Camping and Severe Weather Safety

Camping-Lighning-by-j_arredIf you’ve ever camped out or hiked in rough weather, you know how  not fun that is. What’s worse, though, is getting struck by lightning or swept up in a tornado. Although it’s unlikely either will ever happen to you, it’s a good idea to be prepared in the event that you encounter extreme weather while you’re out on an outdoor adventure. It’s better to be cautious than be severely injured or worse.

Always check the weather before heading out. Weather predictions have come a long way since the days before Doppler radar and they’re getting better and better at predicting severe weather patterns. If there’s severe weather on the horizon for the time you’ve planned a trip, it’s probably a good idea to postpone. Camping in a downpour isn’t much fun anyway.

If you’re out on the trail or at your campsite and weather has unexpectedly built up, there are things you can do to stay safe. Obviously, your car is a heck of a lot safer than anything else so if you’re nearby, truck it to your vehicle and sit tight until the storm is over. But not many of us are ever close to a car when storms like this hit. So what do you do if you’re out in the middle of the woods?

For lightning, you’ll want to stay away from tall, lone trees and open areas where you’re the tallest object. If you’ve got metal around you, you’ll want to move it away from you and ditch your pack if it’s got metal supports. The same goes for your tent, although few have metal these days. In any case, you’ll want to put your feet together and crouch down to put your head between your knees and cover yourself with your arms to protect yourself. Don’t lie down in a ditch or inside your tent because you’re leaving yourself open to a shock. Instead, make your feet the only thing that’s touching the ground. Limited contact with the ground will prevent from lightening forming around or through you. If you’re in a platform tent, make sure to leave it if tree roots run underneath it. We know of one camper who was  hit by lightning while perched on a metal bed.  It hit a nearby tree first and then went through her.

A tornado, however, is a bit more tricky than lightning. If you’re out in severe weather, it’s far more likely you’ll be hit by lightning. However, if you think a tornado is on its way, you should find a low lying area and get down as low as possible. Some people advise lying in the ditch, face down with arms covering your head, but the likelihood of lightning occurring at the same time is high. If you’re worried about both, try to crouch down low in the ditch without lying down.

The best thing you can do is stay aware of the weather as it comes and plan ahead. We recommend getting a weather radio to get updates on storms and stay in touch with what’s going on with weather in your area.

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