Written by Timothy Martinez Jr.
Thunderstorms can appear unexpectedly, so it’s important to know what to do in these potentially dangerous situations. Here is some advice on how to handle a thunderstorm while camping.

You’re enjoying a relaxing camping trip beneath the open sky and all of a sudden a massive thunderstorm appears on the horizon and is heading your way. What do you do? This scenario is common for people who regularly camp outside, and the best way to prevent being trapped in a thunderstorm is checking the weather before going. However, since thunderstorms come unexpectedly and are very dangerous, you should know exactly what to do if you’re outside when there’s lightning. Here are some tips you should remember.

Immediately seek shelter

If you’re outside and you see an impending storm in the distance that’s giving off lightning, the first thing you should do is seek shelter. Being out in the open during a thunderstorm is particularly dangerous because of lightning strikes. If you’re out in the open, don’t seek shelter in your tent, because although that will protect you from rain, it will not do anything against lightning. Cars are the best place to wait out a thunderstorm since their metal frames disperse electricity.

Avoid being the tallest object in the open

Although lightning is very unpredictable, it tends to follow certain patterns, like striking tall objects. That’s why you should never be the tallest object in the open, but you should also never lie down on the ground, because electricity travels through objects. Instead, simply squat to get lower. Along these same lines, don’t seek shelter beneath the tallest tree or near fences; they are both also potential lightning targets.

Stay off trails

If you’re camping or hiking on trails in a forest, immediately get off them. Since trails are usually clear and provide little overhead shelter, they are at a greater risk of lightning strikes. You should get under dense canopy and remember to get as low as possible.

Call for help and perform CPR if someone is struck

Lightning strikes on people are fairly rare, but they do happen. If lightning does strike someone, instantly call 911 for medical help and then make sure the person is still breathing and has a heartbeat. If they are not responding, administer CPR until help arrives.

Beware of flash floods

Another prominent danger of thunderstorms is the possibility of flash floods. If you’re in an area known to have flash floods, it’s a good idea to pack up camp after the lightning has stopped and head home. Even if rain is not falling in your vicinity, it could be falling just upstream, so be especially vigilant if you’re camping next to a river. Flash floods usually occur at night, so that’s when you should take additional precautions. And remember, you should never underestimate the power and swiftness of water.

Need to purchase camping gear? Browse our huge inventory of camping supplies here.