10 Tips on How You Can Stay Safe In Thunderstorms While Backpacking!


A thunderstorm might seem a pretty nasty thing even while you are safe and secure within the four walls of your room!

Imagine how much worse it can get when you are caught in one… out in the wild! No wonder then that the alarm-quotient increases when you are a thousand miles away from the safety of your home…backpacking in the middle of some lonely stretch….and a deafening thunderstorm strikes!

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Given that you don’t have any control over the elements, it is better to be prepared for such conditions en route.

The first step to prepare yourself is to know that…

There are 3 types of thunderstorms that you might experience during Backpacking:

1. Direct cloud-to-ground strikes: as the name implies, it creates direct strikes, which – despite being relatively rare – can cause severe burns and even stop the heart!

2. Side flashes: these are of the same strength as that of direct strikes, but since they are more common, injury rates in this case are that much higher!

3. Ground currents: Another major cause of injury! This type of thunderstorm is as serious as side flashes and direct strikes.

Now for the MAIN QUESTION…

How can you avoid an encounter with such a dangerous elemental condition?

 Just Remember these points before you leave for your backpacking trip!

  • Check the local weather report! Use the internet, radio or TV to stay informed and updated about the local weather conditions…they can change rapidly during your backpacking trip!
  • Pack warm clothes, adequate rain-gear and tarpaulins, irrespective of the time and duration of your hiking trip.
  • Purchase a weather identification guide and learn about basic cloud formations, humidity etc. This way you can rely on your instincts to get you out of thunderstorms as well.
  • Pack a good first aid kit and sometimes, learning CPR for emergencies also helps.

With these steps taken, you will at least be prepared to face the thunderstorm and might escape it without any major or even minor damage!

However, you need to stay conscious about other factors while backpacking too!

You should note that there isn’t a 100% “safe way” to survive outdoors during a thunderstorm, however if you keep these following points in mind…you are sure to be benefitted!

10 Points to remember while backpacking

  1. Move out of the open and exposed areas at the first signs of doubt about an approaching thunderstorm.

  2. Avoid being in a location near/by any water body.

  3. Canopies, picnic or rain shelters, out-houses, etc. are also unsafe areas. So steer clear of them.

  4. If you are hiking in a group, keep a minimum gap of 6 meters between yourselves. That way, if one person goes down, the rest might still get away safely!

  5. Find an area that is not exposed – like a sturdy building or a vehicle…and take cover!

  6. If you can’t find a safe shelter, sit on top of your pack with your feet crouched together on the ground, eyes closed and ears covered with your hands. The backpack material might act as a non-conductor, protecting you from catching a direct hit.

  7. If you are carrying any metal gear and a thunderstorm strikes, drop it on the ground and stay as far away from it as you possibly can.

  8. If your hair stands up on the end or if you experience a tingling sensation, then the surrounding air is electrified and lighting is about strike. It is best to keep your eyes and ears covered and hold your breath in this case…

  9. Wait for at least 30 minutes after the thunderstorm passes before you resume any activity.

  10. If any one of your group gets hit by lightning, provide him with emergency treatment ASAP!

As mentioned earlier, even if you remember these points, it is not that you are completely safe if you have the bad luck of getting caught in a thunderstorm… but, YES…your chances of getting away unhurt increase manifold if you follow the pointers mentioned….and, always keep a good head on your shoulders…it helps!

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