trolling for fish easy. It also made practicing sterning the boat really easy. The kids spent hours on the water and by the end of the trip we had four new sternskids.
One of the often overlooked benefits of rain is that it can force us to slow down. When the weather is “perfect” we are more apt to want to travel around and take day trips, all of which takes a lot of effort. When it rains we don’t feel the same push to keep going. We spend more time doing things like reading, telling stories, drawing, practicing tying knots, sipping on hot chocolate, and just enjoying creation. Sitting under a tarp in the rain might not sound like much fun, but let me tell you, in the backcountry the view was amazing.