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  1. #1
    New Member patrickbdunlap's Avatar
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    Lightning While In a Hammock

    I was listening to one of my backpacking podcasts and they were talking about what to do during a lighting storm. That got me wondering about being in a hammock during a storm.

    My assumption would be that there would be little reason for lighting to hit a tree and while going to the ground, decided that it wants to go through me between the trees. Lighting is chaos in motion so there is no telling what it will do but I think I am in about as much danger in the hammock as I would be sleeping on the ground.

    What do you guys think?

  2. #2
    dejoha's Avatar
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    Without linking to other posts, I will say that this has been discussed before many times. It is a valid concern and good question.

    True: You are no safer in a hammock than on the ground.

    Mitigating lightning strike risk is the same for everyone in the backcountry. Find a location in a copse of trees where no tree is any higher than the other. Don't pitch a hammock on the top of a ridge or hill. Don't hang on an isolated, tall tree in the middle of a barren field. Wait 30 minutes after the last strike before setting up or taking down, etc., etc.

  3. #3
    Senior Member nacra533's Avatar
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    I would argue you MIGHT be a little safer in a hammock than on the ground IF

    you don't experience a direct strike to your trees. ie, it hits a nearby tree, mountain top, etc..

    Lightning (and all electricity) flowing through the ground causes "step potential". Meaning, when standing, one foot is at a different potential than the other. This causes current flow inside the body, which causes electric shock/electrocution.

    If you imagine a football field and if lightning stikes the center of the 50 yard line, the voltage in the earth will dissipate like like rings from a rock hitting the water. It will be highest in the center and will eventually drop back to zero/gorund potential as you move away from the strike. The level of voltage doesn't matter as much as the difference in voltage.

    This is why birds can sit on a power line of any voltage.

    This is also why some appliances survive a lightning strike at home while TVs, phones, computers almost always fail. These devices are plugged into the electrical outlet and also to the phone line, cable line, etc. The CATV, Phone, etc system sees a different rise and fall than the electrical system, creating a much larger voltage in the appliance than the 120V it needs.

    None of this speculation should replace good judgement of getting yourself out of danger when lightning is present.

  4. #4
    New Member patrickbdunlap's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dejoha View Post
    Without linking to other posts, I will say that this has been discussed before many times. It is a valid concern and good question.
    Odd, I did a search on the forums for "Lighting" and did not find the same question but I did not dig too deep into the threads returned.

    Thanks.

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  6. #6
    Senior Member jraffini's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by patrickbdunlap View Post
    Odd, I did a search on the forums for "Lighting" and did not find the same question but I did not dig too deep into the threads returned.

    Thanks.
    I hope it doesn't seem rude to say so because that's not my intention, but your search issue may be coming from searching for "Lighting" not "Lightning". I've grown frustrated on more than one occasion when the issue ended up being just a small spelling problem. Hopefully that will help as you search further even though Dejoha has provided some fantastic links for you!

  7. #7
    Moderator raiffnuke's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jraffini View Post
    I hope it doesn't seem rude to say so because that's not my intention, but your search issue may be coming from searching for "Lighting" not "Lightning". I've grown frustrated on more than one occasion when the issue ended up being just a small spelling problem. Hopefully that will help as you search further even though Dejoha has provided some fantastic links for you!
    I am sorry for finding this funny, but that is because it has happened to me...more than once....

  8. #8
    Senior Member bdbart's Avatar
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    So one of those threads dejoha has listed.... mentioned Mythbusters.... If enough people from this forum submit the question.... then they have to do it... right??

    So go to Mythbusters and submit a question on their forum
    My memory's not as sharp as it used to be. Also, my memory's not as sharp as it used to be.

  9. #9
    New Member patrickbdunlap's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jraffini View Post
    I hope it doesn't seem rude to say so because that's not my intention, but your search issue may be coming from searching for "Lighting" not "Lightning". I've grown frustrated on more than one occasion when the issue ended up being just a small spelling problem. Hopefully that will help as you search further even though Dejoha has provided some fantastic links for you!
    You caught me red handed (or should I say read handed) That is exactly what I did. Spell check can't save me.

  10. #10
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    Add rubber drip rings to your suspension. I used the rubber muffler hangers from my old car (ripped them off when it went to salvage). They are plenty strong, but a little too heavy for backpacking. I've used them when in the woods behind my house when the storms are shaking the place. Backpacking - they stayed home. They would offer quite a lot of insulation IF they aren't soaked. If they'er completely wet, then there could be a completed electrical circuit across them via the water. If dry, they're rubber and the current stops dead. Not an elegant solution, but better than nothing.

    My setup was: Tree-Strap-Metal Drip Ring-Rubber Muffler Hanger-Line-Hammock Hook. This pulled most of the water away, and worked most of the time - failed to keep the rubber section dry in torrential downpours. I'm pretty sure it didn't hurt, but who knows if the setup offered any actual protection or not. Your electrocution..... errrrr Mileage may vary.

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