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I'm not sure of all the physics involved for being electrocuted in a lightning strike while in a hammock...anyone with credentials care to pipe in? I do know from actual eye ball experience that more than shock is a concern. Trees can split and explode when struck. This outdoorsman prefers to keep a weather eye out and find the best possible place long before stuff gets close. Tempting fate is so 70/80s for me.
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it is possible to survive a lightning strike i know a gentleman that has been hit twice and is fine well he is a bit odd but then rent we all.
I would think being in the hammock would actually be safer than being on the ground, since lightning is connecting from the clouds to the ground by the path of least resistance. I'd think there would be more resistance to traveling through your suspension, you and then arcing to the ground through the air than simply travelling through the tree.
It would probably make your hair stand on end though!
My summer job for a season for the Old Forest Service, sixty years ago, was that of a fire lookout in a remote section of Montana. You packed in and for the rest of the summer the only person you saw was the packer every two weeks. When storm clouds were in the distance, you would sight in on the hot strikes with the alidade fire finder and mark the azimuth on the rim and then count the seconds until you heard the report so that you could locate and map out the area of likely fires. This helped to determine the flight path of the patrol plane after the storm was over plus determine the location of sleepers. Once the storm reached the lookout and you were in cloud cover, all you could do was listen to the lightning go above, below, and around you. In those days, because it was then a small outfit, it was very important to know where the hot areas were in order to preposition so that smokechasers were ready to go at first light. The only thing that I know for sure about lightning is that it is unpredicable and often breaks the rules.
Not all lightning strikes are the same in terms of how much they branch out or how much energy is in them. When caught outdoors in lightning we can do things to improve our chances but there are no guarantees.
And these "lightning takes the path of least resistance" comments you often hear... well, lightning is some powerful stuff and it is more complicated than analyzing your typical electric circuit, but even in typical electrical circuits electrical currents split and more current follows the paths that have less resistance, however the paths of higher resistance just get less current in proportion to the paths that have less resistance. If you are talking about a bunch of current, there can be enough in even the high resistance paths to do you it.
There is a place I think in California that tests lightning in a controlled environment (I saw it on Mythbusters). I wonder if they could test it for us one day. It would be interesting to find out.
Or maybe this summer I can run a test useing 110 volts.
Because I take groups out, I have done a fair amount of research on this and would make several observations from my information gathering.
Spreading out is important, so there are folks to provide resuscitation if necessary.
Foam pads really don't make that much difference if the strike is close.
Covering your ears is important if strikes are really close.
Most folks are injured by "feeders" rather than a direct hit.
Lightning flows often like water, going downhill, ravines may not be all that safe.
The best place to be is a grove of equal height trees in an area not elevated above the surroundings.
And finally, most folks run to their tents, ignoring all instruction they have been given, lay out on the ground, totally exposing themselves to the shock, grab a book to read or a deck of cards, encased with metal poles and to date they have all been fine.
Personally, I feel safer in a hammock because I am off the ground. However, I do not choose large trees and make every effort to be in an area that "blends in" with the area around me. Now, there may not be any rational reason for all that, so I just feel safer. Let's me sleep.
I actually worry more about wind than lightning. Most T-storms in the midwest pack 50-60 mph winds along with all the electrons.
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Lightning is a powerful beast that doesn't obey our simplified rules of physics. It will often follow multiple paths. Even though air itself is an insulator it travels across large expanses of it by ionizing the air, making it conductive. Wood/trees aren't all that conductive but get hit all the time. It's trying to find a path to ground and pretty much anything that stands out from surrounding objects can attract it because they shorten the path and pointed objects have a greater charge density at their tips. Lightning doesn't like sharp bends and sometimes continues past a possible low resistance path if that path has a small turn radius.
Bottom line, there are no guarantees when dealing with lightning. You just do your best to improve your odds. Stay away from high trees and exposed bluffs (applies to hammocks and tents).
As was mentioned, most injuries are from ground current. The hammock should help with that. My daughter and I waited out an intense lightning storm on the AT by each squatting on a rock with our feet together. We didn't expect to get hit directly but earlier in the year 8 people in the area were injured by the ground current after a strike.