By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2017, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here. PDF version available on Gumroad here.



yourfirstvisit.net—Disney World Instructions for the First-Time Visitor



Tent Camping Hints for Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort



By Dave Shute

(For the first page of this review of Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort, click here.)

TENT CAMPING HINTS FOR THE CAMPSITES AT FORT WILDERNESS: GEAR AND WEATHER

Even experienced tent campers need to bring the right gear to Fort Wilderness, some of which might be uncommon to their camping styles elsewhere.

Inexperienced campers should think twice about making Fort Wilderness their first tent camping trip.

And everybody except experienced Florida tent campers needs to think hard about the weather.

SPECIAL TENT CAMPING GEAR FOR DISNEY’S FORT WILDERNESS RESORT

Things to keep in mind when gear planning are the sun and heat, common thunderstorms–daily some times of the year–and the sand tent pads.

Power Campsite Tour Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

It can get really, really hot (and humid) in Orlando. So take advantage of the fact that every site has electricity and bring some extension cords and fans. I set up two electric fans for a cross-breeze, one bringing air into and one blowing air out of my tent, and used a battery-powered hanging fan in the peak of my tent to help exhaust hot air.

Dining Fly Campsite Tour Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort from yourfirstvisit.net (2)

The sun and rain can really bear down in Florida, so absolutely bring several tarps that you can cobble together into both a dining fly and tacked-on sunshade/blowing rain protector system.

I’m not as keen on self-supporting flies as I am on traditional pole and guy flies, as pole and guy rigs are more forgiving in strong winds.  I’ve had three self-supporting flies break on me in storms, while in the same wind a tarp will simply lift off its poles and be easy to set up again (after the wind dies…and after you find it, if you forgot to have at least one guy tied to directly it, rather than simply looping over the pole).

Another rain point–traditional family tents with partial rain flies covering just the top of the tent can be less than adequate in the weather you might face.

Much better is a mesh inner tent with a full-coverage fly, similar in design to a traditional backpacking tent. Roll up the fly in fine weather, bring it down in storms.

Family tents with full coverage rain flies can be hard to find. I love my REI Kingdom 8, which is perfect for Florida camping.

Here’s all the mesh without the fly:

REI Kingdom 8 Tent Campsite Tour Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

…and here it is with the full-coverage fly fully deployed:

REI Kingdom 8 Tent Campsite Tour Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort from yourfirstvisit.net (2)

This tent system, when coupled with the fans noted above, can defeat any weather issue except humidity.

Rain Fly Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort from yourfirstvisit.net (2)

If you can’t afford a new tent, then bring a really big blue tarp that you can use in a pinch as a full-coverage fly–see the tent on the left above–enabling you to both avoid the rain and also open your tent’s windows beneath it and get some air into it during a storm.

The not-uncommon windy storms, when combined with the sand tent pads, means you need to bring extra guys and some sand stakes.

Stakes that Won't Hold Up to Wind at Fort Wilderness from yourfirstvisit.net

Traditional stakes–such as those shown above–simply won’t stay in the sand when the wind is blowing.  The metal versions won’t even stay in the ground under simple tension.

Sand Stake Campsite Tour Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

After  a number of failed experiments–some kinda comic–I’ve settled on the screw-in sand stake shown at the right above (thanks John Koch of Troop 194–you know why!!).

These are available in packs of 8 (with some extra line) on Amazon here.

You literally screw these into the ground, so need something to spin them with and give you torque–thus the 15 inch screwdriver on the left, which also works great as a barbecue poker.

You also need something to link the loops at the end of the stakes to your stake loops or guy lines.  For this you could use good carabiners or cord.

Guys Campsite Tour Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort from yourfirstvisit.net (2)

Also bring extra guy lines–and of course, where you can, anchor them to fixed parts of the terrain, to avoid having to spin down all those darn sand stakes. Here, at one corner of my dining fly, I have the pole guyed to two fixed points–the barbecue and a tree–and thus don’t need to screw in a sand stake here.

Don’t forget extra guys and sand stakes for your tent!

Modern free-standing designs don’t need them to stand up in no wind–but when the wind blows, without stakes and/or guys, in a storm such tents become “free-ballooning.” I’ve seen un-staked, un-guyed free-standing tents blow away with infants inside…

THINK TWICE BEFORE HAVING FORT WILDERNESS BE YOUR FIRST TENT CAMPING EXPERIENCE

Fort Wilderness resort tent campsites are commonly the least expensive way to access all the perks that come from staying at a Walt Disney World resort, and, since they can be booked for ten, are  by far the cheapest way to bring a large family to Disney World.

Tarp Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort from yourfirstvisit.net

As a result, too often I see families at Fort Wilderness with a tiny tent with lousy rain protection, a cooler, a bag of charcoal–and that’s it. If they have a ground cloth, they are using it the worst possible way. No flies, no stakes, no guys, no stove, no cooking gear, no cleaning gear, no chairs, no lanterns, no power cords, no fans….

And then the first morning after a storm I see their site abandoned, with their tent stuffed in one of the campground’s trash cans!!

Don’t do this. Gear up for and then test your gear in a better climate first, and only then come to Fort Wilderness with all the extra gear I’ve noted above.  (There’s more on the gear we bring later in this review.)

WEATHER AND TENT CAMPING AT DISNEY’S FORT WILDERNESS RESORT

There’s a couple of points of Orlando weather to keep in mind when planning a tent camping trip to Fort Wilderness.

So add up the months and you’ll see that the safest months to comfortably tent camp at Walt Disney World are May, December, and January.

That said, no one that I am aware of has ever been injured at Fort Wilderness by a hurricane or a tornado.

I would personally be more concerned about the two tornado seasons than about the hurricane season.

Hurricanes come with substantial advance warning, and Disney shuts down Fort Wilderness when it seems to be in the path of one, moving guests to other Disney resorts. Moreover, they are much less common in June-mid-August, and late October-November.

Based on this, I’d add later October and November to the list of “safe” months for tent campers. (June-mid-August remain in the summer tornado season, and anyway are far too hot for me to consider recommending tent camping then…)

Tornadoes, on the other hand, come with much less notice, and in the winter-spring tornado season, if they do happen, commonly happen in the middle of the night.

I wouldn’t dream of tent camping at Walt Disney World in either tornado season without a tested emergency weather radio, and without doing a test run in the dark to the nearest comfort station, which likely would make a much better hurricane shelter than my tent or car.

All in, my  recommended months for tent campers at Fort Wilderness end up being mid-October-January, and May.

Owners of pop-ups should follow the thoughts shared for tent campers; smaller trailers and Class Bs have some of the same vulnerabilities.

Larger trailers, Class As and larger Class Cs are less vulnerable…but if it were me, I’d still avoid the winter-spring tornado season, and the peak of the hurricane season.

A PHOTO TOUR OF A CAMPSITE AT DISNEY’S FORT WILDERNESS RESORT

This review continues here.
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34 comments

1 H. Brink { 09.25.12 at 4:22 pm }

Yours is the only site to talk camping and weather in terms of patterns and risks…I have been back to this page with different dates to check against your recommended times tens of times….I wish we could just ‘go already’- as camping there happens to be my kids dream… Other than the random ‘its great! or ‘well, we do it’ recommendations of the dis board, your site is the only one that discusses this, along with the rest. And you are an example of how to pack information to jgusts that makes it really useful/accessible… Thank you!

2 Dave { 09.25.12 at 5:17 pm }

What a really really nice comment! Thanks and you’ve made my day!

3 Michelle Binion { 06.16.14 at 10:16 pm }

Thank you for your post, we have our visit to Ft wilderness campground october 6-12th, if there is a hurricane and we are moved will we have to pay the hotel costs?

4 Dave { 06.17.14 at 7:49 am }

Well, Michelle, I don’t really know, but my expectation is that if Disney evacuates you to another of its hotels you won’t have to pay extra.

5 shekinah { 02.25.15 at 8:29 am }

Thank you! This is a great reference for those of us Disney pros who want to take a first time camping trip to Disney.
As far as the buses go, you have to take a bus from your loop to a central location for the bus going to the parks?
And how many pools are there at Ft Wilderness?
Also I heard that they had a campfire sing along, is that only on certain nights?
Really appreciate the information you have here.

6 Dave { 02.25.15 at 1:24 pm }

Hi Shekinah and thanks. Two pools. The campfire is every night–though I suppose it can be rained out. Transport outside of Fort Wilderness is from either the Settlement or Outpost areas. You take an internal bus from the bus stop closest to your loop to get to these areas.

7 curtis { 10.15.15 at 8:32 pm }

I wanna go camping the first week off dec. How cold does it get

8 Dave { 10.16.15 at 8:23 am }
9 Brenda { 02.14.16 at 8:33 am }

Love the traditional pole and guy fly. Would you share the equipment list to make this? For example, what size tarp did you use and where did you get the poles esp. the cross pole. Thanks for the GREAT camping tips.

10 Dave { 02.14.16 at 10:09 am }

Brenda my tarps are 10×12. The upright poles are from Campmor. It’s hard to find ridge poles these days–try this: http://www.gleasoncamping.com/browseproducts/12'-ALUMINUM–ADJUSTABLE–RIDGE-POLE.HTML

11 Susanna { 05.31.16 at 10:13 am }

Thank you so much for sharing this! My daughter & I have our first Ft Wilderness camping adventure scheduled for next week & your article has absolutely helped me confirm I’m prepared (& ready for the ensuing heat). I’ve been watching the technical forecasts and they’re projecting tropical moisture from the Carribean starting on our arrival date!

We’ve had well over a dozen other tent camping trips in the last couple of years, some to the Outer Banks (just back from Ocracoke before TS Bonnie hit). But I have definitely been most nervous about this Disney camping, I know the amenities will be great but the weather is out of Disbey’s control!

Thanks again for such a great article!

12 Dave { 06.02.16 at 9:37 am }

Have fun, Susanna, let me know how it goes and if you think I should chnage any of my advice!

13 Jean Richter { 06.06.16 at 9:45 pm }

We tent camp at fort wilderness all the time and while factoring in rain, heat and rain is important, I’m not sure it’s quite as dire as this article makes it seem. We’ve gone 4 times this year and weather hasn’t been a significant factor once. Our equipment is pretty basic and we’ve done just fine with a cooler and a bag of charcoal. It’s Florida, stuff gets wet and then it dries. 🙂

14 Dave { 06.09.16 at 11:23 am }

Jean, a fair point.

15 Elizabeth Hagerup { 09.05.16 at 3:31 pm }

How many amps would a tent site have

16 Dave { 09.06.16 at 12:17 pm }

Elizabeth, at least 20 amps.

17 Angel { 10.18.16 at 12:44 pm }

Hello Dave:

I am planning a tent camping at Disney in January with my kids. I know some nights in the winter season in Florida are really cold below 50 degrees. Any advise please to prepare for coldest nights.. thank you

18 Dave { 10.18.16 at 2:30 pm }

Angel, because each campsite has power, electric blankets are the way to go!

19 Amy { 11.18.16 at 10:41 pm }

Hi, Jean we are going tenting in December for 5 days. Is there water and cable hook up at the tent sites? What about burning a fire? Also bath houses (How far are they from most sites)? Any suggestions will help! Thanks in advance

20 Dave { 11.19.16 at 12:43 pm }

Amy, yes on water and cable. No fires except in the barbecue grill.

21 Doug { 02.01.17 at 9:04 pm }

Just wondering how you get rid of grey water from washing dishes? Do they allow dumping it in the comfort stations? We are tent camping there in a couple of weeks. We’re there last year but we rented an RV that time.

Doug

22 Doug { 02.01.17 at 9:05 pm }

“Get rid of…” sorry for the auto correct issue in the previous post.

23 Dave { 02.02.17 at 6:19 am }

Fixed it, Doug!!

24 Dave { 02.02.17 at 6:29 am }

Doug, if you are in any loop but the tent camping loops then you can use the sewer catch-basin. In the two tent loops (1500 and 2000, no sewers) what I’ve done is pour the grey water through a strainer (to catch food) off into the back of my site.

25 Anonymous { 03.04.17 at 8:01 am }

Camping end of august ..we have camped in N Hampshire ,which we have had lots of stormy nites .. But w it being hurracaine season Im getting very worried I Always worry about the thounder storms … How bad and long our these lighting storms in Florida…ty

26 Dave { 03.04.17 at 10:08 am }

I would not tent camp in Central Florida in August. You can expect daily brief (30 mins to 2 hours) afternoon thunderstorms, plus of course the possibility of multi-day cylonic events.

27 Tania { 03.23.17 at 7:40 pm }

Thanks so much for all the details!! We are planning a trip for just my spouse & I to try some tent camping in 2018! My question would be, as you recommend January but not February, what about late January/first week of February? Do you think we’d still be okay? 🙂 Thanks!!

28 Dave { 03.25.17 at 6:01 am }

Tania, my concern about February comes from this.

29 Bobbie { 03.27.17 at 3:48 pm }

Hi Dave, I am so glad I was able to see this article. Really helpful info. I’m a closeted lover of camping. I haven’t done it since I was a little girl though. Someone in my crew is not because they have “always gotten soaked”. We are (NW) Floridians, and I want to take advantage of the cost savings of Ft Wilderness campgrounds. Can you give me more details about your gear & set up? For someone who has never set up a campsite, are you making an additional rain guard over your tent? What materials are you using? It looks in some photos if this is being done that there is an areal line strung and tarp over it-where do the lines go? Trees? Poles? Super powers? Also what do you put under your tent if anything? What do you put on the interior floors if anything? Do you bring (Tent, or any) cleaning supplies? What is the weather radio? Where can one acquire such a thing? Also using the electricity/power cord in the rain there is no threat of electrocution? Do you just have and 1 extenstion chord? I forsee us needing multiple charging stations, charge camera, 2 phones, potentially an ipad or laptop since we are aspiring vloggers.Teach me, tell me everything.

30 Dave { 03.28.17 at 9:18 am }

Bobbie, so many questions!!

There’s more on my gear, including links, on this page.

If your tent does not have an adequate fly, the ideal rain cover is a big blue tarp with grommets stretched over one rope designed as a ridge-line from tree to tree, with the corners of the tarp guyed out to stakes or bushes.

It’s unlikely that trees will be conveniently available, so 10 or 12 foot poles with multiple guys each are wise to bring. The post has links to stake, poles, and the stuff I used to make guys.

Guys and stakes can be tricky if you have not used them before–practice in your back yard, it’ll amuse the neighbors.

You can find a weather radio on amazon.

There’s no real electrocution threat but I do unplug when it’s pouring. Bring a power strip for your gear. Don’t leave your gear in your tent when you are gone–lock it in your car to protect it from weather and sticky fingers.

I bring a couple of small rugs to wipe shoes in and out of tent, and a small dust pan and broom.

31 Breiana { 04.05.17 at 8:02 pm }

We are thinking of going camping at Ft. Wilderness in mid November. What gear do you recommend locking in the car? Do we get to park our car right there at the tent site? Do you know how canvas tents do in that weather at that time of year? How are the bugs and humidity that time of year? Any issues with crocodiles getting into the campground? That’s definitely worrying me? Do you feel like it’s a safe campground? Does Disney security roam around the campground? What type of things do you make for food? Do you use the grill much? How bad are the winds and rainfall typically in November?

32 Dave { 04.07.17 at 10:41 am }

Breiana, before getting into the details–have you tent camped before? Your question about canvas tents makes me wonder… I would not advise a canvas tent because of the possibility of rain and ventilation issues; and Florida is not the place for your first tent-camping experience.

I’d lock in the car my electronics.

You park your car right there at your site.

Bugs and humidity are quite rare in November.

Alligators are possible anywhere outdoors near water in Florida, but in Fort Wilderness’s 45 years, there’s been exactly one injury due to them, and I’ve never seen then in my dozen stays at the campground.

It’s the safest campground in the US

How much I cook and grill at the campsite is a question of how I’m balancing time at the parks versus relaxing at the site.

November is typically fine from the point of view of winds and rain, but a front coming through can change that, and strictly speaking it is still in the hurricane season. November hurricanes are rare, but not unknown.

33 Bradley { 04.19.17 at 2:23 pm }

Thanks for the advice. I had already been considering the tarp because of being aware of Florida weather during May. I am looking at For Wilderness as an option for the week of Memorial Day(May 29-June 1st to be exact), and this advice helps a lot.

34 Dave { 04.22.17 at 9:44 am }

I’m glad, Bradley!

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