How to Forecast Weather in the Wilderness

Learn how to forecast weather in the wilderness from NYC Outward Bound instructor Marko Yurachek in this survival skills video from Howcast.


One of the things that's a big concern, or a big factor, that's going to influence how you do things when you're out in the wilderness is what sort of weather you're having. People like to know in advance what the weather's going to be like. Oftentimes, that means pulling out your iPhone and looking at it. Sometimes, the weather's different than it says on your phone. I have people out, and I'll let them know that the phone's for making phone calls, and holding out your hand is how you find out what the weather's doing.

If you would like to know what the weather is going to do, there are certain signs that you can look for in the environment. Right now, we have a beautiful, blue-sky day. We also have a lot of wind. Wind means that there's temperature change somewhere. Wind occurs when there's a temperature change going on. So wind is a big indicator of weather change.

If you're in a mountain environment, some of the things you can look for are cloud patterns. And unfortunately, we don't have any clouds today to demonstrate this, but when you see long, thin, wispy clouds, or sort of a white pass with clouds streaking off of it that almost look like contrails from an airplane, those are called mare's tails. And mare's tails indicate that you're at the edge of a front, because there's a lot of high-altitude wind trading place. That's a real indicator that the weather's going to change relatively soon. Probably in the next 24, 36 hours, you may get a different type of weather than you're experiencing.

Another thing to be aware of is the local weather patterns. Local weather patterns happen in micro-climates. So there might be an area that gets a thunderstorm every day at 3:00 p.m. A lot of places in Florida, you can count on it raining every afternoon and then stopping within 45 minutes. So be aware of local weather patterns when you're out.

If you're down low in the trees, there are some indicators that you can use that'll kind of give you an idea of what the pressure's doing. High pressure and low pressure definitely are going to be affecting your weather. High pressure is going to be nice, sunny, clear weather. Low pressure is going to be possibly warmer, but more wetter weather. One of the ways that you can tell that is, if you're building a campfire at night and you're looking at your fire, if the smoke is rising straight up, it's an indicator that you have high pressure in the area. If your smoke is staying close to the ground, sort of spreading out, it's an indication that you have a lower pressure in the area.

One of the other indicators that you have low pressure, or you're about to get rain, is the insect activity. If you're out and it's a day like today and there's no bugs, nothing's bothering you, everything's happy, then chances are, it's not going to rain, and you're going to be nice and dry and continue to be happy. If you're being pestered really bad by mosquitoes, by blackflies, and by gnats, and they're really swarming, the flying insects, the biting insects, will get especially active just before a change in the weather, before it rains. They're going to get a last meal in before it starts raining on them.

Those are some tips that'll help you predict the weather for camping, for travelling in the outdoors. One of the old sayings that is usually pretty accurate is, "Red sky at night, camper's delight. Red sky in morning, campers take warning." So I think originally it was sailors, but it works for campers too.

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