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Severe Weather Safety in the Backcountry: How to Stay Prepared and Protected

James Michalski

Created: 3/13/2024

Updated: 4/19/2024


Exploring the backcountry can be a thrilling and awe-inspiring experience. The untouched beauty of nature and the sense of adventure draws outdoor enthusiasts off the beaten path. However, the backcountry has its risks, especially when storms hit.

Knowing how to stay safe during unpredictable weather conditions is crucial whether you're an avid hiker, paddler, camper, or backpacker. This article will discuss essential tips and precautions to ensure your backcountry adventures remain enjoyable and secure, even when faced with severe weather.

Plan Thoroughly and Stay Informed

Proper planning is the foundation of backcountry safety, especially regarding weather. Before embarking on any trip, research the weather forecast for the area and the duration of your adventure. Pay attention to potential storms, thunderstorms, extreme temperatures, or other severe weather warnings that might affect your route and decision-making.

How you stay informed about sudden weather changes once you are off-grid can be a challenge. Adiona Alert is the perfect solution to ensure you will be notified when severe weather could impact your adventure, using the satellite communicator you are likely already carrying. Based on your location, we will send you a message as soon as possible once the National Weather Service or other public safety agency issues a severe weather, flash flooding or safety alert.

Share Your Itinerary

Please always tell someone about your planned itinerary, including your expected return date. Share the details of your route, campsite locations, and any alternative plans you might have in case of bad weather or other emergency.

Access to communication can be limited in the backcountry. Using a satellite communicator like a Garmin InReach or a Zoleo is an incredible benefit, especially when you add the ability to receive immediate notifications when severe weather or safety alerts, regardless of where you are.

Pack Adequate Clothing and Gear

Being appropriately dressed and equipped can significantly impact your safety during severe weather. Please pack clothing suitable for layering, regardless of the forecast. Even if the weather is expected to be warm, conditions can change rapidly, particularly in mountainous regions. Bring rain gear, a sturdy tent, and a warm sleeping bag rated for lower temperatures than you anticipate.

Additionally, carry a first-aid kit, a GPS device or map and compass, a satellite communicator, a multi-tool, and enough food and water to last beyond your expected trip duration.

Monitor the Sky and Surroundings

While enjoying your backcountry adventure, always remain vigilant of the signs of changing weather. Watch the sky for dark clouds, shifting winds, or sudden temperature drops. Listen for distant thunder or other atmospheric disturbances. When in doubt, trust your instincts and err on the side of caution by seeking shelter or making necessary changes to your route.

However, your ability to observe approaching weather can be limited by your surroundings and knowledge of the area and its weather patterns. More importantly, once you notice strong winds, a lightning strike, a thunderstorm or other severe weather coming, it might be difficult or even impossible to find shelter. Our severe weather alerts delivered directly to your satellite communicator are invaluable. They may even save your life.

Seek Adequate Shelter

When severe weather strikes, finding suitable shelter is crucial. You can head to your tent or shelter immediately if you are near your campsite. If hiking or backpacking, avoid taking refuge under tall trees or other tall objects, as they can attract lightning strikes. Instead, look for natural depressions or low-lying areas away from ridges or open spaces. In extreme conditions, crouch down low with your feet together to minimize the risk of lightning strikes.

If You Are On or Near Water

During severe weather, stay away from rivers, streams, or other bodies of water. Flash floods and rising water levels can occur suddenly and pose significant dangers to backcountry travellers. Please cross streams with caution and only when necessary, and understand the potential risks beforehand.

Water is unpredictable as it conducts strong winds, so you should always remain on land until the bad weather passes. If you're swimming, leave the water immediately when you see a lightning strike or hear thunder. If you're kayaking or sailing, go to shore if a storm hits. Be aware in areas where the river or creek can get affected by flash flooding. If there are flash floods, go to higher ground. Avoid crossing flooded waters, as the undercurrent could cause sweep you away.

Wait It Out

If you encounter severe weather unexpectedly, the best action might be to wait it out. Find shelter or create a temporary one using a tarp or emergency bivouac. Remain calm and patient until conditions improve or until you can safely proceed with your journey.


Backcountry travel offers a unique opportunity to connect with nature but demands respect and caution, especially regarding storm safety. Please remember that preparation, awareness, and staying informed are essential for your protection and those around you. By planning thoroughly, packing appropriate gear, and making informed decisions, you can minimize the risks and make the most of your backcountry adventures, even in the face of challenging weather conditions.

Subscribing to Adiona Alert significantly enhances backcountry severe weather safety by ensuring you receive severe weather, flash flooding or safety alerts issued by the National Weather Service or other public safety agency immediately based on your location. We allow you to weather the storm safely and enjoy everything the great outdoors offers.

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