Our trip to Voyageurs National Park, the Damn Long Weekend III, was not what anyone would call ideal camping weather. It was pretty much 40F (4C) with a steady north wind and rain for the entire 4 days. We would have brief moments of no rain and did get 15 minutes of sun, met with the jubiliation below, on a day that was forecast to be 'partly sunny' but it was pretty much a 'Groundhog Day' situation with the temperature varying no more than 4 or 5F either side of 40F. When I got back to work they were literally waiting for me, first to abuse me about the Packer loss on Monday night, and then to ask if the weather was as miserable up on the Canadian border as it was in the Twin Cities. When I assured them that it was indeed, they all asked what they thought was the logical question, "So...did you have any fun?".
My knee jerk response was, "I wasn't sitting here was I, what do you think? And I still don't like the Vikings even a little bit". The problem is that most of my fellow employees have no frame of reference when it comes to camping in a tent that isn't set up on a state park site next to their car. The concept of being self contained and on your own when it comes to getting from place to place, and staying warm and dry while doing it, is just not within most peoples frame of reference. The thought that someone thinks that type of activity is actually fun, rather than going to the mall, playing video games, or sitting in a camper with pop outs and hook ups, is positively mind boggling for some. But yes, I said, it was fun. Then I tried to figure out why it was fun.
The main thing was being outside and doing something physical. There are people who become sullen, ornery, and snappish if they can't get outside regularly and I'm one of those people. I've also discovered over the years that when I'm outside and in it all day, the weather can do pretty much anything it wants to and I'll adjust to it. Its going from inside to out, whether from a warm building into the snow or from an air conditioned place into the summer heat. People are adaptable and get used to their environment, even if that environment is 40F and rainy. Mentally, the weather becomes background noise when we are involved in other things. Like paddling.
Mental attitude is huge in enjoying the outdoors when things ain't perfect but the physical is important as well. Good gear is crucial to having fun in less than perfect weather. My friend Paul up in Cumbria, near the Scottish border, has the philosophy that their is no such thing as bad weather, only crappy gear. I have to concur. My canvas pup tent, flannel lined sleeping bag, and 1/8" thick Ensolite pad from my Boy Scout days would have not made me very happy camping in VNP last weekend. Wool gear, a bit of Goretex, and a good hat can make for an awfully comfortable time outdoors.
Finally there is the company you keep. No whiners allowed has always been my motto. This piece of the foul weather enjoyment triangle is just as important as mental attitude and gear. Although fists were shaken at the sky and the epithet, "F**king rain",was uttered from time to time, everyone pretty much rolled with the punches. As evidenced by the photo above, weather angst was at a minimum, even though everyone was bundled up with their stocking caps and rain shells.
As an Oregon shoe manufacturer once said, "Just Do It". Maybe you will find that your answer to the question will be the same as mine. Damn right I had fun!