If you have camped more than just a few times in your life, you already know quite well that foul weather can be a very real possibility, especially if you are camping in wilderness areas in the mountains.
Even during the summer months, it is not uncommon to experience an afternoon thunderstorm, complete with lightning, thunder and even hail. Truth be told, these storms can be very beautiful and even refreshing, particularly if they occur on a day that was otherwise very warm.
However, if you are not adequately prepared for a storm before it hits, you may find that your campsite will be relegated to a soggy mess.
Before an afternoon storm (or a storm at any time), it pays to have a little warning. This will allow you time to cover all of your personal belongings, cover your firewood and food, and take adequate shelter in a dry place where you and your family can ride out the storm.
But how do you know when a storm is approaching, and will you really have time to prepare? Actually, there are several tell-tale signs on which you can rely that might signal that foul weather is approaching—signs that we will cover in detail in the article below.
These signs, which can be as overt as a major change in the wind or as subtle as a scent, will give you the time you need to properly rainproof your campsite and take cover in a place where you can enjoy the majesty of the storm without feeling its effects.
6 Signs Bad Weather Is On The Way To Your Campsite Or Trail
There are a number of signs that point to the possibility of bad weather. Some of these signs and signals include:
1. Look to the Wind and Wind Direction
If you think foul weather may be approaching, try to determine the direction of the wind. The movement of air from an area of high pressure to low-pressure usually results in a wind.
Generally, weather tends to move in from the west. When the wind blows from the west, it is a strong indication of good weather—a sign that the bad weather is already moving eastward of your location.
On the other hand, an Eastward wind can suggest that there may be foul weather coming your way. There are many ways to determine the direction of the wind using your local environment.
You can determine the direction of the wind by observing the grass and other local foliage, you can also throw some grass up and watch the direction it is blowing. However you choose to do it, if the wind seems to be coming from the east, it might be time to take some precautions.
2. Check the Humidity
A storm is almost always preceded by high humidity. And of course, if you have a barometer, this can be very easy to check.
However, absent a barometer—the meteorological tool that measures air pressure—you can also check the humidity by watching for certain signs. Some of the signs of high humidity you can watch for include curling leaves, frizzy hair, and swollen branches.
These signs can be indicators that a storm is close by. Another way to check the humidity is to observe the pine cones.
The pine cones naturally tend to stay on the trees when the humidity is high and fall off when the humidity is low. However, if you live in an area already plagued by high humidity, then you will need to rely on other observations to predict the air pressure.
3. Watch the Ocean Swells
If camping or hiking near a beach or coastline, ocean swells can be another good way to predict when bad weather is about to hit you. Ocean swells can be caused by winds blowing from across the sea.
This can also be a sign of a storm system that can lead to rains. An unduly turbulent ocean surface is often a very bad weather sign, one to which taking heed is and should be a must.
4. What Does It Smell Like in the Air?
If you perceive a slight compost smell to the air, understand that this is usually the smell of plants releasing their waste. This is what plants tend to do just before a storm.
Thus, if you fear bad weather ahead, the wet smell of plants composting can be a good way to confirm or deny your theory. This is also the case for those living or camping along swamps.
Before a storm, the smell of the swamp gases tends to be much stronger and more concentrated than before. And because swamp gases already smell like rotten eggs, this even stronger “rotten egg” smell will be difficult to deny.
5. Check the Clouds
For centuries, one of the best and most traditional ways in which people have checked for foul or incoming inclement weather is by watching the clouds. When you observe a bright blue sky with high clouds, it’s a pretty good indication of good weather.
And when you observe dark clouds and fogged skies, which are sometimes accompanied by a little lightening, this is usually an indication of an approaching storm.
There are also other ways that bad weather can manifest itself in the skies ahead. When you notice a red sky at sunset, for example, this is an indication of a high-pressure system—and high pressure systems are generally associated with warm weather approaching.
When the same scenario is noticed in the morning, on the other hand, it’s an indication that there is low pressure—and low pressure systems are usually fraught with rain and unstable conditions.
There are additionally some important cloud systems to watch out for as you look overhead. These cloud formations, which may or may not always be indicators of foul weather, include:
- The Stratocumulus clouds. These are chunky cloud formations that form very close to the earth’s surface. When you notice this kind of cloud, be aware that a storm system may very well be close by—either moving towards you or away from you.
- The Cirrus clouds. Some of the most noticeable characteristics of the cirrus clouds are their long, fine strands. The cirrus cloud is formed by the deposition of water vapor at very high altitudes (18,000 ft to 21,000 ft)—and the appearance of a cirrus cloud could also indicate that some type of bad weather may be approaching soon, especially if you camp at high altitudes. Tropical cyclones, for instance, are often preceded by cirrus clouds.
- The Nimbostratus clouds. Nimbostratus clouds are an indication of continuous rain, snow or sleet. In most cases, the Nimbostratus cloud appears dark grey and it is formed in multiple layers. During the presence of a nimbostratus cloud, the sun or the moon is usually not visible.
6. Study Animals and Their Behavior
Lat but not least, animals are actually quite adept when it comes to predicting bad weather. For this reason, it is very important to study certain animals closely, observing the changes in their behavior before a storm.
Animals have a knack for sensing the changes in air pressure and thus the overall changes in the condition of the weather. Birds, for example, tend to change their behavior, particularly their flying patterns, when a storm is gradually or rapidly approaching.
The sight of a flock of birds flying particularly low in the skies is an indication of a change in the air pressure. This can be as the result of a low or high pressure change, causing them to feel uncomfortable flying high in the sky.
Also, if your camping area goes from being abuzz with bees to being completely absent of the stinging critters, you may want to pack up—there is a good chance that Mother Nature is about to unleash a storm overhead very soon.