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How to plan for the weather on a hike

Updated: Apr 2, 2022

The weather can make a huge impact on any hike, conditions can change quickly so planning for the weather is an important part of your preparation for a hike, to make sure that you know what to do when the weather makes a sudden change and your plans go a little sideways we have made this guide to building your weather plan and what you need to watch for while on the trail.

What weather is best for hiking?

When choosing when to hike you want to look at the kind of conditions you would like to hike in, typically the best weather conditions to hike in are sunny days with cloud cover and long days that provide with lots of time to hike in the daylight. Though these conditions may not always be easy to find they are always good to look out for especially when considering what time of year you want to hike in, summer and spring are typically labelled as the best times because it is the most likely to provide you with these weather conditions but it's up to the individual to make the decision on whether they are comfortable hiking in rain or blistering heat.

How do I construct a weather plan?

When building a weather plan you need to account for the extreme weather you may encounter while walking and this includes heatwaves, bushfires and storms, these are the main three weather events you will typically need to plan for when making your weather plan so it's important to cover them all in your plan. Make sure that in your plan you add important information about the local area including exit routes you can follow in emergencies and the local park ranger’s phone number in case of an emergency.

When planning for bushfires, it's best to have a plan that corresponds to the danger levels posted by the local fire agency including watch and act warnings and general fire ratings, having a plan that can be escalated is important because as the fire or fire rating escalates so should you.

Having a plan is one thing but following it is another and that's why you must make sure that before you leave you have everything you need to follow these plans while you hike, this could be having a top rated rain coat for a storm or extra water for when a heatwave hits.

What do I do while I hike?

When you are hiking it's important to keep an eye out for weather changing, typically you should keep a very close eye on the weather in the week leading up to your hike meaning you should know what is coming but even if you know what’s coming it can be hard to know when the weather is actually going to turn. Based off the weather you are expecting you should be ready for the worst and you should also have all the gear you might need to deal with an emergency ready to go just in case you need to use it.

Changes in the clouds and local wildlife’s behaviours can be big signs of upcoming weather changes and can give you a little warning before you see the full effects of what is coming so take this time to get ready for what’s on its way.

Also remember that windy weather may have an effect on where you need to camp as huge gusts can cause falling branches and put you and the others in your tent in danger if one was to fall on you so try to find somewhere with a clearing to set up camp unless there is lightning which in that case you should look for parts of the forest with lower trees rather than taller and bigger ones.

What do I do if it becomes too dangerous?

If a weather event like a bushfire become extreme then it's important to know when to leave to make sure you and everyone with you stays safe, if the fire rating is extreme or above then maybe it is best to abandon your hike and head home. You may not think you need to leave until there is an actual bushfire but under these conditions even without a bushfire it can be very dangerous and very hot, nothing will stop you going back another time when it is safer but leaving early can save your life. If you have been notified of a bushfire in the area you should always make the quickest and safest way out you can because in the bush there is very little cover meaning if you get caught in a bushfire you will find it very hard to get out before the bushfire makes it impossible.

Getting caught in a storm can also be very dangerous but most times you will need to hike through the weather, if the storm makes continuing dangerous then don't hesitate to leave, make sure to be careful on your way out as storms can cause trail damage that can make walking on these tracks not only difficult but perilous.

If you are looking for more general tips around hiking in the heat and rain then visit these two good articles, five tips for hiking in the heat and five tips for hiking in the rain.

So hopefully now you feel better equipped to tackle the challenges of extreme weather out in the bush and know all the principles of making your extreme weather plan for your next hiking adventure.

Written by Josh Welch


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