It finally feels like October!  I ran an event last week and my players were sweating by the end because it was a ridiculous 80 degrees outside.  Now it’s 50 and drizzling.  October is pretty much my favorite month, but it was hard to get excited when it still felt like August.  So I’m a happy camper now, even though it means running errands in the rain.

The weather has me thinking about weather and puzzle hunts/other events.  How do you plan for and deal with it as a designer and player, and what are ideal hunt conditions?

My first real puzzle hunt was DASH back in April, and it makes a pretty good case study for weather effects on experience.  It was pretty chilly in D.C. that morning, which meant cold fingers (hard to write) and runny noses.  By noon, the sun had come out and we actually started to shed a few layers.  And by evening, it was full-on raining.  Then on the other end of the spectrum is Post Hunt 2011, where we ran and sweat and I got sunburned.

As a player, it’s important to prepare for the weather so you have a good time.

For heat and sun:

  • Wear sunscreen (even if it’s overcast!)
  • Consider wearing a hat
  • Wear light clothing, shorts
  • Sunglasses are a must!
  • Bring water and take breaks to consume it
  • Seek out shade for solving

For cold:

  • Wear heavier clothing, coats, jackets
  • Accessories like hats, scarves, and gloves (fingerless or something you can write with is best)
  • Dress in layers in case you get too hot
  • Bring tissues for runny noses
  • If it’s really cold, those little packaged hand-warmers would probably be a great idea!
  • Always be on the lookout for indoor places to warm up while you solve

For rain:

  • Umbrellas of course
  • Water-repellent clothing, including shoes so you don’t run around in wet socks all day
  • Maybe bring some towels for drying off, or an extra change of dry clothes if you have a long drive home after
  • Maybe bring some kind of small tarp that you could put down to sit on when everything is covered in rain?
  • Always be on the lookout for indoor places to dry off while you solve
  • Protect your clues!  Team BBSB went to Kinko’s and got their clues and map laminated when it was raining during the Great America Race, and then used a grease pencil to write.  Brilliant idea, though I’d only recommend doing this to copies of the original clues since sometimes a clue might require burning, freezing, or submersion in water to reveal more. I’ve had some success putting standard-sized clue sheets into clear file protectors and using a dry-erase marker to write (though I don’t think I ever needed to write in the rain)

For snow:

  • Has anyone ever done a hunt in the snow??  I guess you’d just mostly do what you would do anyway for cold and rain.


As a designer, things get a little more stressful.  I’ve only had to deal with this a little bit so far, so I don’t have much insight.  For Jefferson’s Lost Invention, it was threatening to rain all day so I moved my actor from the park to a coffee shop (though it never did rain and I think he was able to hang out outside on a bench the whole time, much better).  If you have an entire event designed and planned, it seems like there is only so much you can do if the weather decides not to cooperate.  DASH did a really great job of wrangling up all the teams (we were among the last few teams out in the field, so we got to see this first-hand!) and guiding us to the ending location where we were able to play the rest of the game indoors.  This works great for location-independent clues like DASH, but Ravenchase clues are all about being in the place and looking at the thing, so I think the adaptation is more about adjusting ending times or maybe giving out some free hints to move things along.  If you can reasonably expect that it’s going to be miserably hot or cold, it’s probably a good idea to have some clues take players indoors for some respite.

I’d love to hear any great weather stories you have from puzzle hunts or other similar outdoor events.  (Larry Hosken has a great one about tornado sirens and hail at the St. Louis DASH!), as well any tips and tricks you have.

And what’s your ideal puzzle hunting weather?  I guess I’d have to say warm enough for shorts (but not hot), or pretty warm with a slight breeze (but not enough to blow papers around).  Though I do love the crisp fall air and the atmosphere that lends, so maybe sweater weather would be nice as well!  (Not that it matters, but if it were an all-indoors event, I’d say bring on the rain.  I love the cozy feeling, and the way it’s kind of hard to tell the passage of time.  And too gorgeous of a day might make you wish you were outside instead).

Perhaps I should migrate back to Austin for the winter and run some hunts there? =)  They have the most lovely, mild winters there!

10 comments on Weather

  • Dan E.

    “I wouldn’t know — the weather here in the Bay Area is perfect all the time, so we don’t have this problem.” Ha ha.

    Most of the advice (sunscreen, hats, water, etc.) is the same advice you’d give to someone hiking, which is pretty well covered I think.

    Rain is normally the worst for puzzle hunts, because it makes paper soggy and hard to write on. That means you’re trying to shield your clues, but it’s hard to be 100% successful. Then you’re trying to hunt for indoor spaces, but woe if you miss an environmental aspect. I remember one hunt in Berkeley (BANG 19/SNAP 4, I think) where several teams were huddled in a cafeteria failing to solve a puzzle which required you to notice something obvious on the street outside. It was after that game that I bought the grease pencil…

    But I _loved_ Philadelphia; solving the bingo puzzle in pouring rain was one of my all-time favorite hunt moments. (And yes, we had copies laminated, not the originals, for precisely the reason you specify.) It was such a beautiful break from the sweltering sun, and with laminated papers you could just get soaked and not give a damn. It made me want to have a puzzle hunt that’s all about getting wet (at a water park? canyoning? beach?).

    The MIT Mystery Hunt is in Boston in January every year, so of course snow happens. It’s mostly an indoor hunt but there are always outdoor activities. Like you say, it just comes down to “wear a coat, silly”. Also, learn to use the MIT steam tunnels so you don’t have to go outside more than you need to.

    The other aspect of weather is light, but I think hunting in the dark is its own subject. I hear your (Ravenchase) Halloween race is all about black light clues? That sounds fun.

    • clavicarius (author)

      Hah, I almost said something about maybe the climate is part of why the puzzle hunt community is so strong out there!

      The Philadelphia day sounds fun, especially if it was still warm enough out that being soaked wasn’t really a burden. Water park hunt could be fun! Get help from the park to hang a clue somewhere you can only see while going down a water slide? =)

      My university had steam tunnels, but they were “strictly forbidden” (and one time I saw fire shooting up out of one of the manhole covers!). Fun that MIT has usable ones! By the way, I understand that MIT hunters often make up huge teams including remote players. Any experience with this and getting on a team? Would be fun to participate somehow!

      I’ll need to learn some tricks of the blacklight trade for my Halloween race coming up!

      • Dan E.

        You are quite correct that MIT teams are often huge and include remote solvers — established teams often have elaborate infrastructure (custom web applications, chat rooms, etc) for coordinating individual remote solvers and remote “solving pods”.

        There are several teams who are quite welcoming of new players which I’m sure could set you up for an unforgettable experience. I’m not close enough to the scene to confidently recommend for this year (the team I play on is small and limited by design), but hopefully someone can point you. If not, ping me in a month or two and I’ll ask around.

    • Larry Hosken

      “I remember one hunt in Berkeley (BANG 19/SNAP 4, I think) where several teams were huddled in a cafeteria failing to solve a puzzle which required you to notice something obvious on the street outside.”

      Depending on your priorities, the teams that stayed inside were maybe happier. Here’s a photo of a BANG 19 team that braved the rain to get the necessary data.

      Actually, that dude looks happy. Soaked, but happy.

  • D

    Mystery Hunt is definitely the big event that can end up with snow as a factor. The event ends with a runaround, which often takes you outside at some point. When my team won in 2009, it was snowing heavily and it had been snowing for a good chunk of the late weekend so when the runaround path went outdoors at various points, we had to follow a route where quite a bit of snow had accumulated since last time the area had been cleared. This was all while someone on the team was holding a laptop to play the audio (since all the instructions were audio, but we also had to input things at various waypoints to unlock the next set of instructions).

    • clavicarius (author)

      Wow, sounds awesome and crazy! (Congrats on the win!) If the forecast is calling for snow (or if it has recently snowed or iced) I guess snow boots wouldn’t be a bad investment.

      Man, I really know nothing about Mystery Hunt, looking forward to learning more over the next few months.

  • Jason

    I’ve been a remote solver for the MIT Mystery Hunt for about five years. I’m sure some specifics vary from team to team, but I don’t think the remote experience is anything like the on-location experience (though, I’ve never actually done the Hunt on-location). Our team has a web app, and chat rooms, and web cams and the ability to participate remotely is pretty amazing.
    Although, on the downside, it feels like the easy, fun, and most interesting puzzles get snapped up and completed on-site, before the remote community really even has a chance. That leaves us working on only the hardest puzzles, ie. the ones where the on-site team is stuck. Or at least on puzzles that are heavy on data-gathering (which I do enjoy). I once spent all night looking up Star Trek aliens in an online Wiki. There’s a lot of opportunity for remote collaboration with data-heavy puzzles, although, you’re sort of missing out on the fun an exciting aspects of the hunt.

    • clavicarius (author)

      That sounds a little taxing! I definitely wouldn’t expect the remote experience to be anything like the in-person one, but I hadn’t really considered that aspect of it. But being a veteran of The Stone, I dare say I would be suited to that kind of work!

      Every time I hear about the remote solvers, I always think of the “Sixers” in Ready Player One!

      • Jason

        Your “Sixers” comment cracked me up. We’re not [i]quite[/i] that bad. 😉

        • clavicarius (author)

          You don’t think you guys inspired the concept at least? 😉 I keep finding things in the real world that correlate so closely to that book, I can’t help but thinking he really did his research into the puzzle hunting world!

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