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Thread: thunder storms

  1. #1
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    thunder storms

    Am I right in assuming my HH treehuggers will not conduct electricity and keep me safe hanging from a tree?

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    we get alot of thunderstorms in new England and there are plenty of trees to hang from. Any advice on safe hanging and even hanging locations?

  3. #3
    Senior Member Just Jeff's Avatar
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    This question comes up pretty often...search the forum and you'll find several threads on it.

    Bottom line - you're in no more danger in a hammock than you are in a tent. Don't hang from the highest tree on a ridgeline, check for widow-makers, etc. If the tree gets struck, it's gonna explode and send shards everywhere...and they'd shred a tent just like a hammock.

    So the difference in danger between a tent and a hammock is negligible if you take normal lightning precautions.
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    NOTHING will 'keep you safe' when in the outdoors during a Thunderstorm. TStorms rightfully scare the beejeezus out of even experienced outdoorsmen.
    That said:
    1. Don't hang near a river during a TStorm. Flash floods will take you as easily as they will a tenter.
    2. Don't choose the tallest trees in the area for your hang. They SEEM to be more likely to be struck then lower trees. However, lightning is fickle, it might still choose your shorter tree.
    3. LOOK UP! - before you hang, CHECK to be sure there aren't any widow makers hanging precariously above. TStorms bring high winds. High winds bring down dead branches from your or nearby trees.
    4. You MIGHT actually be safer hanging. The lightning is seeking 'ground' the most direct path is straight down the tree that was struck. But as before, lightning is fickle, it MIGHT STILL use your suspension to travel to the other tree, or down your hammock and leap off your bottom to 'ground'.
    5. I've heard that resiny(is that even a word) trees have a tendency to explode when struck. Try to choose hardwood/deciduous forests to hang in.

    tents are just as prone to all of these issues. In fact tenters should 'cop a squat' on their backpack during a TStorm.

    The best thing to do.....seek proper shelter. An enclosed building, your vehicle(windows closed), even a pole barn.

  5. #5
    There have been occasions (so I've heard) when a tree from which a hammocker is hanging has been struck. The lightening has traveled down making its way through the hammocker and over to the second tree. You meet these hapless blokes now and again out on the trail. They seem to be in a loop seeking any port in the storm. They are easily recognizable: White frizzy hair and wide open eyes.

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    Bottom line - you're in no more danger in a hammock than you are in a tent. Don't hang from the highest tree on a ridgeline, check for widow-makers, etc. If the tree gets struck, it's gonna explode and send shards everywhere...and they'd shred a tent just like a hammock.

    Traditional advise for selecting a campsite is to stay away from trees. Trees have branches that can fall on you, trees can attract lightning, and after a rainstorm trees can drip water on you for quite a while. With a hammock, such traditional advise must be ignored (unless you bring a hammock stand). The cost of doing so means accepting a greater risk. Obviously, there are many here to are happy tradeoff some degree of safety for a great degree of comfort.

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    Senior Member Ramblinrev's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FarStar View Post
    [Traditional advise for selecting a campsite is to stay away from trees.
    Not entirely true in a thunderstorm scenario. You don't want to be in the middle of an open field with your aluminum trekking poles being the highest conductive point around. In short... in any event you pays your money and takes your chances.
    I may be slow... But I sure am gimpy.

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    In the outdoors lightning can do about anything it wants to and we can't do much about it. People have been hit or received related current while in shelters, while in tents, under tarps, in hammocks, etc. We can do things that improve our chances and we can do things that decrease our chances... sometimes we have those options and sometimes we really don't. Lightning can strike miles or even 30 minutes or so before or after a thunderstorm actually reaches your location.

    I came across some folks carrying their deceased dog out a couple of years back that died from a lightning strike. The interesting story here was they were on a ridgeline and I only recall hearing two close by thunder claps. There were two couple with about 3 dogs. When the lightning hit a close by tree it traveled though the ground which was likely a huge chunk of rock with some dirt and trees growing on it. The dog that died was outside their tents while the two couples and the two dogs that survived where inside their tents and on their ground pads. They figured their ground pads protected them. Could have been the case and it might have been the current took a path that they weren't in... who knows for sure but the pads certainly helped their odds. This storm popped up and came out of no where. They were at a popular 'warm weather' camping spot with a great view on the AT in Georgia where literally thousands of people have used and enjoyed over the years... they just had real bad luck.

    I have a hiking buddy whose daughter suffered permanent damage while waiting out a storm in a 'cave like' structure when lightning hit the rock structure and the repercussion was like being inside a cannon. Lightning strikes can be amazingly powerful.

    Lightning bolts do not all contain the same amount of energy but they are all very powerful. Some are like a bomb going off.
    Youngblood AT2000

  9. #9
    Senior Member dmrichm's Avatar
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    The only way to be completely safe is to build a Faraday cage to sleep in, which is impractical for backpacking.
    Hmmmm... maybe a new idea for a hammock.... the anti-lightening hammock.... it will only weigh 30 lbs, BUT you will be safe from electrocution. Buy now and for a limited time you'll get a car battery to turn it into an anti-bear cage!!

  10. #10
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    Youngblood sounds like a voice of reason. Because I take groups on canoe trips, I have done a whole lot of reading and research on this issue and have run across a lot of different thoughts and perspectives.

    Some of what I have taken away seems to indicate that a grove of trees of similar height is one of the best places to be. You do not stand out, and a strike in your area is more likely to be random rather than one caused by you.

    Lightning tends to flow like water, so being in a depression at the bottom of a hill can also increase the likelihood of danger. Many people, such as the dog Youngblood describes are injured by "feeders" or current that travels in various ways through the ground.

    If in a group, the safest thing to do is spread out so if there is a strike someone is able to help, get on the balls of your feet, squat and cover your ears for protection from the sound of a nearby strike. There is debate about insulation under you, ie a pad. I think that it makes some sense, yet the random nature and power of lightning may make it a useless thing.

    Bottom line is that it is powerful and random. I take it seriously, I have had two friends killed by lightning, one I witnessed first hand while in college. Watching the soccer team practice, and a storm was "far off" and a bolt struck one of the players and literally blew a hole in his head. Many others around him were injured.

    Perhaps it is silly but I do feel a little safer in a hammock because I do not have all kinds of metal poles surrounding me and I am off the ground where most voltage travels.
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