Special Contribution to The Northeast Texan
Camping in Old Soggy Bottom
“Red! What are you doing with that blanket wrapped around you? You look like an old Indian!” the Disaster Guy said.
“I’m a-suffering!” Red said. “I went hunting, and I’m a suffering!”
“Well, what happened?” the Disaster Guy asked.
“I got to the area where I was going to hunt, and the days are short,” Red said. “I’d just enough time to choose a spot to camp and set up the tent.”
“I spent a horrible, horrible night!” Red said.
“A horrible night?” the Disaster Guy asked.
“Oh yes! So horrible! I pitched my tent, put my sleeping bag inside, started a little campfire, and put on a pot of water to warm for instant coffee,” Red said. “Even had some dinner!”
“And then I went to bed. I shucked off my clothes and got in my cold sleeping bag, figuring I’d warm it up with just body heat. But I never warmed up!”
“Let’s try this step by step,” the Disaster Guy said. “You found a flat spot to pitch your tent?”
“Oh, yes! Very flat,” Red said.
“You put down a waterproof pad?” the Disaster Guy asked.
“Well, no. I couldn’t find mine, so I figured the bottom of the tent would do,” Red said.
“Inside the tent, you put an insulating pad or an air mattress on the tent floor?’ the Disaster Guy asked.
“No, again. The air mattress had a hole in it, so I left it at home.” Red said. “I put my jacket and all my outer clothing on the floor of the tent, then laid the sleeping bag on top of it.”
“You put warm socks on your feet and a wool watch cap on your head?’ the Disaster Guy asked.
“Yes, I did!” Red said. “Then I got into that cold sleeping bag, zipped it up, and went to sleep.”
“Then what happened?” the Disaster Guy asked.
“Middle of the night, I woke up so cold I was shaking!” Red said. “I was wet from my neck to my toes, in freezing cold water!”
“My sleeping bag was wet, and my jacket and clothes under the sleeping bag were wet! And it hadn’t even rained or nothing!” Red said.
“What did you do?” the Disaster Guy asked.
“I tromped over to my truck in my sock feet, started the engine, warmed up the truck, and pulled of all my wet undies. Then I covered up with an old tarp,” Red said. “What with turning the engine on and off, and getting warm then getting cold, it was a horrible night!”
“Okay, here’s what happened,” the Disaster Guy said. “You pitched your tent in soggy soil, and during the night, the water in the soggy soil leached through your tent bottom. It soaked everything it touched, including you.”
“Oh, I figured that out myself!” Red said. “But my tent is supposed to be waterproof.”
“Water-proof doesn’t mean water-tight,” the Disaster Guy said. “Push your tent bottom into soggy soil, and the water can go through the bottom of your tent.”
“Hmmmm! Trouble is, I never figure out things this like this until it’s too late!” Red said.
“Nobody ever does, Red,” the Disaster Guy said. “We come from a long line of people who don’t get things right the first time.”
“You know, I looked at the bottom of that tent afterward, and it was a bit muddy but it didn’t have any holes or cuts,” Red said. “It didn’t look like it leaked.”
“How old is your tent, Red?” the Disaster Guy asked.
“Maybe about 20 years,” Red said. “I bought it when I was in Scouts.”
“Have you ever sprayed your tent with waterproofing spray?” the Disaster Gus asked.
“Waterproof spray? No, that’s sissy stuff!” Red said. “A tent is supposed to be waterproof forever!”
“Obviously yours isn’t,” the Disaster Guy said. “I’d say you ought to spray it. You need a waterproof pad and an insulating pad or air mattress. And it would help to bring along some spare clothes.”
“That’s all true, but I missed the most important clue,” Red said.
“The most important clue?” the Disaster Guy asked?
“Yeah, when I was able to put those tent pegs in by hand, without a hammer, I should have known the ground was too soft and asked myself why,” Red said. “We’re supposed to get wiser as we get older, right?”
“That’s right, Red!” the Disaster Guy said. “And we do it by making one mistake after another.”
No reason to freeze when you’re camping! You can find almost 160 emergency preparedness and disaster survival tips on the website, www.DisasterGuy.com. The Disaster Guy would welcome your comments on this article by e-mail to <firstname.lastname@example.org>.