The Summerisle Guide is for First Timers, Veterans, and Everyone In Between! Click on on a topic or download a printable copy.
Regional burns expose us to all types of weather. Burning Man faces the unique challenge of camping in the desert — Summerisle Burn challenges us to be prepared for summer camping in Pennsylvania. What can you expect? Anything. That means sunny day, chilly nights, light rain, heavy rain, wind, hail, and cold. One day you might be happy running free in a tank top (or nothing at all). That night, you might be wrapped up in a sleeping bag with three layers of pajamas cuddling for warmth.
One thing most burners have in common: we’re proud of our ability to survive unpredictable weather, outdoors, without trips to the local store for last minute items — and we do so with style while having a great time. That’s the heart of radical self-reliance! Showing up prepared (and the process of getting prepared) teaches us how to take care of ourselves responsibly, so that we can make the most of our time burning together.
How can you up your Radical Self-Reliance quotient? Plan ahead and be prepared for dramatic changes. A good question to ask yourself: what kinds of things do you pack beyond the obvious “umbrellas, sweatshirts and raincoats”? How are you planning to prepare for wind? Do you have good stakes for your tent and shade structures? Do you have an extra tarp? How will you survive a cold night if temps drop into the 40s? (And once you’re facing these questions, perhaps dream even bigger: how can I help others handle these situations? Can my camp provide covered space, firepits, burn barrels? Is this something I can contribute?)
Summer burns in the northeast almost always run the risk of a little (or a lot!) of rain. Here is a non-exhaustive list of suggestions to get you well on your way to being waterproof:
- Good solid rain boots (and maybe a spare pair!)
- Waterproof boots with wax
- Waterproof socks (a decent contingent of burners enjoy wearing these paired with hiking sandals)
- LOTS of warm socks!
- Pack your clothing in a Rubbermaid container.
- Pack an extra outfit inside a Ziplock bag in case your tent floods
- Pack bedding in trash bags if it’s raining on arrival day, so it doesn’t get wet between car and tent.
- Waterproof your tent and clothing (the spray can stuff is said to be good enough.)
- Prevent leaks! When you leave your tent, make sure nothing is touching the sides. Anything touching the tent sides creates a place for rain to gather and enter the tent rather than roll off. Pull it all toward the center!
- Put a ground sheet or tarp under your tent and ensure it doesn’t extend past the sides of the tent. If the tarp is sticking out around the sides, it will gather rainwater and pool under your tent. Better yet, put the ground tarp inside the tent under your bedding.
- Have lots of tarps and rope!
- Pack some warm cocoa, hot cider, instant ramen, etc.
- For cold rain and damp nights, use a light weight sheet or blanket to cover air vent under rain fly and then tarp away!
- Extra tie downs and stakes for your tarps
- Wool, fleece, warming clothing, and a fire safety blanket (check that it is not the kind that moops bits of silver foil)
- Rain gear – a jacket with hood, over-pant rain pants, umbrellas, etc.
- Pack a dry outfit in a ziplock to leave in your car in case of foul weather, so you have something warm and clean to change into for your drive home (its a wonderful sanity and mental health check as well!)
Rain isn’t the only likelihood. You should also prepare your structures for wind. When high winds pick up, pop-up tents and pavilions that aren’t firmly staked down can go flying and become dangerous. Are you bringing a dome or other large shade structure? Make sure you secure your tent to the ground in a way that it will not come loose. Buy higher quality stakes than the simple metal ones that come with your tent (groundhog stakes, playa staples, and hooked rebar are all great options). Wind over time will cause your tent to move up and down and side to side, therefore your ground stakes need to be checked frequently to ascertain they are working.
Properly angle your stakes and guylines. If wind is up-rooting the pegs, use longer ones, and remember to hammer them in so that the point is closer to the tent than the head.
Keep in mind that anything lying around your camp that is not secured down, like garbage, plastic bottles, paper, art or anything else, will get blown away during high wind. It is your responsibility to take back everything that you bring in, from the largest structure to the smallest bottle cap or cigarette butt. Keeping everything secured means you won’t have to spend time searching for it later. (See additional helpful tips here. )
Although Summerisle happens in the dead-center of summer, cold nights are still common up in our mountains. Make sure you pack the basics: long sleeve shirts, long pants, a hooded sweatshirt, parka jacket, warm socks, gloves or mittens, a beanie. Layer your clothing so you can add/subtract insulation as needed. Change into fresh, dry socks when you go to bed to keep your feet warm. Undergarments of polypropylene are ideal for wicking away dampness, while over garments should be made of wool.
Air mattresses trap cold air underneath you. Layer a fleece or wool blanket on top of your air mattress to insulate your own body heat, or use thick yoga mats or foam puzzle mats beneath the mattress to help insulate it.
If you are hanging near a camp fire, make sure that your outer layer of clothing is less likely to end up ruined if struck by an errant ember. Wool is one of the best, most fire-resistant natural materials and is great for this.
Hydrate, then hydrate some more: You may not feel thirsty in cold weather, but staying hydrated is just as important in cold weather as it is in summer. Drink water (warm or cold), hot tea, or hot chocolate—the latter also provides high-calorie fuel for your burn adventure.
Be ready for condensation: As you breathe in a warm tent on a cold night, condensation will form on your tent, even if it’s a four-season model. There’s not a lot you can do about condensation, but the next morning be sure to dry out your sleeping bag before using it again. To minimize condensation, you can vent your tent at night—it won’t hold in heat as well, but it will stay dryer.
The old wisdom of stripping down before you get into a sleeping bag doesn’t make sense. Put on everything you brought before you turn in for the night. And if the campfire is still going, heat some water, pour it into a heat-proof water bottle, and snuggle into your bag with it.
Hand warmers and mylar blankets are a quick lifesaver on a cold night, and can even be thrown in the bottom of your sleeping bag. You can also cover your bag with a mylar blanket for added warmth.