Sometimes it feels like mother nature has it out for you. That epic hike you had planned on your first weekend free in months…is now drowned out with rain. So you call it off. But in a SHTF situation, if you need to bug out, you need to bug out. A little weather isn't much to face when there's a disaster behind you, until you get wet and miserable. But not only your mood, if you're not able to stay dry when you're on the run you'll be in big trouble fast.
But before we get into the tips, I want to clear up a few things about the different kinds of outdoor gear. It's confusing until you know what you're buying.
- Water Resistant. Better than a cotton t-shirt, but it won't stop the rain getting to your skin.
- Water Repellant. The next step up, but it's not completely waterproof over an hour or two.
- Waterproof. The weave of the clothing stops all water getting through. The best you can buy.
Personally, I believe everyone should have waterproof gear in their bug out kits. Because you simply never know what you're going to be facing when the SHTF. If you're not able to stay dry, you'll quickly get cold and damp. Getting wet can lead to hypothermia. Which spells disaster. And that's not how you survive.
Keep your feet dry
The first thing to get wet is usually your feet. Invest in a good pair of waterproof hiking shoes and you'll be off to a good start. I find rubber boots too uncomfortable for long hikes, I get tired faster walking in them for too long and my feet sweat far more, which leads to blisters. Not what you want on a big hike. It's also smart to carry a couple of pairs of dry woolen socks, so you can change them out if your feet do happen to get wet. Again, be willing to invest in quality here. Merino wool socks will do you much better than a cheap pair of cotton ones. And if you're in a particularly nasty bit of weather, you can add another layer of protection by slipping your foot inside a plastic bag before donning your shoes. It feels a little weird at first, but it'll keep your feet dry. Oh, and buy a pair of waterproof gaiters to stop water running into your boots. Which is critical. You need to be mobile during a bug out otherwise you're not going to get very far at all.
Keep your body dry
When you're trying to keep your core dry the key is to use layers. Start with a moisture-wicking bottom layer, or a light wool or synthetic shirt. This type of clothing will draw the moisture from your skin, so it can evaporate faster and keep you dry. Above this you need to add a layer of insulation. This works to trap the heat your body generates in, so you're better protected from the cold and wet environment. Look for a fleece or a wool blend that is warm, yet breathable. The final layer is your shell. It's the waterproof barrier that stops any water getting in. It should be water-proof, as it's the first line of defense you have against the rain. Oh and make sure the hood works and will keep your head dry. I recommend investing in a survival poncho like this one, and you'll be set. For pants, I'd recommend trying these on with the boots you're planning to wear, so you can make sure they'll tuck in under the pants and work with your gaiters. That way you won't be sending a torrent of rainwater into your shoes as soon as it starts raining.
Keep your stuff dry
If your budget allows it's well worth the investment to buy a waterproof backpack. It's the only way to keep your things truly dry if you're bugging out and it starts to rain. Otherwise you could always get a waterproof backpack cover. It's the next best thing, and is acutually the technique I use. With my bug out kit I have a two-step process to ensure everything stays dry (and organized). First, I use heavy-duty zip-lock bags to store and separate my bug out gear. It's a lightweight solution, and it makes finding things in my bag super easy. But that's not the best part. Because everything is stored in plastic, if water does happen to make its way into your bag, your gear will stay dry. Then I simply bring out my waterproof cover if it starts raining, and for the most part it'll work a treat.
Improvise a shelter
When the weather turns bad it's not really pleasant to keep hiking. Unless you're on the run for your life or are getting close to your bug out location, I'd actually recommend improvising a shelter to keep yourself warm and dry once it starts raining. One of the items I always carry in my bug out kit is a tarp, which means I can setup a quick rain cover within just a couple of minutes. It's not perfect, but it's definitely nice to keep the water off your head until the storm passes. You could also look for a natural shelter, like an overhang or a dense cluster of trees to help you stay relatively dry.
Staying dry when you're bugging out is critical if you want to make it safely to your final destination. If you're cold and wet, a drop in temperature suddenly becomes very dangerous as you're now risking hypothermia. So follow these steps, and ensure you've got the right gear to keep the cold rain from ruining your disaster plans.