Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Winter Preparation

It's that time of year again, time to start gearing up for what I often call the upcoming Dark Monsoon: the gloomy and blustery rainy months that turn the homeless experience here into a daily struggle to be dry at least while sleeping (almost impossible to accomplish during the day if walking around a lot) and avoid chronic bronchitis and walking pneumonia. I'm pretty sure I'm going to be outdoors all fall and winter, and perhaps even all the way into next fall even, so it would behoove me to use the next couple months of likely fair to middlin' weather (NOAA's Climate Prediction Center estimates a 33% to 40% chance of above-average dryness and heat through the end of November) to do a bit of pre-emptive weatherproofing.

What all does this entail? I remember reading once that the U.S. cavalry used to have a motto describing in ascending the order of priority of equipment: “First the horse, then the saddle, then the rider.” In the case of being homeless I suppose it would go something like this: “First the clothing, then the bedding, then the camp (etc.).” Even if you don't have a good tent or a good sleeping bag you can at least manage to get through the night curled up in layers of clothing on top of some cardboard and covered up by a tarp or whatever else is on hand in a windbreak or beneath an overhang; though chances are you won't be very comfortable and sleep will be at best fitful, you won't get soaked through or freeze. The main thing is keeping dry and sleeping dry; fortunately for us, low overnight temperatures and snow aren't as much a concern in this part of the country as in much of the rest of it. In my case I figure the following...

  1. Clothing
    • Long johns, specifically the expensive synthetic ones that can be washed by hand and hung out to dry.
    • Rain gear, consisting of a poncho and rain pants.
    • Heavier general-purpose clothing, such as a couple hoodies or flannels, a medium jacket, and jeans.
    • Boots and a waterproof, wide-brimmed hat.
    • Other items such as wool fingerless gloves, a scarf, and maybe wool leggings to sop up water dripping off my poncho.
  2. Bedding
    • A decent sleeping bag with a comfort rating of 10°F, or enough lighter-duty sleeping bags and blankets to keep me warm during the colder nights.
    • A good medium-sized tarp for when the rain is driven by wind out of the north or northwest, with whatever poles or ropes or carabiners are needed to erect it. (A tent could attract unwanted police attention, even if just erected overnight, though a free-standing one-man may work.)
  3. Camping (etc.)
    • I'm either going to keep sleeping on my loading dock, take over another one nearby with better cover, or move back to the freeway confluence I used to sleep at. (Winter is no time of year to pitch a tent in the woods!)
    • A tactical daypack with a good rain fly.
    • Another can of bear mace, and a head lamp for when it gets pitch black by 5:00 PM.

Sounds involved and expensive, doesn't it? Not so much the latter, but a bit of the former because I'll be doing a lot of scrounging, finagling, and shopping for most of what I need. I can probably get a sleeping bag or other bedding for free, also the boots (I know where there's a massive give-away of them every third Friday of the month); and aside from the rain pants and poncho, clothing is pretty cheap in thrift stores if you check them regularly for colored-tag sales and items the Russians and Mexicans somehow managed to overlook in their locust shopping sprees. In fact, the only things I figure I'll end up canning money for to pay for out of pocket is my long johns, rain gear, hat, the hoodies or flannels, the jacket, boot socks, bear mace, head lamp, and backpack (or at least the rain fly for one). In the two months I figure I have to get ready, I think I can manage at least most of the more crucial items on this list. I hope.

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