What, you’re just going to stay in?!
Next time you hear thunder, I wouldn’t necessarily cancel your plans. Storms in the northeast are a real treat if you’re looking for unique experiences. Like a bad winter, there’s never a better time to create great memories and great stories than during a massive storm.
I love storms. I treat them like opportunities rather than nuisances. Going out in the worst weather possible and doing, well, anything is a great way to spice up your outdoors repertoire. Plus, if you can adjust your perspective to appreciate a good storm as its own unique challenge, you’ll never need to raincheck another trip. Whether it’s backpacking, biking, hiking, or camping, I’m always down for a little rain.
I was out during both of the last two major hurricanes. In 2011, Hurricane Irene wrecked the Northeast, flooding out hundreds of roads in my neck of the woods, just south of Vermont. The Green Mountain State got it worse than anyone else, and even New York City flooded. It was a helluva storm, and I snapped this picture while out for a bike ride just after an 8-hour shift with my campus police department. This is one of several flood chutes for the Hoosic River, and that water is upwards of ten feet deep.
Jim and I camped out during the next big storm, Hurricane Sandy. We made a joke to Jim’s girlfriend Brittany that we were going to hammock camp during the hurricane on Mt. Greylock (she didn’t think it was funny after the damage of Irene), and the joke stuck around long enough to where we actually walked through the details of it. We ended up hiking up Mt. Greylock to the summit, where a small stone lodge next to the parking lot serves as an emergency shelter for thru-hikers. Vandals kept breaking the windows, so they put in bulletproof glass. Perfect for hurricanes!
We didn’t take many pictures, but we were adjacent to a 60-foot tree as it fell, and we managed to take video on the summit of Jimmy being lifted off the ground by the force of the wind. I’m recording, and you can watch it on youtube here.
We went camping at Tim’s Cabin over in Conway last week, and it poured buckets on us. My friends Ian and Fabian and I all pitched tents rather than hunkering down in the luxurious cabin Tim built himself, and since we were all on tent platforms, we failed to get good stake-outs. All five of us (the girlfriends included) had wet tent floors and wet shoes, but synthetic sleeping bags and foam pads behave nicely in wet environments, so it didn’t bother us too much.
I got a little taste of stormchasing on the coast of New Jersey last week. A big thunderstorm tore across Cape May, shutting down cell service in two states and stirring up some huge ocean waves. It was a wild storm, and I spent a good part of it out on the balcony, soaking wet, desperately trying to capture a lightning strike. I failed, but I did get some cool pictures of the carnage.
The Storm Camping How-To
Getting out when the weather won’t cooperate is much more comfortable with a few essential pieces of gear. Here’s my stormproof setup for touring and camping.
First things first, you’ve got to have good rain gear. A major storm can threaten hypothermia in the middle of summer, so having a stormproof outfit is key for weatherproof outdoor activity. I use a raincoat, rain pants, quick-drying shoes, and waterproof socks.
- EMS Helix Jacket – This is a great 3-layer jacket at a 2-layer price. EMS usually has this and the Anorak version on sale for less than half of what something like an Arcteryx shell would cost. The DWR lasts about a year (mine needs a retreatment).
- Outdoor Research Men’s Foray Pant, Black, Medium – I find that I only really need 2.5 layer rain pants. I like these for the full zips on either side, since a summer storm can still be sweltering hot.
- Gore Waterproof Socks – These are a better compromise for warm, dry feet than waterproof boots or shoes. Water gets in over the top of your shoes anyways; these paired with wool socks keep my feet cozy and I just ignore how wet my shoes are getting.
- Merrell Men’s Vapor Glove 2 – There’s nothing to these minimalist shoes. They dry in a few hours on my feet. I bring them bike touring as camp shoes, and wear them in rain with my bike cleats safely stowed in my bags.
On top of your rain gear, a decent tent (spend more than $150) will be a shelter through almost any weather. Some people have 4-season tents with stronger poles for storms, but I find with good tent placement using topography as a windbreak, a 3-season tent will last through the worst tropical storms. I’ve taken my cheap-o Stoic 3-season through several storms and have yet to see any damage.
Last but not least… Be comfortable getting a bit wet. No matter how good your rain gear is, being wet is inevitable. Pack a fleece or a synthetic puffy, and focus on how lame your weekend would have been if you stayed in watching Netflix.