While caught in severe weather yesterday with torrential rains pouring down, I made an observation that may help you stay a bit drier if you’re out in the woods and you too are caught in the pouring rain…
This really is a common-sense observation, but one worth repeating.
First and foremost, it is ultimately best if you are wearing proper rain gear and have other appropriate gear to shelter you from the rain (kind of a “duh…”)
Having said that, and as I was sitting under a man-made canopy at my camp location when the storm ripped through the area… I clearly noticed how despite the fact that it had started pouring torrential rain, there were two areas near me, under the trees, where it was amazingly dry. And it stayed that way for quite some time. In fact there were distinct differences in the ‘dryness’ underneath one type of tree versus another…
It makes sense to understand how the rain will first hit the canopy of the tree tops, their branches and leaves, and then eventually drip their way down lower until it all finally reaches the bottom beneath the tree canopy. However, the leaves and overall shape of the branches will determine how much of the rain water will make it down to the area surrounding the tree’s trunk.
There were two types of trees nearby… paper-birch (left) and hemlock (right).
The paper-birch has fairly wide and numerous leaves and the hemlock is packed with branches of fine ‘needles’. The area beneath both types of trees remained dry for a surprising length of time, however it became very clear that the area surrounding the base of the hemlock trees remained dry for significantly longer!
Why? Two reasons…
1. The finely packed needles on all of the branches created more surface area to capture the rain as compared with the birch. If you were beneath each tree variety, and looked up to the sky, you will see less sky underneath the hemlock.
2. The branches of the hemlock were all draped downwards, and slanted down and AWAY from the center of the tree. The majority of the rain water would hit the branches/needles and flow outward and drip off the ends of the branches, whereas the birch branches and leaves are pretty much random in direction. In fact it appears that the birch branches actually protrude out and slight upwards which would lend itself to draw the water in somewhat…
Like I said earlier, it’s common sense really… if you’re caught in a rainstorm outside in the woods, hiking or whatever, look for trees with densely packed leaves/branches that are sloping down and away from the center of the tree’s trunk. You will be amazed how much drier it will remain underneath those trees! Keeping you and your gear dry is an important thing when it comes to survival!
admission: I was sort of ‘cheating’ when referring to being ‘caught’ in the rain… I was actually sitting comfortably underneath the trailer’s porch canopy while enjoying a mini vacation here in NH 😉
caveats: Regarding CG lightning (cloud-to-ground) it should go without saying (common sense), but for shelter from a quick storm/downpour you should not pick a tree that stands alone, you should not pick a tree which is taller than the rest, and you should NEVER stand/refuge or build a shelter out in the open… all due to the risk of lightning (which typically strikes the tallest thing in the area).
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