“Gambling with the weather” is almost synonymous with “camping in Oklahoma.” You don’t have to live in Oklahoma long to know the extremes of hot and cold and know how quickly they can shift. Mother Nature throws everything at us in Oklahoma like tornados, droughts, hail, wildfires, rain and flooding, ice storms, and we even have a few earthquakes here and there.
Growing up, I would camp every month with my Boy Scout Troop no matter the rain, shine, or snow. Once the trips were planned there was little to stop the troop from heading out. I will share some stories in future blog posts about the most extreme weather events but I’ll tease you a bit here. I’ve watched a circulation move overhead (that turned into a tornado by the time it hit the next town), seen a dozen tents blow away in driving rain and floods, and set up my tent in snow so heavy that I couldn’t see from one corner of the tent to the other. These extreme events were always a bit scary at the time but I never felt unsafe. My father (the Scoutmaster for most of my Boy Scout career) and other experienced leaders always kept us safe through the storms. Sometimes it meant taking shelter or changing plans. That is what you have to be willing to do to enjoy camping in Oklahoma.
We are here to camp and enjoy everything that nature has to offer, even if that’s a bit uncomfortable at times.-Phil
There is no way to avoid the weather other than to stay in your home at a peaceful 68 degrees. We aren’t here for that. We are here to camp and enjoy everything that nature has to offer, even if that’s a bit uncomfortable at times. Of course, you can always rent a cabin or RV and handle most of the weather pretty well. We purchased and use our camper, named Wendy, to help get through the hottest and coldest times!
Be Prepared. That’s the Boy Scout motto and it must ring true if you are going camping in Oklahoma. You have to prepare for several items when planning a camping trip. Preparing for food, activities, transportation, accommodations, and the weather are needed before you head on for your camping trip. The weather might be one of the most important things to prepare for. Mother nature doesn’t change her plans for you, so you better be ready for what Oklahoma has to offer!
Top 10 tips to prepare for the weather:
- Check the forecast
My go-to resource for the weather is the National Weather Service. It tends to be more informational and a higher quality than other sites/forecasts. You can put the zip code of your campsite (or nearest town) and see the forecast and any relevant discussions. It will also stay up to date during any weather situations.
- Pack rain gear (and the proper hot/cold gear)
Always dress appropriately and take needed extras. Rain gear (jacket, poncho, etc.) should be a staple when packing. Our family (2 adults and 2 kids) use Columbia jackets that fold small and lightweight for easy packing (Click to check them out on Amazon). The joke we had in my Boy Scout Troop was that if someone (anyone) forgot their rain gear then you knew it was going to rain that weekend. Extreme temps are also something to watch out for. Have clothes and gear to combat 100 degree heat and below-freezing cold spells during certain months.
- Keep a weather radio
Weather can change quickly and you need to be alerted when it does. Mobile phones have aided greatly in this vein. I use an app called Weather Radio on my iPhone and I am sure there are plenty of other apps and resources. An old fashioned weather radio is a good option as well especially if you will be in areas without network coverage. Click HERE to shop for a new weather radio.
- Tell someone where you are going and for how long
In the event something does go wrong, you want a friend or loved one to know about it. Share your camping destination and length of stay with someone you trust and can check on you if you don’t return or a severe weather event happens in your area.
- Check with the Ranger station or camp office
Similar to #4, the camp office or Park Rangers will be able to help in an emergency and they will know specifics for the area. Even with the right preparations you can get caught off guard or be overwhelmed. It’s better to know where and how to get help if needed before you need it.
- Identify your storm shelter
Tents and RVs are not safe in high winds and tornados. Ask the Park Ranger or find the storm shelter closest to you. Make sure you have enough time to get to a shelter if needed. No gear is worth sticking around for. Make sure you and your companions are safe (see #10).
- Watch for flood risks
Flooding can be just as devastating as other more extreme events especially if you are tent camping. I’ve had to dry out every piece of clothing I had and it’s not fun to wear wet clothes! Look for a high spot and flat ground, away from creeks and storm drains.
- Don’t get caught off guard
Isn’t this the point of the whole post? Yes, but I want to be specific here. We are in Oklahoma. If you are camping for more than 2 days then be sure to check the weather and forecasts every other day or so. You don’t want to be planning based on a 7-day forecast when the 3-day has changed dramatically. Stay up to date with the weather changes before you find out the hard way that a storm or cold front is moving in.
- Have a ‘Plan B’
It is always good to have a backup plan. I’ve slept in my car when the tent couldn’t keep me warm or dry. You can jump in a friend or neighbor’s RV if the rain storm catches you. Most State Parks have a nature center or indoor activities that can help ride out extreme hot and cold temps.
- Know when to call it quits and try again later
There is no shame in retreating to a hotel room or returning home when things don’t work out or the weather doesn’t cooperate. Safety is always the number one goal. In the worst of cases you can always return the next day to pack up gear and check out of your campsite. There is no reason to risk your life or endure undo misery just to stick through a storm.
- BONUS TIP: Don’t sweat it!
My final tip to be prepared for the weather is to enjoy the journey and don’t get bent out of shape. I can’t say it is fun to be soaked, freezing cold, or to set up a tent 3 times because of the wind. Some of my greatest memories and fun times have come from these events, even if it was unpleasant for a few hours or a day. Stay safe and use the experience to prepare better next time.
They say if you don’t like the weather in Oklahoma then wait 30 minutes and it will change. I’ve been around long enough to know (and sort of enjoy) why that’s such a popular saying. Being prepared for all sorts of weather is vital to having a good camping trip. I’ve camped in every extreme weather condition there is in Oklahoma. The extremes aren’t always fun, but they can be. Coffee and a warm fire with snow on the ground is a great experience that I’ll never forget.
No matter the weather, be sure to use these tips to help you prepare and enjoy your next camping trip.
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