Tent Camping Tips

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Weather Forecasting


This section is an excerpt from the book, Camping’s Top Secrets by Cliff Jacobson.   To see a full review for this book, check out Camping’s Top Secrets.   It is full of useful tent camping tips for spotting bad weather while camping:


“Every outdoors person should have a basic understanding of weather phenomena and be able to make reasonably accurate short-term weather predictions.   Some campers take forecasting quite seriously; they arm themselves with min/max thermometers, barometers, cloud charts, and weather tables.   Whether or not this paraphernalia will improve your short-range forecasts is debatable.   After all, primitive man is right on target more than 80 percent of the time simply by looking at the sky, sensing the wind, and “feeling” the weather.   You can approximate this enviable success rate by applying these time-proven principles:


1.   “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight; red sky in the morning, sailor take warning.”   Translation: A red morning sky indicates possible rain that day; a red evening sky suggests the next day will be clear.   The color difference relates to the reflective value of the low-lying cloud cover.


2.   Check the grass, tent, canoe bottom, or whatever for the presence of dew in late evening or early morning.   A heavy dew at either of these times usually suggests eight to twelve hours of good weather.


3.   Watch the smoke from your campfire.   If it hangs low (a function of low pressure) to the ground, rain is on the way.   If it rises high into a nice vertical column (high pressure), count on good weather.


4.   Check out the air bubbles in your coffee cup.   They’ll ring the edges of the cup when a low pressure (rain) system sets in.


5.   You can sometimes smell a coming storm, as the low pressure allows methane (swamp gas) to rise and drift with the current.   In boggy areas the odor is quite pronounced.


6.   “When the peacock loudly bawls, there’ll be both rain and squalls.”   Translation: Birds sing loudly just before a storm.


7.   Geese and seagulls usually won’t fly just before a storm.   Low-pressure air is thin and it’s hard for them to get airborne.


8.   The ears of many animals are sensitive to low pressure.   Wolves will howl before a storm.   Dogs will become nervous and emit howls or howl-like sounds.


9.   To determine the distance of a lighting strike, count the seconds between the flash and the thunder boom.   Divide by five and you’ll have your answer in miles.


10. Noises all become louder and more vibrant just before a rain, because the sound is reflected and magnified by the low clouds.   The croaking of frogs, yodel of loons, etc., will echo loudly if rain is imminent.


11.   Be alert for changes in wind direction.   Storms are whirlpools of wind that rotate counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere (remember high school science?).   The adage “Wind from the south brings rain in its mouth” is the keystone here, as the wind that precedes a storm usually blows from the south.   Counterclockwise wind shifts therefore usually bring rain, while clockwise movements indicate fair weather.   You can keep these directional changes straight by remembering the rhymes…

“Wind from the east brings weather that’s a beast.”   (Suggest a counterclockwise wind shift from the south to east, east to north, and so on.)

“Wind from the west brings weather that’s best.” (Suggests a clockwise wind shift from south to west, north to east, etc.)


12.   Most everyone knows that frogs emerge from the water just before a storm and croak their fool heads off.   Frogs breathe partly through their skin (which must be kept moist), so when the humidity rises just before a storm, they climb ashore and sing happily.


13.   If you’re a canoeist, you know that about eight to twelve hours before a storm, mosquitoes and blackflies begin to swarm and bite more than usual.   Up to two hours before the storm they quit biting altogether.


14.   Check out the rainbow: A heavy red may mean more rain; vibrant rich blue suggests clear skies ahead.


15.   Here’s an old Down East proverb: “Filly tails make lofty ships wear low sails.”   Translation: Thin, hairlike clouds forecast rain within the day.   These “filly tails” are really streaks of ice thrown skyward by the rising air of a coming storm.


16.   “A mackerel sky [tiny scalelike clouds that resemble a mackerel’s back], just twenty-four hours dry.” Translation: Expect rain within the next day!


17.   Any fireflies around?   When rain approaches, these little insects light up the woods, according to this rhyme: “When the little glow bug lights his lamp, the air around is surely damp.”


18.   Listen for the rustle of leaves as the wind precedes the storm.


19.   If you can’t see the sharp points on a half moon, rain may be on its way.   Translation: Low clouds and haze distort sharp images.


20.   Bright, twinkling stars usually indicate high altitude winds, which may be bringing in a storm.


21.   There’s a good chance that foul weather (rain or snow) will fall within three days of a new moon phase.


22.   “The weather out west had best be best, for tomorrow will bring it to you to test!”   This means that in all likelihood, the weather system to your west will be at your location tomorrow.


23.   In summer a sun dog, or halo around the sun, generally predicts the coming of rain.   Sun dogs are caused by sunlight streaming through the ice particles of high cirrostratus clouds.   A halo around the moon may also indicate rain.


24.   “Evening fog will not burn soon, but morning fog will burn before high noon.”   Invariably, a fog-borne day will become perfectly clear (an ideal day) by noon.   Fog forms when water vapor reaches the dew point and condenses on dust particles near the ground.   When the day heats up, the fog evaporates and turns to invisible water vapor.


25.   “Short notice, soon it will pass.   Long notice, expect it to last.”   Watch the clouds.   If they take several days to build, a warm front- and prolonged rain- is usually in the offing.   If the storm system builds suddenly, it will probably pass quickly.


26.   And of course everyone knows: “Rain before seven, dry by eleven.”


*To get some unconventional camping tips, take a look at outdoor camping tips.


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