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The NV desert has extremes of temperature and this needs to be considered while planning when you'll take a Front Sight course.

However, as one who is both very heat-intolerant and also who survived 108 temperatures, if you take sensible precautions, you'll manage even at the worst times of year.

 
 
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Weather Issues at Front Sight

It gets hot in the desert!
 

The Nevada desert is strangely beautiful, but fiercely hot in summer.

Part of a series on the Front Sight Firearms Training Institute; what it does, how it does it, and its relevance for you.  Please click the links on the right hand side for other parts of the series.

 

 

The searing heat of the summer desert in Nevada is certainly something to factor in to when you schedule a visit to Front Sight, although they close down in July and August when temperatures are at their worst.

In June and September, if you are careful with hydration and sunscreen you should be able to manage the heat, which is made more bearable by a very low humidity.

Appreciate also that in the coldest months (December and January) night time temperatures will drop below freezing most nights, and you'll need to protect yourself against the cold at that time of year.

The desert's weather should not discourage you from attending a Front Sight course, but you do need to plan for and respond to the weather you'll likely encounter there.

What Weather to Expect

Here is an interesting table, taken from this site showing the average and extreme temperatures for Pahrump, which is probably the closest official weather station to the Front Sight location and so gives a good indication of the weather to expect at Front Sight.

As an amusing aside, the weather in Pahrump very closely matches the weather in Baghdad.

Interpreting this Information

Note that the temperatures vary rapidly from month to month.  So if you are going in the early part of a month, expect the temperatures to be halfway between the month's numbers and the preceding month's numbers, and if you are going late in a month, expect temperatures somewhere between that month and the following month.

In the hot months, plan for the daily temperature to be somewhere between the average daily high and the maximum daily high as a realistic probable worst case scenario.

I was there between 2 - 7 September, and we had daily highs over 100 every day, and peaked at about 108.  This is in line with the calculations to do in the preceding two paragraphs - ie, expecting the temperatures to be a blend of Aug and Sep temperatures, and expecting highs to be more than the average high but less than the all-time maximum high.

When I visited in late October, daily highs seldom got much over 70, but that too is consistent if you look at a blend of Oct and Nov temperatures.

In the cold months, you'll be focusing more on the minimum temperature each day rather than the maximum, and this gets a bit harder to establish, because the coldest temperatures for each 'day' (actually, 24 hour period of day and night) are typically encountered at about 5am or thereabouts in the morning.

So look at the spread between the average daily high (which will probably be reached in early/mid afternoon) and average daily low and use that as your realistic worst case day scenario.  For your night shoot, expect temperatures to be reasonably close to the average daily low.

The Effect of Humidity

The desert humidity is very low.  This is a good thing during the summer - it makes it easier for your body to regulate its heat by sweating, but it also means you'll lose water even more rapidly.

So the heat is more bearable than if the humidity were higher, but your risk of dehydration increases commensurately (see below).

Clothing Strategies

You probably already know this - wear layers of comfortable clothing that you can easily add to or take off.

In the summer, wear light colored clothing.  Amazingly, there was one person in our group who was wearing black long trousers and a black long sleeved shirt (I asked him why and he said it was a mistake - that's surely the truth!).

Avoiding Dehydration

There's an important concept to understand when avoiding dehydration.  It is necessary to drink water in advance of needing it.  If you feel thirsty, you are already entering the initial stages of dehydration.

So drink water even though you don't feel you need to drink it.  As a rule of thumb, in hot weather, have a glass of water after every time on the range, and more as needed.

Consider occasionally drinking some diluted Gatorade or other 'sports drink' with electrolytes in it as well as plain water.

Avoiding dehydration starts before you arrive in the morning - start drinking more water than normal the night before, and minimize your consumption of things that dehydrate you - namely alcohol and coffee.

During the course of the day, there's a way you can monitor your state of hydration.  Keep a track on how regularly you urinate (it should be at least as frequently as normally) and ensure that when you do, the color is light to clear rather than intense.

If you follow these guidelines, you should have no problem.

But, inexplicably, not everyone does.  In the one range I was on, out of a group of 40 to start with, we had one person (a fit healthy woman in her early 20s) who had to be admitted to hospital and placed on an IV drip after getting severely dehydrated on the first day (maximum temperature somewhere slightly above 105F/40C), another couple drop out due to not being able to manage the heat, several people having to shelter inside for half a day or so at a time, and a fourth person (a healthy fit middle aged man) had to drop out on the last day due to dehydration.  So weather - and people's response to it - really was an issue.

Hydration even when it is not hot

Due to the very low humidity, you will be losing about a quart of water a day just due to breathing in and out, even in moderate temperatures.

So you need to be sensitive to the need to drink much more than you think you need, even in moderate desert temperatures.

Avoiding Sunburn

Coat all exposed flesh with a good SPF-30 or slightly stronger sunblock.

Because some studies have suggested that stronger sunblocks have increasing concentrations of chemicals that may have carcinogenic properties, we generally try to avoid using sunblock greater than SPF-30.

Generally one application of sunblock will not last for a full day, so consider reapplying, perhaps at lunchtime, or more frequently if needed.

Note that some thin clothing doesn't completely filter out the sun's UV rays.  Keep an eye on any possibility of getting sunburn underneath thin clothing accordingly.

Avoiding Unnecessary Stress

Don't run when you can walk, and don't walk when you don't need to do anything at all.

Seek out the shade and avoid exposure to the direct sun whenever possible.

Generally try and take it easy as much as possible and relax/calm down when not on the range.

Wear a hat in the sun, but consider taking it off in the shade.  In the sun, your hat will shade your face, but in the shade, it will prevent heat loss through your head so in the shade, it is best removed.

Choose Your Time to Attend with Weather in Mind

If you live in, for example, Arizona, you're already acclimated to hot weather in summer, and you'll have little to fear and little to be surprised about in Nevada.  But if you're in the cooler Pacific Northwest, or if you're traveling from the southern hemisphere's winter to attend a summer course, the change of temperature will be very much greater.

Some people are more sensitive to heat, and if that includes you, perhaps you need to be selective about which months you choose to attend Front Sight courses.  In my case, I scored in all three categories - I abhor the heat, I live in the cool Pacific Northwest, and I'd just returned from two weeks in New Zealand's winter!  So it was a grueling experience, but I made it through by careful attention to the matters outlined above.

You can too.

Part of a multi-part series

Please click the links at the top right of this page to read through other parts of this extensive series on Front Sight and the training they offer.

 

If so, please donate to keep the website free and fund the addition of more articles like this. Any help is most appreciated - simply click below to securely send a contribution through a credit card and Paypal.

 

Originally published 11 Sep 2010, last update 15 Oct 2013

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

 
 
Related Articles
Front Sight Firearms Training Institute - an Introduction to this Series
About the Front Sight Firearms Training Institute
Front Sight Update 2011
Gun Safety Issues
Discounted Front Sight Course Certificates - too good to be true?
Front Sight Lifetime Memberships
Join the Travel Insider at Front Sight, November 2011
The Instructors and Instruction
Front Sight's Ranges and Training Scenarios
When to use Lethal Force
What to Bring to a Front Sight Course - Pistol
What to Bring to a Front Sight Course - Essential Extras
What to Bring to a Front Sight Course - Other Valuable Equipment
What to do After Attending a Front Sight Course
Where to Stay and What to Eat in Pahrump, NV
Weather Issues in the NV desert
Traveling and Flying with Firearms and Ammunition
All About Body Armor and Bullet Proof Vests
 
 
 

 


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