Chasing and Camping

Mar 15, 2004
Tucson, Aridzona
LOL, Ryan. You've got the prototype TIV!

Gas has been sneaking up a few cents per week around here. I haven't noticed a big jump yet, but will bet that anyone solo chasing in a monster SUV is gonna be in real pain by May.

David, what types of campsites (stateparks, private, etc?) do you guys favor tornado alley? I'm with you on the idea of pitching a tent every so often when the weather is agreeable and a clean and quiet campground is nearby.

Greg I split this off from the gas prices thread as I think it's a neat topic to talk about, and I suspect there are a few more of us that do this, or would like to do it, than we hear about.

Really, we aren't all that picky as long as it's clean and seems relatively safe. We did this extensively in 2004 with great success. The biggest problem was not knowing where you were going to end up at the end of the day, so planning for a spot wasn't done very often after a chase. It worked out best when we could get to the target area the day before and camp out. We stayed in a state park in Nebraska that was really nice. We also stayed in one of those private campgrounds/rv parks in KS. Love state parks, although many of them close up around 10 pm and you can't get in if you aren't there already.

It's a VERY economical alternative if you like camping. Most of the better places have showers, or you can shower at a truck stop. It was very relaxing after all that driving!

Might want to carry along a wx radio with an alert though, so you don't find your tent getting ripped to shreds by an unexpected late hailstorm while your in it! That almost happened to us in KS, but all we got was rained on, the hail went to our south.
In Oklahoma alot of the campsites I used to camp at ( I miss those days) shut the gates around 10 pm . You can leave but unless the attendant is awake you can't get back in.
I read that you could pitch a tent at any of the State Lakes in KS, although I have yet to test that. :)

I also heard there were some roadside parks you could pitch a tent at, although I am not sure where or the rules on that. Obviousely, not all roadside parks would be good candidates for that.

Many small towns have a small area at a local park where you can park an RV or pitch a tent, usually for free.
I've considered camping as a chasing money-saver, but in practice it is not all that practical. Many nights after a chase you're lucky to get to a hotel by 2AM to get a few short hours of sleep before you have to leave in the morning. Not really enough time to set up/take down your campsite, and honestly you won't want to deal with all of that after a long day on the road.

Sleeping in the car is a lot easier and accomplishes the same thing. Although, in some ways I guess you could call that camping too. IMO a car is more comfortable than a tent, and a lot easier to set up/take down for sleeping.

As David mentioned, you're going to have to have a pretty comprehensive list of campsites you can go to at all the different places you might end up at on the Plains. Some state park campsites are free, but a lot of the designated sites and chains like KOA charge $10-20 or more per site. With the KOAs and some of the designated ones, you get your shower in the morning with that which is nice. But, if you sleep in the car (which could be another thread topic itself) you only need to pay $7 for a truck stop shower, saving you 10 or 20 bucks on the night. If I'm spending 20 bucks for a campsite I might as well pay 10-15 bucks more and get a cheap motel. Well worth it for the degree of quality sleep bought.

The other factor is weather. From sleeping in my vehicle on chase trips often, I can tell you out there, you see what the weather is like at night - unlike you do when you're in a cozy hotel. Often it is very windy, hot, bug/mosquito infested and/or noisy (crickets). A car at least keeps the bugs out and cuts down on the exposure to the elements.

I guess it depends on the motive. If you're an outdoorsey type that likes to camp for the fun of it, that's one thing. But if the camping thought is due to money-saving measures, then car-lodging is a better alternative.

Better yet, round up a few chase partners to help split the cost of a hotel room. With sleeping bags and cots you can fit a lot of chasers in a room, everyone gets a shower and continental breakfast. All for the same cost per person as you camping alone.
I've considered doing this but I've never done it. I have atleast brought my tent around. However, like what has been mentioned before usually you're so tired you wouldn't want to pitch one in the night after a day of chasing. Also, you have to factor the weather. I assume that we'd probably end up pitching in some campsite that recently saw some rain, and that doesn't help either. I'm still gonna bring it though just in case of a really dry bust.
Well yeah, I wouldn't recommend it if you don't enjoy camping already. But if you do, it's a great cost saver. I never stay at KOA, way overpriced. Most state parks are only a few bucks. Combine that with cooking your own breakfast on the old Coleman stove (saving the eating out money). We found it really relaxing! It's not without it's logistics issues, but it can be fun! I think we are going to camp somewhere along the chase tomorrow night in fact!
This gets a big vote in my book........I have car camped between chase days several times, and it is a real money saver, and can be quite enjoyable. One thing to plan for is wind...depending on the setup for the next day. Find a good wind barrier or bring plenty of stakes for the tent!
I ONLY camp when I chase. I generally go out in the Plains for about seven to ten day period prior to Memorial day and camp every night. It definately has advantages such as cost, giving you something to do when the weather isn't cooperating, gives your chase partner who may not be into chasing that much but loves camping(my wife) something to do. I have found the campgrounds to be either almost or completely empty which is nice.

Some disadvantages is the setting up and breaking camp every day, the extra equipment needed in the SUV, the extraordinary bad weather at the campsites since you will generally always be camping near bad weather, and a general need to stop chasing at dusk as it isn't fun to pitch a tent in the rain, wind and dark. Getting weather info early in the morning is bit tough also as you may be out of cellphone and certainly out of Wi-fi range

In the last 2 years, was hit by baseball size hail at a campground in Western Kansas, had my tent blown down near Rapid City, SD in the middle of the night, and experienced stormy conditions so bad had to wait hours in the car before could pitch the tent but I must say I wouldn't do it any other way.

I always consider my chase vacations a success not matter what the weather.....
I have a mini van and take out the seats when i go stormchasing. You would be suprised on how much room there acutually is when you take the seats out. I put down a sleeping bag and lock all the doors and it is actually pretty cofortable and cheap too. One thing I would recommend though....find a place that has a bathroom close by!:)
I have a mini van and take out the seats when i go stormchasing. You would be suprised on how much room there acutually is when you take the seats out. I put down a sleeping bag and lock all the doors and it is actually pretty cofortable and cheap too. One thing I would recommend though....find a place that has a bathroom close by!:)

I do the same thing. I drive a 2001 T@C Chrysler and removing both rows of seats creates plenty of room for sleeping/equipment. Im thinking of possibly investing in an cheap air mattress for the van this year too. On multiple chase days, I usually like to drive at least half way to the next day target and then camp out at a truck stop with wifi. Most nice truck stops have showers and the wifi is there to sit in the car and look at. I still stay at motels occasionally when someone else is along. I would say though 75% of the time when im alone I do this.
My favorite chase campground is the Boony Lake State Park near Burlington, Colorado very close to the Kansas State line and Goodland.(Palo Duro Canyon is No. 2)

A very nice campground with good facilities, great vantage points for viewing storms and situated in the middle of no where right on the dry line.

On 2 occasions, I broke camp in the morning there..chased all day only to have tornadic supercells forming immmediately adjacent to the camp near sunset. I witnessed 2 of the best lightning displays I've ever seen from this campground plus one small tornado. It is a great location for chasing the dry line or perhaps the Denver cyclone.

See pic.

Second pic is of the Camp Lakeside in Scott City Kansas. Note the large splashes in the water. Hit with baseball size there. Have called off the chase for the day...upon arriving at the campsite..the storm decided to drift slightly southward over the campsite and let loose the hail....
Kansas has quite a bit of roadside camp areas that are generally safe and clean to camp at. I know of one just east of Girard Kansas that's right off highway 57, never seen anyone camping there but they have a BBQ grill and what not.