How We Killed 12 Hours Trapped In A Tent

Tent in the rain

My husband and I planned our second kayak paddle camping adventure to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) in Minnesota this summer. Our last trip to the BWCA was terrific with excellent weather, beautiful scenery, and fantastic fishing. We had such a good time, we decided to return for a second year and explore a different area.

We entered the BWCA via Entry Point 37 on Kawishiwi Lake and started paddling to find an available designated campsite. Kevin and I prefer to set up a base camp when we paddle camp so we can take day trips to the surrounding areas and not have to worry about finding other campsites or carrying all our gear if we have to portage our heavy kayaks.

There are at least six designated campsites on Kawishiwi Lake, but Kevin and I headed straight for the lone campsite on a small island in the middle of the lake. The benefit to an island campsite is there are no neighbors, a lower risk of large animals exploring your gear, and beautiful views of the lake in nearly every direction. The disadvantage of an island campsite is that the only way out is to paddle back across the lake. 

It was a bit cool when we started paddling, but the weather was ideal. We were excited to spend a few days resting, kayak fishing, and exploring the surrounding rivers and connected lakes. 

Paddle camping in the BWCA
Photo credit: Jen Jordan

The weather was gorgeous for our first two days in the Boundary Waters. The temperatures were ideal, the sun shone, and the weather was perfect for kayaking and fishing. By dinner time on the second day, dark storm clouds loomed on the horizon, and the wind picked up. 

Rain and 40+ mph winds pummelled our tent all night (shout out to Kelty for making a very durable tent). By morning, it was apparent that the storm was there to stay for a while. There were whitecaps on the lake, and it was unsafe paddling conditions. So, we quickly filtered drinking water, cooked breakfast, and retreated to the warm, dry tent to wait it out. 

We anticipated a bit of bad weather at some point. After all, a few rain showers are par for the course any time of the year, but especially in late May. However, we did not plan to be trapped in our tent for 20 hours by a wind and rain storm! 

After about an hour watching the tent walls bow and strain against the wind and listening to the rain, Kevin and I realized we needed to figure out how to kill the next 12 hours trapped in our tent and avoid snacking out of sheer boredom. Here’s how we did it (and survived)!

Never Leave Home Without a Game

We love games and rarely leave home without one. A benefit of kayak camping is you can carry a little more weight than backpacking.

So, we always bring a travel deck of cards and one other game. Some of our go-to games are chessGolfNerts, and (surprisingly) 7 Wonders Duel. We take all the pieces to 7 Wonders out of the box and store them in a small dry bag, and it makes a great travel game. 

Kevin and I spent the first few hours sipping coffee and playing various games. But you can only play games for so long before you need a break. 

Activity Books

Drinking hot coffee
Photo credit: Jen Jordan

This is another activity that is usually more conducive to paddle camping than backpacking. However, there are many small activity or puzzle books that easily slip into a backpack and weigh next to nothing. 

I enjoy Sudoku, but I tend only to treat myself to a book of Sudoku puzzles when we go on vacation. Before you head out, pick up a book of Madlibs, games, or activities, just in case you have to kill a few hours in a tent.

Read and Listen to Audiobooks

Kevin and I enjoy reading. Kevin often brings his Kindle on backpacking or paddle camping trips with one or two books loaded.

I prefer reading books the old-fashioned way. So, after a few hours of games, we nestled into our sleeping bags to read. Sometimes we choose to read the same book together and take turns reading aloud (we read the entire Harry Potter series aloud to each other). 

We often listen to audiobooks on long car trips. I downloaded a few audiobooks and podcasts to my iPod before our vacation. Thanks to our portable solar charger, we listened to some podcasts and several chapters from the audiobook. (Ok, we finished the audiobook while munching on the rest of our trail mix.) 

Other Tent-Worthy Activities

Between, reading, podcasts, board games, napping, and just spending time talking, Kevin and I managed to kill a little over 12 hours trapped in a tent. The rain finally stopped, and the wind died down in time for us to cook dinner and walk around a little before bedtime. The lake was still too dangerous for kayaking.

Here are some other tent-worthy activities if you find yourself trapped in a tent in a rain and windstorm. 

  • 20 Questions
  • Mad Libs
  • Knots: practice tying different knots or learn new knots
  • Shadow puppet stories with your headlamp
  • Sketch or draw
  • Write poetry or short stories or write letters to people you love
  • Journal—I never leave home without my little moleskin journal
  • Knit or crochet
  • Whittle
  • Talk—when was the last time you had several hours of uninterrupted quality time together? Take advantage of it! You have nowhere to go, nothing to do, and all the time to connect, share and just enjoy each other’s company.
  • Nap—I love a good nap anytime and anywhere.

Has the weather ever trapped you in a tent? How did you spend your time? Share in the comments!


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