Survival Training in Bad Weather: “If it ain’t rainin’, you ain’t trainin’!”

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by Daisy Luther

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.

It sucked.

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
  • Rain
  • Extreme heat
  • Extreme cold
  • Sleet/freezing rain
  • Blizzard

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.”

Do you train in bad weather?

Do you cancel your walk, hike, or run because the weather report looks unpleasant? Or do you power through it and go out anyway?  Share your best tips and biggest concerns in the comments.

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

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28 Responses

  1. Funny you posted this today.
    It was 15 degrees this morning. About 4-5 inches of snow.
    Does not matter. Livestock still need fed and watered.
    Walked the dogs too. By then it warmed up to 19 degrees, felt warmer in the sun. But then a cloud bank rolled in, and the wind picked up.
    Keep that in mind too: Wind chill can kill.

    Today, it was wool socks, performance long underwear, jeans, cotton tee-shirt, mil-spec fleece, GORTEX parka shell. Lobster gloves, wool Balaclava, wool knit cap. Winter boots.
    With all that on, I had to unzip the underarm vents on the GORTEX, hands were sweating, opened up the top of the fleece. While it was cold out, I did not feel cold at all.

    Chapstick.

    While it may be cold out, snow on the ground, you can still become a heat case if you are not careful. Humping with a pack and snowshoes and you can find yourself sweating and even overheating from the exertion. Remove layers as necessary. And hydrate!

    1. Mind over Matter
      It dont mind and you don’t matter LMAO

      I’m heading out Friday. I hunt no matter. The only thing that keeps me off high ground is the fog and the lightening.
      I regularly practice starting fires, even at home, in the rain.
      Wind here happens. It’s gotta get above 30mph to even be called wind and 40-50 is common when I hunt so you watch the steps on ridges and canyons and limit your shots to 300 those days.

      Yeah wind in your face, little sleet sting to keep ya awake and you know your alive. Can’t wait

      1. LOL!
        Right!

        Went hunting last year. It was -2 when we first got up. Once the sun broke the horizon, despite the single digits, it felt warm.
        Of course, didnt see a dang thing that day.

          1. I was in several types of military units in the army. We spent 2/3rds of the year “in the field, in many of them, so that once operations started it wasn’t new and there wasn’t an adjustment.
            If you compare this to most “preppers” it’s well under a week a year. Survivalist fare better and in some cases live kinda “out there”. Bushcrafters spend a lot depending on how deep they are in the rabbit hole.
            Old school farmers/ranchers spent the majority of days outside in it. Newer tend to spend more time in pickups and enclosed climate controlled tractors. There is a notable difference even in conversation with them. Even at that though they are better suited to adaptation than other folks.
            It’s like anything else in that if you want to get better you spend more time doing it.

    2. I discovered that lips chap when they get WET. This happens a lot in frigid weather, but I no longer use chapstick or similar. I dry my lips immediately, and they don’t chap.

  2. Great post! After my husband had a heart attack 2 summers ago, we committed to working out, and managed to get in the habit of walking 3 miles 4+ times a week throughout a cold (and wet/snowy) Michigan winter, and I have gotten REALLY good at knowing how to layer clothes to keep the cold out without overheating (sometimes lessons have to be learned the hard way a few times!). I know we CAN do it, and I know how to make it more comfortable, and what I need with me to do so. Wouldn’t have that knowledge without getting out there and doing it.

    That being said, as we have gotten into better shape and the urgency has diminished, we have started to look at the weather and say “I do NOT want to go walking in that” – deep down I hate the cold! So this is a great reminder to just get back out there, regardless. We did go running the other night in pitch black 30 degree weather, which is a shock to the system!

  3. I audibly chuckled when I read the article’s title. I agree with everything you said. As someone who worked in jobs that required being out regardless of the weather conditions, it does give one insight into surviving through those conditions.
    For those without small children, consider Winter Backpacking/Hiking. My wife and I engaged in this before we had children, and once they left the nest, we returned to it, until Degenerative Joint Disease and Heart Issues robbed me of the fun.
    Backpacking in the mountains, in inclement conditions is a workout. Done properly, with the right equipment and supplies, it’s an eye opening experience. Whether snowing or raining, you learn to adapt and improvise, because you can only carry so much with you. You learn very quickly what in your pack is superfluous and what isn’t.
    You’ll go to bed cold, and wake up (in that -30 sleeping bag), knowing as soon as you exit the bag, you’ll be cold, until you start working (whether hiking or consolidating your campsite). If you’ve the opportunity, I highly suggest giving it a try.

    Good article Daisy!

  4. We take the dog out twice a day for a mile walk down/up the mountain. Because of that, we know to put ice grippers on our feet when it’s possibly icy, the high boots when there’s snow, snow shoes when there is a LOT of snow, foot warmers when it’s really cold. We know we’re cold walking down the hill, and sweaty walking back up. We know in the summer to bring a lot of water no matter what the weather is like.

    That being said, we do tend to put off real hikes – long ones – until it’s clear out. I think this is a reminder that we should do those hikes also, regardless of weather!

  5. I cancel cycling & mtn biking when it’s raining; although I’m going to take up Spinning class at my Outdoor gym here in CA when the weather prohibits me from riding. Does being a storm-chasing powder-tree skiing nut count for anything? I LOVE nothing more that being out skiing in the trees at an uncrowded skiing resort during a storm-the nastier the better! There’s nothing like that strange sound of silence, listening to the snow fall in the forest, all by one’s self.

  6. Wow, I needed this post!

    I have 3 books on surviving horrid situations like your ferry boat turning upside down in the North Sea or falling down a ravine while hiking. Bad weather was indeed a major factor. Multiple problems was another.

    Yet it didn’t occur to me to practice outside.

    One thing I have been doing is taking cold showers in the morning until it got so cold I couldn’t make myself. Cold showers are believed to have longevity effects.

    But a hike every day in all weather and sometimes at night should toughen me up a lot and improve my odds of making it through What Is Coming. Whatever that turns out to be.

    On nice days, I will be looking to identify native plants. On bad days, I will search for the same plants to see what they look like in rain or snow.

    1. Try looking for and identifying animal tracks too.

      This morning I found a set of deer tracks, squirrel tracks, and something that I suspect is coy. Even walked up to the chicken coop.

      Seen various types of scat too over this past summer/fall.

  7. I love that statement ““There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” I lived most of my life in Michigan until about 20 years ago so I learned about extreme cold, and moved to the high desert in Northern Nevada where we have 300 sunny days of blue skies a year. That being said the Sierra Nevada Mountains get pretty cold and wet in the winters, (Donner Party anyone?) so I had a custom made fully lined wool and oilskin poncho made for myself. Wearing a wool sweater (from the Aran Isles) and that poncho I’m pretty sure I could sleep comfortably in a snow bank. Getting out no matter the circumstances or weather is the key. When/If the SHTF one thing is for certain, there won’t be any advanced notice giving you time to get in shape or prepare. That time is now.

    Thanks again for the great article and comments.

  8. There is a classic quote about the spirit of this discussion. It is

    “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

    by Vivian Greene

    However … there are some kinds of celestial madness that quote doesn’t cover. I grew up on a farm in Tornado Alley where hail was sometimes as large as two fists and would have split your head wide open if the twain ever met. Lightning can be another sometimes bad gotcha. Being out on the water or in open fields, golf courses or such when that kind of storm comes up is to be avoided if at all possible.

    I also remember when dirt roads thawed out from recent freezes and became so deep-muddy that school buses couldn’t stay out of the ditches, so local farmers were enlisted to use their tractors to retrieve those buses. I also remember when surprise tornadoes were damaging enough to wipe out small towns … and everybody in such communities had root cellars that could double as tornado shelters in a pinch.

    I never lived in earthquake or flood prone regions, but those kinds of threats require different kinds of safety and damage avoidance strategies.

    The point is that some kinds of “storms” are safe enough to “dance” in, but some kinds are flatout deadly. Understanding the difference probably accounts for why many of us here today … are still here today.

    –Lewis

    1. I typically drive without air conditioning – in southern Arizona, even in the summer. I don’t like the loss of power when I run it, and I figure it’s good to stay adaptable. I used to walk in all weather. I find that it’s amazing how much easier it is to deal with the elements, the closer a person is to being a healthy weight. Though, I found my layer of blubber helped me in the cold! So getting outside in the elements helps a person be fitter too and that’s a great prepping activity. (Yes, I’m taking my own advice.)

  9. I can control the weather. Go outside, be active, then stop, look up into the sky and say, “If it ain’t rainin’, we ain’t trainin'” and … it will start to rain. Try it. it works. Even if it doesn’t start raining right away, your friends will fix you with the stink eye and say, “you just had to say that, didn’t you” and then it will start to rain.

    Did moooover shooting in the rain – 300 and 400, prone, with a mat and rain gear, in northern Michigan, in October. Good times.

  10. I do a lot of mountaineering year round in the Rockies (put up maybe 20-25 routes a year). The beauty not only lies in gaining knowledge of various types of terrain and its interaction with the seasons, but also in the fact once summer leaves, the crowds follow with.

    I’ve always been a fan of discomfort…taking ice baths, cold showers, no a/c in the house or truck, intentionally get ravenously hungry and hold out as long as I can. These things get easier the more I see the softening of modern man and woman. It’s very easy to use as motivation to not become a pile of fluff like them.

  11. “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing” Mostly true.

    Once had to stop and wait for the rain to slow down when it was coming down so fast that the water was two inches thick on a steep hillside. My feet were soaked. Another time in the cold and rain, I had a poncho that closed up better than normal, but I got overheated and was soaked from sweating—I was just as wet as if I hadn’t worn the poncho.

    I had a warm down coat whose hood could be zipped off. I unzipped the hood and wore it like a close-fitting cap. Then I had a warm, woolen scarf around my neck. That combo gave my head freedom of movement while losing less heat to the outside, or less cold able to sneak in than if I had worn it as a standard hood. On really cold days, pulled a layer of the scarf over my nose and mouth—the loose knit did almost no impedance to breathing, while acting like a heat exchanger so that the air I breathed was not as cold. It also grew icicles.

    I have a sou’wester rain hat, like what the fishermen wear. I wear that over a poncho instead of the hood that comes with the poncho. It gives my head freedom to turn yet it does a better job of keeping the rain out than does the poncho’s own hood.

    The one thing I have trouble dealing with is desert heat, over 100° F. I can’t sweat fast enough to cool off so my skin feels hot and dry, and painful.

    I keep telling people to dress for the weather because most of the time people are uncomfortable, it’s because they have the wrong clothes for the weather.

  12. I grew up in Michigan and experienced a lot of miserable winters and summers too. When I went into the Marines, they introduced me to real misery. Rain storms. Hard to beat a Vietnam monsoon rain. Heat. Typhoons and hurricanes. Deserts. More, and colder weather back in Michigan.

    I did learn in the Marines that no matter the time of year or location of your deployment, ALWAYS take cold weather gear. After the Corps, I joined the Michigan Air Guard in a security police unit that often trained with Green Berets. One June, I was part of the advance party to Camp Grayling (up in the northern part of the mitten). It was sunny, temps in the 80s, very nice. On Friday, as the rest of the unit arrived, the weather crashed. On Saturday out on the ranges, it was blowing snow. I had my cold weather stuff and was reasonably comfortable. Most everyone else was miserable.

    I hate cold weather and snow however, so now I’m in Florida and occasionally get hurricanes and gully washer rain storms. Every clime and place has its weather peculiarities. One just has to adapt, improvise, and overcome.

    1. “ALWAYS take cold weather gear”

      got on the plane in california in a tee-shirt in december, got off in maryland in a snowstorm. stood looking out the window, uh oh. asked a counter attendant if there was any way I could get a coat somewhere. he angrily asked why I didn’t have coat, I said, “I’m from california I haven’t even owned a jacket for ten years.” the look on his face of mixed contempt and envy was priceless.

      my rental car was half a mile across the parking lot, had to run out to it. almost didn’t make it.

  13. “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.”

    in the desert it can get ridiculously hot and clothing simply doesn’t address that. it’s almost impossible to wear heavy clothing and if you wear light clothing then you’re unprotected from all the sharp rocks and thorns not to mention sunburn. can’t wear gloves with any fabric either because they load up with stickers, but goatskin gloves fill with sweat.

  14. I went through Hurricane Harvey in Texas and several others in the 30 years we lived south of Houston. It was easy, I just stayed in the house. I have a bugout bag but at 68 I’m getting too old to walk very far. I expect to stay home no matter what. With the thermostat set at 72, my wife sleeps with just a sheet over her. I wear pajamas and have two thick blankets over me. Sometimes I get cold anyway and get up and put on a fleece jacket and crawl back under the blankets. I would not survive long in cold weather outside. I guess I just have to be glad I have had a good life so far. If things get bad I will know others have had it worse.

  15. I used to enjoy walking in a blizzard but at the age of 80 now, not quite so much.
    The cold isn’t as bad as the warming up once you are inside again. I like being outside once I make myself go out. Another thing to think about in high wind is tree branches falling. They don’t call them widow makers for nothing.

  16. I started doing Six Klicks of Sprints for lunch every day rain or shine, hot or cold, a couple years ago. I’m in the best shape I’ve been since leaving the military three decades ago. It’s amazing how running until you are out of breath takes your mind away from work and the world, and more amazing how you come back ready to attack the rest of the day.

    My young colleagues still laugh when they see several pieces of soaked gear hanging to dry in my office as they return from their over-carbed cafeteria lunches. The only downside to doing more home-office these days is not having the implicit bragging rights that come with showing the youngsters that life is not over when you are over forty or fifty or sixty.

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