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Are tents safe places during lightning strikes?

Are tents safe places during lightning strikes?
There are actually very few safe places during a thunderstorm. People have died in their homes after they were struck by lightning. Don’t talk on a landline or take a shower during a lightning storm. Both carry more risk than not.

That said, some places are safer than others.

A tent is not protection from lightning, no matter what it’s made of or what kind of poles you use. However, I have camped for 58 years since I was five months old, a baby in Mom’s arms. My experience has covered all four seasons from 102 degrees F to -26 F.

I’ve survived rain, snow, ice, lightning, hail, and 90 MPH wind that took the tent down with us inside. Some of those tents had metal poles, both inside and out. Old wall tents had wooden poles. The last tent I slept in had some kind of carbon fiber poles. Probably excellent lightning rods.

Sometimes I felt in more danger from mosquitoes than I did from the weather.

Here’s the key. Camped in a forest is better than out the open, but not next to a tree. Go look at a state campground. The place to put your tent doesn’t have any trees next to it. Nearby, yes. Surrounding trees may be struck, but that keeps you from getting hit.

Pitch your tent away from trees and on top of a plastic tarp. Trees won’t offer much protection and falling debris is probably a bigger worry than lightning. A small open space surrounded by trees will serve you best in a storm. Try to keep ten feet of more between any trees and your tent. Sit on dry rugs or blankets, don’t touch the poles. Be sure to make a small ditch around the tent perimeter to keep the rain moving away from the tent.
Now advice. If strong storms are predicted, don’t go camping without a good reason. Like your house just blew down and all you have left is a tent. If you’re camping and a storm comes up and the lightning flashes and the thunder rolls, stay in the tent, play cards, and have an adult beverage or two.

It’s just more fun that way than worrying about getting hit.

So just how unsafe is staying put in a tent during a lightning storm? In a population of 330 Million people, 27 are killed by lightning on average every year. The odds are 1 in 1,222,000 of being hit.

Seriously. I’m not going to worry about it. I’m going camping, rain or shine.

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