While no one should head outdoors during a blizzard or hurricane, a little inclement weather doesn't have to torpedo your outdoor adventure. Here's how you should prepare for unexpected weather conditions, so you can enjoy the outdoors without sacrificing your comfort or safety.
Check the forecast. It's really important to familiarize yourself with expected weather conditions before you venture outdoors. Since conditions can change quickly and often, you will want to monitor the forecast right up until you head out. If severe weather is possible, consider rescheduling your trip. You should also be aware that temperatures will be much colder at higher elevations. Even if the forecast looks reliably safe, make sure you are prepared for harsh conditions, just in case the weatherperson is off his or her game.
Take cover in high winds. Despite what you might expect, forests provide little protection from high winds, especially in high elevations where trees grow shallow root systems. In these environments, trees can blow over quite easily, while filling the air with branches and debris. If a sudden wind storm descends upon you, seek shelter near a solid structure, such as a stable rock formation. Try to wait out the wind storm if possible, and make sure to thoroughly anchor your tent by hammering stakes into the ground.
Pack for every situation. During the start of camping or hiking season, the weather can turn cold very suddenly, especially at night. If you are hiking or camping at higher elevations in the mountains, you could see snowfall as late as June. WIth this in mind, it's always a good idea to pack long pants, long-sleeved shirts, dry socks, waterproof boots, a sweatshirt, hats, gloves, a heavy coat, rain gear and umbrellas, even if you don't expect to need them. You will also want to bring shorts, breathable t-shirts, a brimmed hat and sunscreen, in case the weather turns warm. Dress in layers, so you can remove clothing as needed to keep from becoming overheated.
Be wary of lightning. If you get caught in a lightning storm above a tree line, quickly descend on the leeward side in the opposite direction of the storm. Just by descending a few hundred feet, you can drastically reduce your risk of injury or death, since lightning is much more likely to strike the highest object in its vicinity. If you find yourself in an open area, don't lie flat on the ground, but squat down on the balls of your feet instead.
Stay cool and dry. Even in the summer, exposure to rain and wind can result in hypothermia. If you get wet, find shelter and change into dry clothes immediately. It's also a good idea to store some wood and kindling under a tarp or within a waterproof garbage bag. This way, you can start a fire once the rain lets up. You should also familiarize yourself with symptoms of heat stroke, heat exhaustion, hypothermia, and dehydration. Drink plenty of water and take rests, especially if you are hiking in elevated areas, where the air is especially thin.
Carefully choose your campsite. Campers often underestimate the risk of floods. A rainstorm five miles away can quickly send thousands of gallons of water in your direction. Even if you camp on high ground, a flood could render an access road impassable, leaving you stranded for days. Make sure you consider these possibilities when selecting your campsite. If it does flood, never try to drive across a shallow-looking stream, since it only takes about 18 to 24 inches of water to make a vehicle float sideways.
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