There can be a downside to sunshine days, especially if you’re camping!

I’m writing this on a sunny May day. We’re about to set off on a campervan trip. The house is covered in piles of gear, most of which will end up back in the house cupboards (we only have a very small campervan). As I pack, one thought is foremost in my mind.

I’m wondering what the weather will be like.

Of course we all hope for sunny days to accompany us on our outdoor explorations. Adventures in the rain or snow can be brilliant (and make fabulous stories) but in the sunshine everything seems somehow easier.

  • Tents smell nicer
  • People look cleaner
  • Mud reverts to soil
  • Tea towels are dry
  • Cooking outside becomes fun
  • Views exist

The drawback of sunny days

In the twitchy months of the UK’s spring and early summer however, sunny days (although most welcome) can have a less helpful night time implication.

They often lead to colder nights.

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now…

Me too Joni. Me too.

Clouds do indeed block the sun. They do rain and snow on everyone.

But they also keep us warm.

Think of them like a blanket. Or indeed a super-light down camping duvet. Just like your favourite sleeping cover (Alpkit fans take note), clouds trap in existing heat and prevent it from escaping into the atmosphere.

Sounds obvious doesn’t it. 

But I know that I have forgotten this this when I’ve been packing for previous camping trips. All those sunshine shapes on the weather map surely mean t-shirts and my summer-weight sleeping bag.

Well yes and no.

Packing to go camping in spring

At this time of year, it pays to think about night packing as well as day packing. With the foibles of the Great British weather, you’re just as likely to find yourself hammocking in the snow as you are sunbathing next to a lake.

And sometimes within the same 24 hours.

An insulated jacket can work overnight wonders, daytime thermals can double up as pyjamas (and be worn in multiple layers), a wooly hat will render the frostiest night friendly.

I spend a lot of time camping.

And a lot of time teaching other people camp skills.

I’ve learned to look at the weather forecast with day eyes and night eyes. Take a look at this chart (ignoring for now the impact of the wind).

Copyright Met Office 2022

You’ll agree I’m sure that 14 degrees is a happy daytime temperature for spring adventures. Out of the wind that will feel cosy enough to relax in without having to jump about to keep warm.

The night temperature paints a different story.

By ten o’clock I predict I’ll be snuggled in the campervan, I’ll have reached for my blanket hours before, and I’ll be wishing I didn’t have to go outside to use the loo. It won’t be anywhere near freezing but 6 degrees, after a day outside can feel quite chilly.

Especially if you’ve been inside all winter.

Checking the weather forecast

Unluckily (or luckily) for me the weather chart for where I’m actually going this week has distinctly less yellow on it. Although this might spoil my chances of fantastic sunrises and sunsets, and lessen my desire to go wild swimming, it will at least mean I might be able to get away with my summer sleeping bag.

As always I will pack accordingly.

And take clothes and gear for all seasons.

Which really is the only way to manage outdoor life in the UK. Take waterproofs and you’ll get sunshine. Take sunglasses and you’ll get rain. Take a swimsuit and you’ll probably be pelted with hail. At least it all gives us something safe to talk about.

In truth we probably wouldn’t have it any other way!

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