Do Tents Attract Lightning? (Camping In Thunderstorm)


Do Tents Attract Lightning

Have you ever wondered if tents attract lightning? Look no more. We´ve got you covered.

Do Tents Attract Lightning?

Tents do not attract lightning. However, they can still be struck by lightning. There are a variety of safety precautions you should take while camping to keep you safe during storms.

Lightning is unpredictable in many ways. The design of tents does not naturally lend them to more lightning strikes than any other structure.

However, tents do not offer extra protection against lightning strikes. You will also want to be careful of flooding and falling branches if you are camping during a rainstorm.

What is Lightning?

Lightning is essentially a bolt of electrical discharge. You may remember the feeling of walking across the carpet and being shocked when you touched the door handle? This phenomenon is similar, but on a much smaller scale to lightning.

“In storm clouds, raindrops and water are circulating up and down, being blown and frozen. As this process occurs, electrons are stripped off.”

This causes a charge. The difference between the charge of the cloud and a neighboring cloud or something on the ground can cause a bolt of lightning.

This lightning occurs when the electrons are seeking to transfer to a more stable position. This explains why lightning strikes where it does because it will look for the closest or easiest thing to reach.

Bolts of lightning are incredibly powerful and can be very large. As they are bolts of electricity, it is important to be safe around lightning.

Bolt tent – Mobile lightning protective shelter >> Checkout the video below:

What Attracts Lightning?

When understanding lightning, it is important to remember that the things that attract lightning do not necessarily conduct the electricity of the lightning and vice versa. Several things do make an object more likely to be struck by lightning.

This increased danger is because these things make objects with an easy path for the lightning to follow, not because these items conduct electricity.

Height is one of the most important factors of whether something will be struck by lightning. This makes sense because those objects are closer to the clouds where the charge is building up.

The height offers a simple path for the lightning to follow.

Isolation is another crucial factor in determining where lightning will strike.

This can also be deduced when you think that the lightning can travel directly to that object rather than traveling farther to find something else to strike.

Do Objects that Conduct Electricity Attract Lightning?

Other objects will not necessarily be more likely to be struck, but they create added danger because they can conduct the electricity of the strike. These objects include metal and bodies of water. For different reasons, the makeup of these items can lead to electricity spreading.

Lakes tend not to form in the most elevated portion of an area, but because they are large bodies of water, it is important to stay out of the water during storms.

Should the electrical charge spread while you are in the water, it could be dangerous.

Similarly, metal bleachers are not the tallest or most isolated items at a football game, but if lightning were to strike, the metal would conduct the charge, and anyone sitting on the bleachers could be seriously injured.

Can Metal Tent Poles Be Dangerous During Lightning?

Metal tent poles will not attract lightning. Things that “attract” lightning are generally tall items or isolated objects. The metal poles could conduct electricity, which can create some added danger during a lightning storm.

There are places you can place your tent during a storm to help reduce that risk.

What to Do to Stay Safe

You can still camp during a lightning storm. There are steps that you can take to reduce the risk of a lightning strike for yourself and your family.  

Considering the placement of your tent is the most important thing you can do.

Choosing a safe location will reduce your risk of lightning and also keep you safe from other common accidents that occur during rainstorms.

Stay Away from Ridges

Look at the height of an object if you want to predict where lightning will strike. You do not want your tent to be the tallest thing in an area, or lightning is more likely to strike your tent than the things around it.

This means that while a tall ridge may have a beautiful view of the scenery around you, it is not the safest place to camp during a storm.

Find somewhere else to place your tent. You may want to find the middle of a hill or slope to avoid flooding. We will dive into that later in this article.

Avoid Wide Open Spaces

Lightning is “looking” for something to strike. This is why isolated trees, poles, and buildings are more likely to be struck than other objects.

You do not want your tent to be the only object in a field, or it will offer the least resistance to lightning.

You may want to set up your tent in an area with some trees. However, do not set up directly under a tree, as if the tree is struck, you may be hit by falling branches.

Choose Your Tent Carefully

While the risk of the metal in your tent poles conducting electricity is relatively low, you can select a tent that will make that risk even lower to give you added peace of mind and security.

Tents with Aluminum and Copper poles will conduct less electricity than other options.

Additionally, Bolt is designing tents that are meant to protect you from lightning and “step-voltage.” Step voltage is when lightning strikes and sends off secondary shoots to conductive areas nearby. This is the most common way tents are struck by lightning.

Do Not Camp Under a Tree

Camping under a tree may seem like a great way to achieve extra protection from a storm. However, as a tall object, that tree is more likely to be struck by lightning.

You do not want to be next to a tree struck by lightning because you would be in danger of step-voltage.

Additionally, due to wind, rain, and lightning, a tree or branches could fall on your tent.

Other Ways to Stay Safe During a Storm

While tents do not attract lightning, and you can mitigate the risk of it. There are other common concerns while camping during a rainstorm that you should also address.

Do Not Camp at the Bottom of a Hill

While camping at the bottom of a hill will keep you away from the highest point for lightning, it will mean that all of the water will run into your tent.

The water will collect under your tent, and it will flood.

That will make for a very uncomfortable camping experience that will also make you more prone to pneumonia.

Camping on a slight slant will help the water run under your tent without collecting.

Secure Your Tent Well

Rainstorms often coincide with large gusts of wind. You will want to make sure your tent does not tip over or blow away.

Make sure you use stakes to attach it to the ground and make sure they are deep in the ground. If you are concerned about metal stakes conducting electricity, you can find plastic stakes still strong for tents.

Additional wind protection may be important to keep you safe.

Check to make sure nothing above or near your tent could fall and injure you while you sleep.

Do Not Camp Below a Body of Water

Camping below a body of water can create a similar effect as camping at the bottom of a hill. As water rushes and overfills that body of water, it will run through, around, and in your tent.

Suppose you can camp above the body of water to avoid the flow of the water running through your campsite.

Use Dry Bags

It can be incredibly dangerous to end up in the woods without enough food or dry supplies to light a fire. Similarly, drenched clothing can negatively impact your health.

Use dry bags to keep all of your vital gear safe.

You will likely need several dry bags, as you will want to keep at least a few pairs of clothes, food, and wood, and other fire-making supplies dry.

Make Sure You Can Communicate

You should have a satellite phone or other method of communication ready in case anything goes wrong. Sometimes thunderstorms can cause fires or flooding.

While this is unlikely, it could affect your return plans. In the case of an emergency, it is important to be able to contact someone for extra supplies, medical help, or help to return.

Final Thoughts

Tents do not “attract” lightning. In many ways, lightning is unpredictable. However, studying lightning has shown that it is more likely to strike tall, isolated objects.

Metal does not necessarily make an object a more likely target for a lightning strike.

Metal can, however, conduct electricity, which can magnify the danger of a lightning strike. There are steps you can take to reduce the risk of being the victim of a lightning strike while camping.

Stay away from wide-open areas, and do not camp directly under a tree. Also, be sure to protect yourself from the other dangers of a thunderstorm while camping, as there are dangers other than lightning.

References

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/lightning

https://www.weather.gov/safety/lightning-myths

Mike Gilmour

Hi, I'm Mike, co-founder, and editor of RV and Playa. My passion is traveling (with my RV) and enjoying the day at the beach (Playa)! Well, I originally created this blog as a way to share what I've learned by experimenting with the RV lifestyle, and I want to help others develop in life through new skills and opportunities.

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