Is it safe to sleep in a tent during thunderstorms? 

In this blog post, we will answer the following question: Is it safe to sleep in a tent during thunderstorms? We will discuss precautionary measures and recommend a few tents for rough weather. We will also consider the safety of camping in an RV during a thunderstorm.

Is it safe to sleep in a tent during thunderstorms?

No, it is not safe to camp and sleep in a tent during a thunderstorm. Avoid pitching your tent under a single tree or the tallest tree, near a metal fence, or on top of a hill. You must seek shelter in a solid building when seeing a thunderstorm approaching. 

If thunder is audible, you may be struck by lightning. Quickly seek refuge in a safe place, either in a fully enclosed building, which includes wiring and plumbing, or in a metal-roofed automobile. Your tent is not a safe place.

Examples of buildings offering no protection:

  • Picnic shelters – which do not have walls or a method of conducting lightning to the ground.
  • Outdoors toilets – which have no wiring or plumbing that can lead lightning to earth.

If you are trapped outside away from shelter, stay away from tall objects. These will be, for example, trees, poles, cables and fences. Take shelter in a depression in the ground.

Stay in a safe place for at least 30 minutes after the last roar of thunder. About a third of accidents happen after a thunderstorm, because people resume their outdoor activities too quickly.

Is it safe to sleep in an RV during thunderstorms?

While offering more protection than a tent, not all RVs are safe places to be in during a thunderstorm. As general advice, avoid installing your travel trailer or recreational vehicle (RV) under a single tree or under the tallest tree, near a metal fence, or on top of a hill.

If you hear thunder, you are within striking distance of lightning. Quickly seek refuge in a safe place, either in a fully enclosed building, which includes wiring and plumbing or in a metal-roofed automobile.

Lightning is conducted around the exterior surface of a metal frame vehicle, which has the effect of protecting occupants from the risk of electric shock. This is called the Faraday cage effect. Provided that the passenger does not come into contact with the outer metal shell, that is to say by touching interior parts, such as the steering wheel, a button on the radio or the handle of a door, he will be out of danger.

Examples of vehicles not offering any protection:

  • Tent-trailers/pop-up campers/hybrid trailers with canvas walls.
  • Recreational vehicles are made of fibreglass. 

Lightning goes through these types of vehicles. On the other hand, a recreational vehicle made of steel or aluminum protects its occupants from lightning.

A recreational vehicle can be struck by lightning if it is connected to an electrical network (parking current) or when its jacks are in contact with the ground during a thunderstorm. If you are trapped outside away from the shelter, stay away from tall objects. These will be, for example, trees, poles, cables and fences. Take shelter in a depression in the ground.

Stay in a safe place for at least 30 minutes after the last roar of thunder. About a third of accidents happen after a thunderstorm because people resume their outdoor activities too quickly.

Camping precautionary measures for rough weather

The worst thing to do in finding shelter in a storm is to lie on the ground in a tent since it offers no protection either above or below. As soon as you hear thunder, it is recommended that you go into a building or a car, if possible, if not under a canoe, and wait about 30 minutes after the last rumble.

There are never 100% safe shelters, but it is important to erect as many walls as possible between us and the storm in order to increase the protection. If you have something rigid over your head, it can protect you a little more if there is a tree or a branch falling. 

In fact, one should think about the risks associated with lightning when setting up a camp. Under a single tree or the tallest tree, near a metal fence or on the top of a hill, these seemingly ideal places should be avoided.

Occupants of a travel trailer or recreational vehicle will be safe in a thunderstorm, provided they do not touch certain parts that come into contact with the metal shell. However, an RV can be struck by lightning if it is connected to a power grid or if its jacks are in contact with the ground.

If you are in the backcountry, it is recommended to stay away from high-risk locations such as peaks, ridges and elevated terrain, places where lightning will often strike first. Because lightning always looks for the shortest route to land.

What are the best tents for rough weather?

The first rule to avoid having problems with the rain when camping is to equip yourself properly. It is therefore when purchasing your equipment that you must make the right decisions.

For example, the outer canvas of your tent must sufficiently cover the internal structure, otherwise splashing water and mud could become a real problem. Obviously, your tent must also absolutely be waterproof. Moreover, make sure that the seams of the tent are well sealed.

So don’t rush to buy a tent; compare the models, read the descriptions and ask the salesperson for advice. Here are our recommendations:

  • MSR: This tent is designed for campers looking for a compact and lightweight tent, with MSR’s Xtreme Shield ™ waterproof coating. Price:$ 559.99
  • Pro-Fly: The aerodynamic shape of this tent will give you protection during downpours and make an ideal base camp! Price: $ 99.99

The choice of the location of your tent is also important. Identify slopes, hollows, places that are too soft before pitching your tent – it can make all the difference! Try to choose the highest spot on the ground, free of debris.

Also, make sure the floor of your tent rises to the sides, including at the entrance, otherwise, water will enter. For even more protection, you can install a tarp on the ground, under your tent. This will act as a groundsheet. Remember to fold up the sides so that the water flowing along the tent is not retained by this tent.

If unfortunately, it was raining when setting up your tent, first put the tarp over you, otherwise, your tent will be completely soaked before you have finished setting it up. Remember to ventilate your tent, otherwise, simple breathing can cause condensation, humidity and form small drops inside. If you can, choose a tent model with an awning.

How to protect your RV from thunderstorms?

In addition to lightning, there are other dangers from which you and your camper must be protected: heavy rains and hailstorms.

  1. Set up your camper sheltered from the wind. The so-called safe places carry dangers you may not know about. Like we said above, avoid trees no matter what. Branches could break and fall on your camper.
  1. Stay away from bodies of water. Heavy rains, or even torrential rains, can at best penetrate your camper and at worst destroy it. The water ends up getting everywhere and your belongings suffer, especially your sleeping bag and clothes.
  1. Guess the distance of the storm. How do you know how far away the storm is? There’s a simple rule of thumb: just count the seconds between lightning and thunder. Multiply this number by 342 (sound speed). The result is the distance to the storm in meters.

However, lightning can sometimes be a few miles from a thunderstorm. If the storm isn’t coming your way, you’re safe as soon as you can count 20 seconds between lightning and minimum thunder. There is nothing else to do than verify all of the above. And, if you’re lucky, the storm will pass as quickly as it approaches.

Final thoughts

Finally, if you take all the necessary precautions, you can enjoy and be safe on your trip, no matter if you are camping in a tent or travelling with your RV! Please let us know if you have any questions or comments on the content. 

FAQ on Is it safe to sleep in a tent during thunderstorms?

Is it dangerous to sleep in a camper during a thunderstorm?

Yes, sleeping in a camper during a thunderstorm is dangerous and it increases the risk of a lightning strike. Research shows that where lightning strikes the ground, there is a danger that can be fatal, over a distance of up to 10 meters. People were injured 15 to 30 meters from the point of impact. 

Can lightning strike a pop-up camper?

Yes, pop-up campers are not an effective refuge from lightning strikes. Certain factors increase the risk of lightning strikes, such as the presence of metal equipment (mountain bikes, barbecues, gas stoves, fridge under the awning, etc.) and in particular the presence of electrical outlets nearby.

How to protect yourself from storms in the mountains?

To protect yourself from storms in the mountains do not pass and move away from any metallic object and any naturally exposed place. Find a place offering the best protection: you can take shelter under a stone building.

Are pop up campers safe in lightning?

No, pop-up campers are not safe in lightning storms. Pop-up campers should be used as a last resort in case a storm hits!

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