Autumn was only a few days old when parts of Washington, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming were hit with an unusual snowfall. Unusual not only because it was still September but also because the snowfall was heavy, wet and in some places record breaking.
While Nevada was relatively unaffected by the storm, it should serve as a reminder to hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts of how fast weather conditions change.
In early October 2018, a group of experienced hunters was trapped by wind-driven snows in the mountains of Southwestern Utah. Though the hunters were in an area they were familiar with, the sudden storm showed them no mercy. Luckily, the local search and rescue team located them and brought them to safety.
Nine years earlier, elk hunters on Arizona’s Coconino Plateau were stranded by heavy snows in various states of distress. According to newspaper accounts, some of the hunters had little in the way of supplies, while others had enough food, water and propane to last a few extra days. Some hunters abandoned their vehicles or camp and walked out, but others hunkered down and waited for help.
Some might think, “I have a recreational vehicle with a water tank and a stove, I have no reason to worry.” But what happens if you get caught by an old-fashioned Nevada cold snap and your water lines freeze? Do you have an alternative plan to fill that need? And what if the propane runs out or the batteries die?
Whenever one goes into the backcountry, no matter how good the roads are, no matter whether you camp or glamp, and no matter how pleasant the weather when you leave, it always pays to go prepared for the possibilities.
Obviously, what you bring depends on the space available in your means of transportation and the number of people with you. The key is using that available space to its maximum efficiency.
When it comes to clothing, it’s always a good idea to bring items that fit the current weather conditions and what they could be. In Nevada, an October or November hunt can be hot, comfortable, freezing cold or a combination of all three. Skies can be bluebell clear or cloudy and rainy.
For food and water, you should have enough to last an extra four or five days in case something unexpected happens. Some people prefer to cook from recipes, but you also might consider carrying some dehydrated meals. They are lightweight, take up little space, require the minimal use of propane and use little water.
Being prepared also applies to your sleeping gear. Don’t skimp here or on your footwear. Claustrophobia mandates that I have an oversized bag that will cover a range of temperatures, but I always carry two military surplus wool blankets.
Other things to consider are the tools and materials that will enable you to provide shelter and water, build a fire or signal for help. And don’t forget your round-nose shovel, a tow strap and a come-along, or hand winch. If you don’t understand why, give it some time. One day you will be glad you threw them in.
Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the department. Any opinions are his own. Find him on Facebook at @dougwritesoutdoors. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.