Here Are Some Thunderstorm Safety Tips for Hiking & Camping | Trekking Days

Here Are Some Thunderstorm Safety Tips for Hiking & Camping

by | Trekking Savvy

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While thunderstorms can look beautiful from a distance, they are very dangerous, and if you are caught in one during camping, you should do your best to find shelter. If you are a thunderstorm fan, the best options you have is to look at thunderstorm pictures and videos or to observe them from inside a place where it’s physically impossible for lighting to strike. Given that things don’t always work as planned, this article is going to give you a list of camping safety tips just in case you get caught in the type of severe storm conditions where thunders are the main protagonists. 

Here is a beautiful thunderstorm picture

When you are caught in a storm somewhere far away from a safe location, you should not refrain from following some important lightning safety tips. Don’t forget that while the chances of getting struck by lightning in any one year are 1 in 700,000, it is likely that very different statistics apply to those who are hiking and camping during thunderstorms.

Key Safety Measures

One of the best things you can do if you are caught in a thunderstorm while being far away from a safe place is to avoid standing anywhere near a tall tree or tall objects in general and lie on the ground. If you are in a forest, try to find cover in a location with many tree growths or a low dry area. While in a heavily wooded area, it is safer to be outside the tent than inside.

When the sky looks like this, you know it’s time to find shelter

In case you’re in an open area, do your best to find a valley and crouch down into the smallest target possible. Cover your ears and avoid making contact with the ground by balancing on the balls of your feet. If you’re so unlucky that you’re the water, try to get to shore as fast as possible and apply one of the previously mentioned strategies, namely the one for the forest or open area. If possible, get down off hilltops and ridges. Don’t forget that lightning can occur even after several minutes after a storm, for which it is best to avoid open ground or high places for 30 minutes after the storm.

When traveling in a group, make sure each individual is distanced from each other by approximately 20 ft (7 m). When people are close to each other it’s enough for a single individual to get struck by lightning in order for the entire group to get electrocuted.
It’s important to avoid crossing an open area during a storm, even if it’s on the way to the shelter. If you are wearing a backpack with a metal frame or metal equipment, you must ensure that it is far away from you.

Not All Shelters Are the Same

Can you get struck by lightning in a car? The answer is yes, lighting can arc from the car to those who are inside it. Even so, if you are far from a safer place, it is still best to stay in a vehicle than out in the open. While in the car, make sure the windows are rolled up, don’t lean against the doors, and don’t use electronic devices.

Another beautiful thunderstorm picture

No type of shelter is completely safe if it does not have a grounding mechanism such as wiring or plumbing to transfer the electricity from the roof into the ground. Of course, you should never touch electrical equipment, plumbing, metal, or water as they may be electrically charged.

Can You Accurately Predict the Weather?

One safety precaution you can take to avoid a thunderstorm is to keep an eye on weather forecasts before going outdoors. Weather forecast technology has yet to reach the point where forecasts are 100% accurate. That being said, it is highly recommended that you keep an eye on the weather before backpacking and during your trip.

If you don’t have a smartphone or a radio around (and you should have, especially a phone!), you can try to use the traditional forecast system, that is, your senses. For instance, if it suddenly gets dark or you can feel rain in the air, there’s a high chance a storm is about to start.

Yet another beautiful thunderstorm picture

Some wonder if you can tell how far away lightning is. The answer is that while a thunder can be heard up to 25 mi away (40.2 km), lightning strikes have occurred from as far as 25 mi away from thunderstorms. This means that as long as you can hear thunders, you are not safe and must seek shelter.

In Summary

While hiking in the rain can be fun, there’s always the risk that a thunderstorm will eventually emerge. For this reason, it is always best to avoid trekking during weather instability. If it’s summer, keep into consideration that during this period of the year storms tend to occur during the afternoon, for which morning hiking should reduce the chances of unpleasant events.

Hopefully, these survival tips motivated you to be precautious enough to avoid storms. If you happen to get into one, I believe that following these safety tips will be helpful. You may also want to check the resources below for a more extensive review of thunderstorms and the safety measures you can take before and during your trip. Being rich in information has never been so easy.


NOAA National Severe Storm Laboratory. NSSL RESEARCH: LIGHTNING

Lightning Protection Institute


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