WST – Conditions / Fitness Rating

Conditions Rating

It is important for our workshop participants to both know and plan for the conditions they are about to encounter. Hardly fair to send someone off to a wet, humid environment and not prepare them in any way to deal with that. To make sure we took that pre-planning notion to heart, we developed the "conditions rating" code.

The conditions rating code, provides a visual shortcut, if you will, allowing participants to look at any itinerary to determine what they can expect when attending a specific workshop at a specific time.

The conditions rating code is a 5 digit number, made up of five distinct position values. Below is an example of a conditions rating code:


We would break this code down as follows:

Hike Rating (Position One): 2

Elevation Rating (Position Two): 3

Temperature Rating (Position Three): 3

Humidity Rating (Position Four): 4

Moisture Rating (Position Five): 4

Essentially, the code above is describing fairly easy hikes, not much in the way of altitude and / or exposure concern, normal temperatures, an environment that's a little more humid than normal and some potential water exposure for the participant and / or gear (by the way, a perfect description for a workshop at Olympic National Park).

Rating Categories

Below you will find the condition categories that we considered when we put a conditions rating code together for a workshop and / or a portion of its itinerary.

Hike Rating (Position One):

  • 1 – A walk in the park

    Basically level trails, with almost no elevation change along the way. None of the trails are exceedingly long. If the participant is capable of normal day to day walking around the neighborhood, these trails should be a walk in the park (see what we did there…).

  • 2 – A walk around the park

    The trails might be a little bit longer, or they might be some slight elevation changes thrown in. If the participant walks on a regular basis in his or her daily life, they should be good to go.

  • 3 – A walk between two parks

    A little bit more serious walking here, in the roughly 5-7 mile range per day. May be some elevation changes to deal with as well. The average person, who is in average health should be able to power through a few days of type of hiking.

  • 4 – A walk between multiple parks

    The hikes are longer in length running in the up to 10-12 mile range and / or have enough elevation thrown in to challenge that blood pressure and stamina. If you are generally athletic, then these conditions should be okay for you. If you are not, you may want to consider some pre-trip training.

  • 5 – A walk to parks that we don't even know where they are

    These hikes are testing the stamina of the normally fit active individual, either in length, elevation changes or both at the same time. If you are not a normal off-road hiker you want to consider both the training and the potential gear needed to successfully complete these treks.

Elevation Rating (Position Two):

  • 1 – It's all downhill from here

    These outings have very little altitude and / or exposure to be worried about. Hikes are on flat ground, with no exposure whatsoever. An easy, carefree experience is a given.

  • 2 – Pretty much flat

    There might be a smidgen of altitude (in the 5,000 – 7,000 foot range) and / or a little more exposure to be worried about. Still an easy, carefree experience should be had by most.

  • 3 – Just the right amount of rock and roll

    Were starting to add either a little altitude here (in the 7,000 – 9,000 foot range) and / or there is starting to be some exposure on the hikes. Manageable by most, except those with abnormal fear of heights and / or breathing issues.

  • 4 – More roll than rock to this one

    Okay, now we are getting up there, our altitude has become a concern for some (in the 9,000 – 12,000 foot range) and / or the exposure potential has gone way up with large scale drops close by not directly underfoot. If you have pulmonary issues and / or fear of heights, this would be one to talk through first.

  • 5 – Where's the elevator

    Things are getting serious here, the altitude is a very real concern for some (in the 12,000+ foot range) and / or open exposed heights are a very real and closely present issue. Any pulmonary issues and / or fear of heights are a disqualification for this experience.

Temperature Rating (Position Three):

  • 1 – Pretty darn cold

    This is likely a workshop being done in the snow, or in conditions that are constantly cold and unrelenting. A workshop of this nature has itineraries that call for day long exposure to the elements without relief. Of course seasoned outdoors folk know that these conditions are manageable if prepared for. Make sure that you are prepared and / or ask for our thoughts on getting prepared.

  • 2 – A little bit cold

    This is likely a workshop being done with some exposure to the snow (mostly on an intermittent basis) and / or wet blowing conditions. These conditions coupled with long term exposure can lead to the reduction of body core temperature. Again preparation is necessary, but numerous opportunities will exist to escape the elements as need be.

  • 3 – Feels just about right

    This is what some would consider normal temperatures and / or normal winds. Generally talking about temperatures somewhere between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, with little to no on-going elements (i.e., wind, rain, etc.) to make one uncomfortable. Evenings might come with a slight chill, so some preparation for that is called for.

  • 4 – A little bit hot

    Your proverbial shorts / t-shirt / flip flops weather (though pay attention to other conditions before you don that uniform) where one is comfortable, relaxed and thinking about umbrellas drinks all at the same time. Ideal photography weather for those who are not the die hard outdoor enthusiast…well and the rest of us too.

  • 5 – Pretty darn hot

    Getting down right toasty in here, this type of workshop is either occurring in a climate where hot, humid weather is the norm, or we have just trekked out into the desert. Workshops like these call for plenty of water, breaks from the sun and even more umbrella drinks (haha). Remember inside every cloud is a silver lining and at these hot workshops there must be a great image somewhere, or we wouldn't be here!

Humidity Rating (Position Four):

When we are thinking humidity rating, we are mostly thinking about hydration. Use a workshop's humidity rating to determine, your hydration needs.

  • 1 – Standing in the shower

    Hydration, always important, is not a horribly critical short term issue here. The ambient humidity is not supporting much in the way of evaporation and you won't be losing large amount of moisture via sweating and / or wind exposure.

  • 2 – Dripping dry

    Hydration, always important, is less of an issue here than normal and you can probably get by with slightly less than your normal consumption. Again the ambient humidity and / or weather conditions are not posing much of an issue here.

  • 3 – Feels just about right

    Hydration, always important, is at a normal level here. Consider what you normally drink when performing outdoors activities and plan for that, or just a tad more to be safe.

  • 4 – Need a little moisturizer

    Hydration, always important, is a little bit more of a concern here, either the ambient conditions are causing evaporation of larger volumes of body moisture than normal, or the activities being embarked upon are going to require more fluids. An in-pack, self-contained hydration bladder is highly recommended for this outing.

  • 5 – Desert dry

    Hydration, always important, is paramount here, either the ambient conditions are evaporating large volumes of moisture and / or the activities are strenuous enough that on-going hydration is a constant concern. An in-pack, self-contained hydration system is a must and careful planning on water volumes and reserves is called for.

Moisture Rating (Position Five):

When we are thinking about moisture rating, we are mostly thinking about physical moisture in the air. Use a workshop's moisture rating to determine what personal and / or gear protection considerations are in order.

  • 1 – Must. Find. Water.

    Completely dry out, your only concern may be one of wind and / or sun protection. Your gear is safe from the elements, with the notable exception of potential wind with dust particles. Maybe some form of cover up could be useful, but most get by without it.

  • 2 – Just a tad overcooked

    Still pretty darn dry, but less chance of wind and dust. Not much need for moisture protection for either you or your camera here.

  • 3 – Cool Summer breeze

    What we would call normal, and for us to call something normal is a stretch! Just kidding, you are comfortable and your gear is comfortable as well. No moisture considerations here at all.

  • 4 – Call me misty

    Either on-going fog, mist, etc., is providing some moisture in the air, or there is a possibility of exposure to moisture from an intermittent water crossing and / or waterfall. Exposure protection for both you and your camera should be available but not necessarily needed at all times. Have it along though, better safe than sorry.

  • 5 – Full on downpour

    The monsoons have moved in and were about to float away. Okay, it's not quite that bad, but certainly we expect the possibility of both ourselves and our gear getting wet. We are recommending on-going water protection for all involved. This might mean constant rain gear for the photographer and / or dry bags for any gear. If we are rating a workshop this way because of on-going water crossings, we consider the when of slipping into the river, not the if.