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.

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