Even if you follow the weather report attentively, it can happen that you unexpectedly get into a storm on a trekking trip. These tips should be followed in order to behave properly in the event of a thunderstorm.
Being in a tent during thunderstorms can be very uncomfortable depending on the position of the tent. You can do as much wrong as you can do right. As it is so often the case, it is not least the right knowledge that determines whether the encounter with a thunderstorm in the mountains or the wild runs smoothly.
First of all, of course, there is the question of how dangerous it is to camp in the thunderstorm and what kinds of dangers you can encounter. When we think of thunderstorms, the first thing that comes to mind is a flash of lightning that could possibly hit our tent. The consequences of being struck by lightning can be manifold.
As dangerous as the lightnings are the concomitants of the thunderstorm could be too. So the strong wind, the heavy rain, the possibly strongly sinking temperatures as well as suddenly appearing masses of water can harbor many dangers too. In order to surely survive such a thunderstorm in the tent, it is important that you are well prepared for all these influences and accordingly looking for a place. The following hints help you to correct your behavior.
The right choice of space for the tent in the event of a thunderstorm
Staying in a tent without metal stands is basically just as dangerous during thunderstorms as staying outdoors. The biggest safety factor when camping in thunderstorms lies in the location of your tent. Therefore, first of all take a close look and make sure that you have no source of danger in your immediate vicinity. Never build your tent on a hill or a wide, empty flat surface where you are the highest point. But also avoid a dry riverbed or the like.
Because not only do you make yourself a lightning rod, you also set yourself out of the wind unprotected. You should also avoid the proximity of solitary or small groups of trees. These attract lightning without being able to predict where they will strike. In case of doubt, many trees are better than individual ones. But beware: even trees standing at the edge of the forest do not provide lightning protection.
In the interior of a forest with the same height of trees, the danger is lower. A distance of at least ten meters to all trees and branches is optimal. Especially with coniferous forests, make sure that your tent is at least as far from the first trees as they are high. In the event that the wind gets so strong that it outlines the trees, then they can not kill you.
Beware of mixed forests with deadwood
In addition, always check the surrounding trees for dead branches that are still hanging in the crowns and that could be pulled down during a storm. If you camp directly in a forest, try to find an area where the trees are lower than the surrounding ones. The good old saying of “oaks you should go soft on, beeches you look for”, has nothing to do with the fact that lightning particularly like to hammer in oak wood. Oak trees, however, tend to have a particularly high amount of deadwood in their crowns and are also the highest trees in mixed forests. Therefore, it is often advisable to stay away from them.
High voltage power lines and electricity pylons attract lightning. Therefore, keep to these a safety distance of at least 100 meters. Also keep at least three meters from adjacent tents, cars and RVs. As a general rule, outside one is in a thunderstorm best kept in a car because of its metal outer skin, keyword Faraday cage or a building if that is achievable.
The question of the right location
As well as elevations, you should avoid deep valley while camping. Here are not only wind or lightning the danger, but also rain. Especially in the mountains, even with a relatively short storm, a huge amount of water can flow together, enough to flood your tent. Also avoids the immediate proximity of rivers and streams. These can rise unexpectedly fast in a storm and go over their banks. Warning signs are by no means to be ignored and you can often see for yourself where the water was or not. Anyone who has ever experienced a strongly swelling mountain stream, knows what powers can work here. Especially in the alpine area, there are often high-altitude barrages, which are opened as soon as there is too much water in the reservoir. So always be careful.
Proper preparation of the tent for a thunderstorm
If you notice that a thunderstorm is approaching you and you have found a good place, then it is especially important that you build your tent wind and weatherproof. First, make sure that you offer the wind as little resistance as possible. So, if one side of your tent is longer than the other, then the shorter one builds into the wind. Clamp the tent as well as possible and make sure that the tent pegs are really tight. For non-self-contained tent types such as tunnel tents this is particularly important.
Fix anything that could be grabbed by the wind and torn – that could seriously damage your tent. Remember that your tent is now the most important protection for you. Should it not withstand the wind and be torn away or torn, you are exposed to the weather forces unprotected.
Lightning is not the only danger
Again, lightning is not the only danger, but also the cold, which is often underestimated. Even if the real temperature is still 15 degrees Celsius, it falls by the so-called wind chill effect at a wind speed of 40 kilometers to a sensed 6.3 degrees Celsius.
In case you are not sure if your tent can withstand the thunderstorm, look at other protection options early on. Here everything is suitable, which can offer you wind and rain protection, without even being carried away by the wind. If the wind is really so strong that it threatens to tear your tent away, then the danger that emanates from it is at least as great as being hit by lightning.
Especially in tropical areas or in the high mountains things look different quickly. Here is to make sure that everything is very well attached. It is important to memorize huts with lightning protection system, caves, ledges and other shelters well in advance and to visit in the case of a case as quickly as possible! For rock walls you should keep at least one meter better three meters distance.
Rules of conduct when camping in thunderstorms
If you have to stay in the tent during thunderstorms and there is no hut or car in the area, you should squat on an insulating, dry surface with your feet closed. Keep as far as possible from the poles and tent walls.
To minimize the risk of a lightning strike in the tent, you should turn off electrical equipment and store metal objects outside of the tent, preferably packaged in a waterproof bag under a tree. When packing your tent, make sure that nothing hits the walls of the tent, otherwise the tent fabric will no longer keep the water out.
During thunderstorms – keep calm!
The most important thing is first of all to keep calm. If you are really in the middle of the storm and you’ve built your tent well, you can not do much more, other than retire and wait until it’s over. Depending on how strong and close the storm is and where you are at the moment, this can also be a very nice part of camping. Especially if you can look outside from your tent. Especially of course, if your tent withstands the wind and remains waterproof!
If this is not the case, make sure that you do not come into contact with any running water. When your tent floor is flooded, roll your sleeping pads together and build an island out of which allows you to sit elevated. Because in case of a thunderstorm sitting in the water is not only unpleasant, but also dangerous. If the lightning strikes somewhere near you, the water can create a bridge-line, which can cause you to be electrocuted. Even if the lightning does not hit you directly!
If you have all this knowledge, you can now face the next thunderstorm, if not without serenity then you can face it at least without fear. Otherwise, now it is just the right time for a cozy picnic in the shelter of the tent walls!
I hope these few tips help you during your next trekking or hiking adventure trips in the mountains or in the wild. If you have additional suggestions to stay safe in case of thunderstorms feel free to share your information in the comment box below – thank you very much.