It’s almost spring — prepare for winter storms

The official first day of spring is Sunday, but Mother Nature might still have a few winter storms in store for us. Get outside if you can.

Some of the worst weather I’ve ever encountered has hit me out of the blue this time of year. Back before I had the responsibilities of a job, a wife and kids, I couldn’t wait to shake off the effects of a long winter by heading for the hills. I usually packed enough gear to keep warm if the weather turned nasty. But if I forgot to take the cold-weather gear, it never failed. The clouds rolled in and opened up, and I’d be soaked and shivering in nothing flat.

Murphy’s Law has definitely been hard on me. But I’d rather carry a heavier pack and not have to use anything in it than go into the woods with just the clothes on my back and wish I had more. These days, when I go outside, I make darn sure I’m prepared for the worst. It’s easier to do now than it was when I was a kid, anyway. You can get really good waterproof gear that’s also pretty warm, and a lot of that stuff is lightweight and compact.

Back when I weighed a hundred pounds soaking wet, my spring pack was half my weight. Maybe that was why I was soaking wet so often. I had to use my dad’s old oiled canvas and wool coat, and that sucker weighed at least 20 pounds. I had a pair of Carhartt bibs to keep my lower half warm in case the sun decided to call in sick. Not only was the pack heavy, it was huge. I’ll never forget the day I got my first piece of Gore-Tex. Actually, it wasn’t mine. I kind of snared it out of my dad’s gear closet. It was a bit too big, but I didn’t care. It fit in the small front pocket of my day pack, leaving plenty of room for the important stuff, like Zingers, Kit-Kats and root beer. I could have packed lighter, but I figured since I was used to hauling that much weight, I might as well tote some good stuff along.

Seriously, though, if you head outside, especially this time of year, be prepared. Take extra clothes, maybe something to use for shelter, and a way to make a fire, at the very least. The weather can turn in a hurry, and you don’t want to be caught off guard.