There’s a saying in the military, “If it ain’t rainin’, you ain’t trainin’!” That was definitely the case when I took Selco and Toby’s Urban Survival Course for Women in Croatia a couple of years ago. As the cold rain fell, Toby rubbed his hands together in visible glee. The worse the weather got, the happier he was.
And it taught me a really important lesson. You’ve got to learn to deal with the discomfort of bad weather if you really want to survive. Many emergencies come as part and parcel of a weather event with high winds, extreme temperatures, and torrential rain so it’s only reasonable to give yourself the best possible strategies to deal with them.
This article isn’t for everyone. If you are a person who doesn’t exercise for any number of reasons, I’m not suggesting you go start hiking in the rain. If you are at high risk for broken bones or other injuries, mitigate those risks as much as possible while experiencing some exposure to bad weather. If you have a serious health condition, you may not find this advice feasible.
But for those of us who spend a lot of time outdoors or who have any inkling that they could one day need to bug out on foot, consider the value of training while it’s raining, snowing, or blowing.
What are your most likely bad weather events?
To be prepared for unpleasant conditions, you need to think about what the most likely weather events are where you live. Some of the things you might face:
- Dangerously high winds
- Extreme heat
- Extreme cold
- Sleet/freezing rain
Depending on what you’re the most likely to experience, you should prepare by getting the appropriate gear, learning how to cool off quickly, learning how to warm up once you get wet in cold weather, how to find or create shelter from the event, and tricks to tolerate the conditions. You should also learn to identify and treat ailments related to both hot weather and cold weather. The skills and gear you need will be unique to your area.
Get comfortable with discomfort.
Next, you need to become more comfortable with discomfort. We live in a climate-controlled society in the United States. Instead of allowing our bodies to adjust to the weather outside, we change the climate indoors and don’t leave. Our bodies are no longer as efficient at adapting to the extremes because we only experience them while rushing from our climate-controlled home to our climate-controlled car to our climate-controlled office and back again.
This year, consider keeping the heat a little lower in the winter and the air conditioning a little higher in the summer. This will force your body to adapt better and you’ll handle a power outage during extreme weather with far more ease. Of course, if you have health problems, heart conditions, or you’re pregnant, then you will need to be cautious about exposing yourself to extremes.
In a perfect world, I like moderately warm days and chilly nights. But I’m a lot better off and more willing to exercise if I don’t create this environment artificially.
Don’t avoid bad weather.
Raise your hand if you look out the window, see the rain or snow falling, and take it as a sign that the day’s workout is off. Wow, that’s a whole lot of you.
I’m currently living in an apartment, so every time the dogs need to go do their business, outside we go, during rain, wind, and gloom of night, to paraphrase that old poem about the post office. Here in my current semi-tropical location, rain is often torrential and accompanied by a wind so strong it seems to be coming from the side instead of straight down.
Despite this, I still walk them at least two miles per day. This is a great training activity for several reasons:
- It helps me to test my gear. Is that “waterproof” jacket actually waterproof or is it just water-resistant? That canvas baseball cap does nothing to keep my head dry in a downpour. That poncho is great if the air is still but blows almost inside out if high winds are a variable.
- It helps me know what I need in that type of weather. I can stay pretty dry in my Palladium boots, my Northface Flex jacket, and my RBX fleece-lined leggings. If more warmth is needed, I can layer underneath these items in moderate weather. In some environments, this would not be enough. But it’s impossible to know unless you get out there in the weather.
- I learn more about the weather. Things are a whole lot different depending on if you’re experiencing the weather from inside a window looking out or you are in the midst of the weather. Every environment has different quirks and you have to be out in it to truly understand them.
- I learn about my environment. When I was living in Montenegro, getting to my apartment was more than 400 steps up a hill (that was the shortcut) or I could take a long, steady climb that wasn’t as steep. When it was rainy, the mossy steps became extremely slippery. I learned to navigate them anyway but if I was in a rush, it would have been safer to take the road instead of carefully picking my way up the stairway. When I lived in the Algonquin Forest, I learned the hard way that snow drifted in an area where there was a ditch and although it looked like I was crossing a flat field, there was, in fact, a 7-foot drop to fall into. But without getting out there during extreme weather, I never would have realized either of those things and that could have been life-threatening in an emergency situation.
Take your exercise routine outdoors year-round if you want to truly be ready to survive during a bad situation.
Embrace the suck.
You may have heard the term, “embrace the suck.” But what does it really mean?
Graywolf, a former counterintelligence officer, Army combat veteran, and all-around tough dude, wrote about it.
Sucking it up means to just deal with the situation even though you really don’t want to. Embracing the suck means just what it literally says – embrace it. When you embrace your loved one, that doesn’t mean you’re just tolerating them or just accepting them, it means you’re welcoming them into your life and your heart. You’re asking them to be a part of you. Not only do you accept the situation – you want it.
Embracing the suck means to put yourself in situations that you normally wouldn’t be in and to push yourself more than you normally would. It’s a mindset. It’s a whole different level of toughening your mind than sucking it up is, and is incredibly powerful.
A lot of people have survived incredibly dangerous situations without the skill or equipment they needed because they just flat out refused to give up. This is a skill that can be learned and improved. It’s a skill that you can master.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should run out and yell at a tornado but there’s nothing wrong with just standing in a rainstorm and enjoying the experience instead of running for shelter every time. (source)
It should go without saying that I’m not suggesting you go put yourself in danger deliberately. Don’t endanger your life by putting yourself at risk of being struck by lightning, dying in a flood, facing down a hurricane or tornado, or trying to outrun a wildfire.
But don’t get stuck in your comfort bubble, either.
When I was standing there, bedraggled and cold, in that field in the middle of a ruined military base in Croatia, I never imagined for a moment that one day, I’d actually enjoy weather like that. But after a couple of years of deliberately putting myself in uncomfortable situations and not letting a silly thing like inclement weather get in my way, I can now honestly say I relish it. I find it absolutely invigorating to be outside in the middle of a storm. I find it peaceful to walk through a forest that is so quiet I can literally hear the snowflakes touch the ground when they fall. The wind making my hair stand on end makes me laugh. Standing out and watching the wild waves thrills me as I get drenched in the salty mist.
Training in bad weather makes you better prepared.
Remember, when disaster strikes it’s often a cascading series of events. You start off with a hurricane then end up with a flood and a chemical explosion that requires you to evacuate despite the rising waters. (That happened during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Texas.) No matter how good your plans are, there are so many variables that something is almost certain to go wrong.
Less than perfect weather conditions are something we all face regularly, and since the weather is a factor in so many different types of emergencies, it only makes sense to learn to handle that with ease. Then, unbothered by the torrential rain, you can go about the business of handling whatever else the crisis has thrown at you.
As Toby says in this video, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.”