Updated: Mar 9, 2021
Before going on any adventure into the wild whether it's hunting, fishing, foraging, or just exploring the weather check is extremely important. Even if you only plan to be out on a short trip for a day or just a few hours, the weather may have a drastic impact on your journey. Nearly anyone who has spent time outdoors has had the weather turn on them unexpectedly and paid some kind of price for it. No one is immune to the fickle nature of the weather. With that in mind let's explore how and why one should check the weather.
Check the forecast
Many ways to check the forecast are available to us in the modern world. Many still depend on the farmer's almanac and that can be a valuable resource to have an idea of what historical weather patterns have been in an area. I tend to depend a little more on modern technology though. Regardless of where you go or what you drive there is a good chance that at some point during your travels you will hear a weather report on the radio in your vehicle. This may not be the case if you ride a motorcycle, bicycle, or walk, but even there you could be listening to the radio with IHeartRadio or some other app. Regardless of where you hear it, pay attention to the forecast for several days leading up to any trip you have planned.
If you don't listen to the radio much but have a T.V. most local channels have weather reports during their scheduled news programs. Newspapers also offer a limited forecast of how the weather should be shaping up in your area. If all of those options are insufficient for some reason the internet offers even more options. You can visit the website for any of your favorite local radio or T.V. stations and access a forecast as well as other interesting weather information. There are also sites devoted to only weather including the Weather Channel's or the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) websites. Be sure to look at how the weather patterns are building for several days before your trip as well as what to expect during your trip.
One huge advantage the internet has is you can check the radar. Many of the different sites of weather information offer the ability to look at different kinds of radar and predictions of what the radar will show in the near future. Studying the radar and the predictions it can make will make a huge difference in your ability to prepare for what may happen on your adventures.
Things to pack in case of emergency
When packing for your adventure be it only a day trip or longer you should always consider what can go wrong and how to prepare for it. For the context of this article, we will limit the discussion to weather-related issues. But to paraphrase Les Stroud THE Survivor Man himself take the items out of your survival kit and pack them into your pockets, bracelets, lanyards, hat, and boots. You can lose a kit, but you will still have most of your pockets.
Now back to weather issues. Always pack some kind of wet weather gear a poncho, rain suit, duster, trash bag, tarp, and/or waxed clothing. Unless you are planning to visit a desert there is always a possibility of a surprise rainstorm. Even if the temperatures are very high it is still dangerous to stay soaking wet for extended periods of time. In the last article we briefly touched on the negative side effects of wet feet, but more issues can arise from being soaked. The normal core body temperature of a human being is 98.6 degrees. The typical method for regulating that core temperature is allowing sweat to evaporate off the skin. When a person is soaking wet, even in areas with high temperatures, the constant evaporation of that water off the skin can cool the core body temperature dangerously below normal. So what is dangerously low? Hypothermia can begin at a core body temperature of 95 degrees. That is not a significant change from normal in most people's eyes. It only takes a few degrees of change to begin some dangerous side effects.
Hypothermia can lead to confusion, exhaustion, slurred speech, shivering, memory loss, drowsiness, and fumbling hands. All of these can make it difficult for a person to take the necessary actions to save themselves or survive in an emergency. It becomes difficult to build a shelter or a fire if your hands are shaking too much or memory loss and confusion keep you from remembering what step you are on in the process. If exhaustion and drowsiness cause you to fall asleep without being able to dry off and warm up it can easily lead to permanent injuries or death.
Given the dangers of allowing yourself to be soaked for too long, it is essential that you pack some kind of wet weather protection. Not everyone has the money to buy the top-of-the-line type of equipment and some people will say if you can't afford to buy the right gear you should stay home. I do understand this line of reasoning, but for some people that's simply not an option. If they can't hunt, fish, or forage then they can't provide for their family. So I recommend that each person take as many precautions as they can. If you can't buy top-of-the-line gear or find good quality gear at a thrift store or yard sale, buy the cheap stuff. Some protection is better than no protection. Even a trash bag with a hole cut out of the bottom for your head and two for your arms will help. But remember with this lower quality gear get to safety immediately. If you don't have the proper equipment you must seek shelter to dry out and wait out the storm as soon as it starts raining. I'm in no way stating or implying that trash bags or cheap rain suits and ponchos will protect you for an all-day hunt in the rain. They will not.
There are also ways to waterproof the clothes and equipment you already have. Most stores have waterproofing sprays that can be applied to shoes and many other types of fabrics. Another alternative is to soak canvass and some other kinds of fabrics in a type of wax that will help prevent moisture from penetrating it. Many use basic paraffin wax that has some advantages and disadvantages others prefer natural alternatives like Otter Wax. So there are many ways to prepare for inclement weather in advance of taking a trip into the wild and no excuse for doing so unprepared.
Preparing for winter weather
Wet weather is not the only thing you should prepare for though. Many of the hunting seasons begin in late fall and go through winter. So it's also very important to check the forecast to prepare for winter weather as well. Ensuring you're packing the right clothes and in the right amounts can be the difference between a successful adventure and a harrowing tale of tribulation. When planning for the possibility of wet and or cold weather wool certainly has an amazing leg up. Wool clothing can retain up to 80% of its insulation value while soaking wet. Very few other materials can compete with that. Some people find wool to be slightly itchy or irritating to their skin or a little on the heavy side, but with proper planning adding a bit of wool to your packing list is a very good idea.
Layering is the key. In cold or hot weather you want to dress in layers to properly be ready to handle whatever nature throws at you. What materials each layer is made up of will be a matter of personal opinion to some extent. The typical pattern is a thin synthetic material that can wick away moisture for a base layer, a light cotton or denim layer for comfort, then an insulating layer of wool or flannel for example, then a layer of heavy insulation or water-resistant material as needed. When you find yourself needing to regulate your body temperature you simply add or remove a layer depending on the situation. So for proper winter preparation, you must first check the forecast then plan accordingly.
You may think that all of this is overkill or even unnecessary weight that you will have to carry, but I assure you it's not. Granted you do have to use common sense as well. For example, if you're going hiking on a small public trail that is only 1 or 2 miles long and forms a circle back to the parking lot you most likely won't need much in the way of provisions. Especially if the trail you're using is very popular and frequently traveled. In such a case a poncho and first aid kit in a day pack with a water bladder may be all you need. But if you plan to head off a marked trail for any significant amount of distance you should prepare for the worst just in case. Hopefully, these tips will help you as you travel and enjoy the bounty nature provides. Keep safe and don't forget to share your knowledge and skills with others!