Being surprised by an unexpected storm leaves you vulnerable. Every seafaring person (of which I am one) knows that weather is a key element to safe travel. That's why we spend some time each day looking at the sky, monitoring wind shifts, reading the barometer, thermometer, and calculating relative humidity. The same goes for outdoor enthusiasts of every stripe. Keeping an eye on the sky and watching a few basic instruments to discern what's coming is a most important skill.
Reading the weather clues in the sky is a good start for doing your own weather forecasting (and it may be all you have to work with after a disaster or if you're lost in the wilderness), but with the addition of a few pieces of equipment, you can have a head start on figuring out what the weather is going to do.
It's always a good idea to read or listen to what the pros have to say. NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) is the big dog in the world of weather forecasting through their National Weather Service. You can access local and regional forecasts via the Internet, smart phones, or a portable weather radio.
A couple of great examples of portable weather radios are the $34.95 Oregon Scientific WE601N (www.oregonscientificstore.com), and the $49.99 Midland HH54VP2 (www.midlandradio.com). In addition to regular weather reports, these “all hazards” radios broadcast warnings and post-event information for all types of hazards: weather (tornadoes, floods, etc.), natural disasters (earthquakes, forest fires, volcanic activity, etc.), technological (chemical releases, oil spills, nuclear power plant emergencies, etc.), and national emergencies such as terrorist attacks.
If you want to combine the ability to receive weather information along with your GPS coordinates, the Garmin GPSMAP 496 (www.garmin.com) allows you to subscribe to XM WX Satellite Weather that transmits real-time high-resolution animated weather data and NEXRAD weather radar. Depending on your choice of service plan (starting at $9.95 per month), you can view as many as 20 different types of weather information.
Wow! A far cry from holding a wet finger up in the wind.