Digital Nomadism and Weather

The weather is a huge variable when Nomadic Working. It makes or breaks an entire day’s work if you’re not careful! But you probably know that by now, so let’s get into a few things I’ve learned about dealing with the weather. Let’s figure out how to make it work for us.

My Experience: Locations

I grew up in Southern California, and then spent 7 years in Bristol, England. Now I live in Fort Collins, Colorado. Those 3 locations alone represent a huge range of conditions, but they’re not quite Antarctica or The Sahara, so if you’ve experienced more extreme conditions, please leave your knowledge in the comments!

California’s Coast and Desert

Like I said, I grew up here. I spent a lot of years both in the ‘High Desert’ (inland SoCal) and the southern coast, around Orange County. Surprisingly, they’re both very different. The High Desert is just what it sounds like — technically a desert — it’s arid and dry. But the elevation is relatively high, sitting just below the mountains. This means we get some crazy thunder and lightning storms in summer, and snow in the winter. But it always remains very dry, with low humidity.

Orange County is a different beast altogether. There’s quite a bit of annual rainfall (for California) and it’s pretty high humidity throughout the year. Lots of year-round clouds and even foggy mornings. I remember cycling to school along the Santa Ana Riverbed Trail and being drenched with fog by the time I arrived. In the winter it can get as cold as about 50°F, and summers well above 100°F. Not a nice combination really.

Bristol, England

Bristol is like Seattle with an English accent. It pretty much rains a lot. When it’s not raining, it’s almost raining. But it doesn’t get all that cold… probably around 35°F is the low in winter, and then a max of about 85°F in the few weeks of ‘sunny’ summer. Humidity is obviously high year-round.

Fort Collins, Colorado

Right at the foot of The Rockies, the ‘Front Range’ area out here is actually a lovely mix of weather. We get a fair bit of snow in the (long) winter, but it’s never unmanageable. Not like the Arctic or anything, but it’s not unusual for 18″ to drop in a couple days in the dead of winter, and then stick around for a month before it happens again. There’s not a lot of rain, but we get those same lightning and thunder storms in the summer, just like in the High Desert. They’re beautiful. The air is very dry year-round at this elevation of almost 6,000 feet!


I’ve also spent quite a bit of time in the Austrian Alps, the South of England, some mainland Europe countries, Scandinavia and Mediterranean countries. It’s funny how — when you’ve never been somewhere — there’s this idea that it’s like some alien world, but really, the variations in weather never seem to be all that marked.

Things I’ve Learned

Check the forecast

Duh, right? Checking tomorrow’s (or next week’s) forecast is a no-brainer. Grab yourself a good weather app and use it — especially if you’re going to be outdoors a lot. Specifically, you’re looking for ambient temperature and the other things that could throw a wrench in the cogs of your workday, like rain, snow, sleet, storms etc. Congratulations, you’re now an informed person.

Dress Accordingly

Now that you’ve checked the weather, you know what you’re in for. Dress smartly for tomorrow’s weather, but don’t forget to take into account today. We’ve all been victims of bad forecasts, but we know with 100% certainty what the weather is like right now, and the likelihood is that tomorrow won’t be much different. So if it’s 75° and sunny, but the forecast says -14° and sleet, then you’re either headed for an impending apocalypse or the weatherman is a few crayons short of a full box. Hedge your bets wisely; the weather can change with the wind.

Pack Accordingly

If it’s supposed to rain tomorrow you may want to use that waterproof pack you bought last year. Or, you may want to run to the store and grab a can of ScotchGuard® and settle in for a night of beer & spraying. Oh yeah, and if you’re the sort that uses an umbrella, well, dust it off and pack it. Think ahead — imagine yourself stuck in Seattle without a car or apartment, wandering the city. How do you want to be prepared for that?

Plan your Transportation

Days that are too hot, too wet or too cold are a quick route toward a day of interruptions. If it’s going to be 100° out, you should probably consider finding a place to work indoors during the hotter hours. But you’ll also need a way to get there and back. Think about how you’ll move about your location throughout the day. Put a rough timeline into your noggin and, if necessary, make prior arrangements for transportation. Don’t get stuck in bad weather — it can really ruin a an otherwise productive day.

Challenge Yourself

All of this talk of being prepared gets kinda boring. Being a Nomadic Worker is about exploration as much as preparation, so don’t just think of ways to stay comfortable, also think of ways you can test your limits, equipment and ideas. I recently explored my own limits this last winter. I wanted to know how cold it needed to be before I could no longer work productively. With my portable propane heater and several inches of snow on the ground, I’d make sure to work outside and glance at the temperature. After a month of various trials, I learned that I could work in cold as low as 12°F for up to 3 hours with my heater. But perhaps more importantly, I gained a much more broad understanding of my limits in the cold.

In Summary

The general idea here is to simply be aware, so that you can prepare. Like so many things, it’s the simpler actions that have the biggest impact upon life. As I work over the years, I’m continually surprised at how few people take the time to think a day ahead. And yet the consequences remain the same. Think ahead, be informed, then do something about that information to make your life of Nomadic Working easier and challenge yourself.