With the Pacific Northwest’s unseasonably warm weather continuing, it’s easy to forget that weather conditions can change quickly – turning a fun outdoor experience into a true survival situation. Learning to read the weather is a crucial wilderness skill that could mean the difference between life and death. Here are a few of my tips about different weather conditions you might encounter in your outdoor travels.
- WIND: Cools our body and pulls away heat faster than we can produce it. Cover all exposed body parts, put on adequate clothing, and find shelter so wind chill is not a factor.
- RAIN: Cold and wet conditions cause extreme body heat loss. Keep as dry as possible, avoid wet clothing, and keep firewood dry. Seek shelter. Remember, wool or equivalent-type clothing will keep you warm even when wet, and the layering system will create dead air space to retain warmth.
- BLIZZARD AND WHITE-OUT CONDITIONS: Cold, body heat loss, mental stress, and fear make mobility a problem. Do not travel; instead seek shelter and remain until the storm passes or the weather clears.
- FOG or DARKNESS: Leads to loss of mobility, mental stress and fear, and inability to tell direction. Do not travel; instead seek shelter and wait until morning or clearing.
- DESERT SUN: Overheating in our body core leads to dehydration, blindness, and sunburn. Find shade and shelter from the sun, travel early or late in the day to miss the heat, conserve as much energy as possible and stay hydrated.
- LIGHTNING: Get off of high, exposed areas immediately. Stay away from lone trees or tall isolated objects, open fields, rocky overhangs, cave mouths, and metal fences or railings. Try to get into a building, closed vehicle, or forest with many trees the same height. Try to be as small as possible and squat on a mattress pad or something dry and insulated from the ground. If you are in a group spread out, don’t bunch up.
Be aware and respectful of the ever-changing conditions, and be prepared for them as they occur.
– Frank Sherwood