Disclaimer: There is UNSAFE weather. If the weather is potentially dangerous (i.e. hurricane) then no type of gear is good enough.
Disclaimer: I promise this is not an ad, but I do have quite a few recommendations for gear that we use here at the Messy house.
I’m reminded of a phrase my ecology professor and my advisor once told me in college: “A bad day in the field is better than a good day in the lab.” It was something that always stuck with me because being outside doing field work was always more fun for me than being stuck inside the lab either doing the analysis of said field work or working in one of the other labs on campus (i.e. genetics or microbiology).
I started my college career thinking I would be going into forensics. I had wanted to be Dana Scully but when I realized I had to be an MD to be an ME (like actually go to med school and work with live patients) I decided that wasn’t for me so then I thought I would be a forensic scientist (think Abby from NCIS before Abby from NCIS existed) but then realized I’d spend too much time staring at a microscope which wasn’t my strength. My college was a little strange in the fact that as first year students we had to conduct research under a professor so I worked with the professor who would be my first advisor on small mammal tracking, habitat fragmentation and I loved it. Being outside, didn’t matter the weather, setting and looking at tracking plates for small mammals was the best time I had during my first year at college and that set me up for my degree in environmental sciences and my senior research project on small mammals published and presented at the Pennsylvania Academy of Sciences Annual Meeting.
That’s what made me want to write this. I think many of us have gotten too comfortable and unwilling to go outside when it’s not “perfect” weather. Sometimes that means it’s too hot, it’s too cold, it’s too wet; it’s too SOMETHING. I want to encourage you to go outside and take children or other loved ones in your life outside even if the weather isn’t perfect. Start with a few minutes if you can’t manage a whole walk, sit on your front stoop or your back porch. Nature changes when the weather changes; you hear different sounds, you see different animals and you can appreciate nature’s variety.
I am known for taking the Munchkin out in all sorts of weather, especially when it’s rainy. I spent 10 days hiking the Costa Rican rainforest when I was a first year high school student (thanks to my parents and my older brother for that experience) so I had to get comfortable with getting wet and it has translated into being able to take the Munchkin out even when it’s uncomfortable.
The trick is having some good rain clothes and our favorite is the Oaki suit:
I call it her hazmat or Oompa Loompa suit; we bought it a couple years ago quite a few sizes too big because it’s got lots of ways to tighten it up and she has worn it on so many outings. She can even wear it over warmer clothes like a snow suit and it keeps her dry no matter what she’s doing. I chose bright orange so she’s easy to see no matter what environment we happen to be in (and if we accidentally end up in hunting territory). My personal favorite for low key nature walks is my Hunter boots:
I can handle my clothes being wet and I can handle getting rained on but I just cannot handle wet feet and I’ve found the Hunter boots keep my feet nice and dry (thick socks if it’s cold out) through the puddles, mud, and muck of exploring.
When you get outside in different weathers and different times of the day you’ll hear and see a different crew of living things. Not all living things like being out during the heat of the day, not all things like to be out in the rain either but you’ll hear different buzzing on a rainy summer day than you do on a dry, spring day or even a clear and cold winter day.
Each season, time of day, type of weather, wherever you live is going to have it’s own complement of critters. The only way you can experience them is if you’re willing to get out and experience the world on their terms. Human beings are lucky because we’ve created ways for us to participate in life despite whatever the natural world is doing; we’ve taken over almost every area of land, we’ve been able to modify materials to make shelters, we’ve created clothes (by the way, why did we lose the body hair just to make clothes?), we’ve found ways to heat and cool ourselves so suit up and go experience the world in all the different and wonderful ways it can be.
If you are so inclined or your child is old enough to write and interested, you can buy a Rite in the Rain notebook which is an amazing field notebook and you can jot down observations the different times you go out. This allows you (or your children) to practice making observations, you can go back and compare, see what’s different. You can compare the living things across the seasons, you can compare across times of day or types of weather.
We’ve become nature blind, we don’t see the things that are all around us and we hide from the elements when it’s not to our liking. Don’t be afraid to take some time and step outside every day, even when it’s not perfect out you’ll be amazed at the beauty you can still see outside as nature continues to buzz along even in the rain, sleet, cold, or heat.
Get outside and don’t worry, it’s ok to get a little messy!