Do Tents Attract Lightning?

I have camped more times than I care to remember, but strangely, I’d never considered whether tents attract lightning. For some reason, I’d never considered the possibility of being struck by lightning while in a tent.

So, I did a quick bit of research and found that the tent itself won’t attract lightning, but where you pitch your tent can have a considerable effect. Doing a little more digging, I found some helpful advice on avoiding being hit by lightning while camping.

Avoid Camping in a Storm

The best advice is to not camp in a thunderstorm, but of course, that’s not always an option. If you are out hiking, then you may not have the choice, so what should we consider when camping in a thunderstorm?

Tent Poles

The only thing likely to be made of metal on your tent is the poles that hold it up. That said, the majority of tent poles are now either carbon fiber or fiberglass. So should you be worried if your tent poles are metal? No, not really, since there is only a tiny amount of metal in the poles, and there is bound to be something nearby that is taller than your tent.

If you have metal poles, then make sure they are in direct contact with the ground so that if you are unlucky enough to get struck, the charge will go to earth through the poles. If the lightning strike cannot dissipate to earth through the poles, it will jump to the next nearest thing, which is most likely you!

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Tent Design

I wondered if tent design can affect how likely it is to be struck by lightning. Other than metal poles, it doesn’t seem to make any difference. Although some design work has been carried out on lightning-proof tents, the design is still in its early stages and has some flaws.

Location

The most crucial factor that will affect your possibility of being struck by lightning while camping is your location. First, avoid the high ground. Try and find a spot where you are not the highest point around.

Avoid tall trees, as they are often hit by lightning. Not only can lightning set fire to a tree, but it can also bring the tree down, so it’s very dangerous to be near them during a storm.

Some Tips if you are Caught in a Lightning Storm

Lightning is trying to find the easiest way to earth, so you need to minimize your contact with the ground. You can sit on your backpack to isolate yourself from the ground, for example. Put your boots on so that your feet are also insulated.

If there are caves nearby, these could be a good option for shelter. Large open caves are much better than small caves, as lightning can penetrate a small cave and make contact with the ground inside. You don’t want to be inside that cave!

Spread out if there is a group of you. If you huddle together, the lightning can strike one person but jump to others that are nearby.

Conclusion

If at all possible, don’t camp in a thunderstorm. Either postpone your trip, find somewhere safe like a large cave, or if you can find a building, go inside.

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This article was last updated on May 7, 2021 .

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