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Avoiding Lightning Strikes While Hiking

Avoiding Lightning Strikes While Hiking

If you’re outdoors during a storm there are some important things to consider about avoiding lightning strikes while hiking.

Always seek shelter in a building (not a picnic shelter) or car if possible fir avoiding lightning strikes while hiking. However, during a hike those options are usually not available so following these five tips about avoiding lightning strikes should help keep safe during your hike.

Five Tips for Avoiding Lightning Strikes While Hiking

Avoid Tall Objects  – For avoiding lightning strikes while hiking during a storm move away from tall lone trees, hilltops and other high objects. If you are hiking on a trail in the forest look for some small trees or thick bushes in a low lying area to crouch under. You do not want to be the highest point.

Crouch  – Never lie flat on the ground, but crouch down in a or low lying area, such as a valley. It is best to crouch on the balls of your feet and have them placed close together while your head is tucked down as this reduces your exposure.

Avoid water  – Again for avoiding lightning strikes while hiking reasons do not stand in swamps, streams or open water during a lightning storm. Be careful as ditches can fill with water quickly during a storm.

If with a hiking group  – If you are hiking with a group spread out and stand at least 100 feet apart. Lightning travels through the ground from the point of impact in random directions similar to tree roots. The smaller your group footprint, the less chance there is of you or the other hikers of being hit from a nearby lightning strike.

Packs and hiking poles – If you have a frame packsack or hiking poles made with metal parts place them on the ground at least 100 feet away. This way of avoiding lightning strikes while hiking is often overlooked.

How far away is the storm?

When a storm does approach watch the distant clouds for the possibility of lightning as you can see a lightning bolt before the sound of thunder can be heard. By counting the seconds between the flash and the sound of the thunder it is possible to tell how close you are to the lightning. If you count less than 30 seconds take shelter as best as you can. Each second represents a distance of 300 meters and at 30 seconds it means the storm is less than 10 km way. Remember that the storm does not necessarily have to be right overhead you for lightning to strike.

I hope the storm blows over quickly. Follow the above hike safety tips about avoiding lightning strikes while hiking and have an enjoyable time on the trails.


About The Author

Tom Oxby

Tom Oxby writes about worldwide adventure travel including bicycle touring, hiking and canoeing.

1 Comment

  1. Sono

    Just go to a natural foods store and get a paacgke of baby wipes little or no chemicals in those. That and changing your undies a couple of times a day. Take the lightweight stretch nylon type that you can wash out and quick dry overnight. A washcloth, a small plastic bowl of water and a mild liquid soap like Dr. Bronners are all you need for a quick sponge bath in the woods. For warm weather trips I like to take a SunShower unit. It’s a black plastic bag with a nozzle on the end. You fill it with water (only takes about a gallon) and lay it in the sun for a few hours it heats up enough to hang it on a branch and shower under it or just hold it in your hand, open the valve and rinse off with nice hot water. I’ve used one of these daily on 3 week long archaeology field camps. And in those instances when you don’t have enough water for a sponge bath, a generous sprinkling of baby powder can do wonders. I always carry a travel size of baby powder feels good on hot feet in hiking boots all day and can help with chafing from shorts too.If you are sheepish about disrobing and cleaning up around other people in camp, carry a cheap ($3 to $5) plastic rain poncho. It’s handy to slip one over your head giving you a personal privacy tent , handy for when you have to squat in the woods, to change clothes or wash up underneath whenever there are no bushes to obscure you. And those cheap ponchos can be really handy as gear covers if it rains.I have never felt keeping clean and comfortable in the woods was much of a big deal doesn’t really take much effort.


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