Why Hikers Should Know Weather Conditions Before They Travel

Categories:Adventures | Adventuring | Hiking | Hiking Advice

It seems innocent enough, heading out to your local state or national park for a day of hiking. You’re sure to grab trail snacks, fill water bottles and dress comfortably. You probably glance at the weather, too, to make sure you’ll be outside in the best conditions.

But a glance is simply not enough to ensure that you will be able to hike comfortably and safely. An in-depth look at the day’s weather and underlying trail conditions caused by previous weather is vital to you as an outdoorsman or woman — in some cases, it can be the difference between life and death on the trail.

Here’s why you should make your weather check an in-depth pre-hiking step.

You Can Create a Safety Plan According to Potential Weather Changes

It’s beautiful now, but the weather forecast for the evening on the night of your intended hike looks like it could bring in thunderstorms. Your trek should end before then, but you can never be too sure when you’re on the trail — are you prepared for any sort of serious weather change?

You should always have an escape plan ready if your trek is interrupted by bad weather. Lightning storms, for example, would require you and your group to spread out as you head down the mountain — with everyone far apart, it’s less likely a lightning strike would hurt everyone.

You Can Know What Grounds Will Be Like Beforehand

As a hiker, you should keep track of the weather in the days and weeks leading up to your big trek. That way, you’ll know how the ground conditions will be and whether or not you’ll be safe to hike.

For example, a rainy few weeks before you go hiking means the ground will likely be damp. This could lead to dirt and rocks being slippery, which makes your climb a bit more dangerous. On top of that, extra rain means rivers and streams will be running more forcefully, and any plans to ford or otherwise cross a body of water should come with extreme caution.

You can still hike in the rain, but knowing what the conditions will be like might help you choose the safest trail, wear the proper clothing and know which access roads will be best to reach the foot of the trail.

You Can Avoid Causing or Being Caught in a Forest Fire

Forest fires are incredibly damaging and life threatening to anyone in the area when they start. When conditions get extra dry, it’s likely to make the news, with local environmental experts asking campers to refrain from starting campfires, flicking cigarettes, etc., while on the trail.

But, of course, that’s when the earth is extremely dry. The days and weeks leading up to that dire drought can still be dangerous, too, and it’s up to you to find out whether it’s safe to hit the trail for an extended trek that might require you to start a fire — you don’t want to be caught in the middle of a forest when it’s alight. The National Weather Service provides reports for wildfire potential, so check the area where you plan to hike before you light your next campfire.

Wildfires spread fast and can cause quick, irreversible damage to property and people. In 2016, a wildfire blazed through Gatlinburg, Tennessee, requiring 14,000 locals to evacuate. Many were caught in the smoke and flames: 14 people died and over 100 were injured. They returned to destroyed homes and have had to rebuild their lives. With proper planning on your summer hikes, you can avoid putting yourself in harm’s way — or avoid starting a blaze yourself.

You Can Read Mother Nature’s Clues While On the Trail

So clear on the value of understanding weather patterns and forecasting, many avid hikers have taken it upon themselves to learn about meteorology. If you want to be your safest, you should learn all about our atmosphere to best protect yourself and others while you’re trekking.

For example, you probably notice while you’re hiking just how loudly birds chirp and insects buzz. But, have you ever realized they tend to go silent just before a big shift in the weather? If you have this knowledge, you can take cover or head back when the animals do in order to avoid rain, wind or storms. Clouds also contain plenty of clues, and a shift in the look and type of cloud can mean, again, that rain or another type of storm is on the horizon.

This type of information will help you in real time when weather forecasts prove incorrect. Rather than being caught off-guard, your knowledge of these signs can help you shift your plan so that you return from your hike safely.

Changes in weather can have a major effect on your outdoor pursuits, and the above are only four of the many reasons why it’s imperative for you to know what the sky will be doing as you hit the trail. So, take a deeper look at that forecast and make sure the trek you’re about to take will bring you only the positive vibes you seek — no rain clouds in sight.


Kacey is a lifestyle blogger for The Drifter Collective, an eclectic lifestyle blog that expresses various forms of style through the influence of culture and the world around us. Kacey graduated with a degree in Communications while working for a lifestyle magazine. She has been able to fully embrace herself with the knowledge of nature, the power of exploring other locations and cultures, all while portraying her love for the world around her through her visually pleasing, culturally embracing and inspiring posts.

Follow Kacey on Twitter and subscribe to her blog to keep up with her travels and inspiring posts!

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