Unexpected Weather Circumstances While Camping

Prepare yourself for possible unexpected weather circumstances when you set off to go camping.

  • Weather phenomena can cause more severe and dangerous conditions.
    Photo by Pixabay/Capri23auto
  • “A Woman’s Guide to the Wild” by Ruby McConnell helps lead women confidentially into their camping adventures.
    Photo courtesy of Sasquatch Books

A Woman’s Guide to the Wild (Sasquatch Books, 2016) by Ruby McConnell covers everything a woman needs to know before heading off into the wild. From handling “lady matters” to a full gear list, McConnell makes sure no woman walks into the woods without having everything she needs. The following excerpt is her advice on handling unexpected special weather circumstances.

 Most of the time if you bother to check the weather and plan accordingly, a storm or some unexpected snow means little more than hanging extra tarps, getting a little soggy, or being slightly colder than you might wish. Some weather phenomena, though, especially in combination with the right terrain, can make for dangerous conditions.


Choosing to go out in winter cold or in the summer heat is a decision you make, but lightning is something that comes upon you. Lightning occurs in many kinds of terrains and weather conditions but is most likely to happen in the afternoon as air temperatures increase. I am never more terrified outside than in big electrical storms, and with good reason. Lightning travels through anything that conducts, especially water-based things, like ponds, puddles, and people. When near lightning, you want to keep a nonconducting layer (like your backpack) between yourself and anything on the ground that could attract and direct a current toward you (like a metal camp chair, tree roots, or even the ground itself). If you do get caught in lightning, take the following precautions:

• Stay low. Lightning often strikes the highest points, so decrease your elevation, move away from ridges and hilltops, and crouch or curl on your back.
• Stay buffered. Keep your pack or some other nonconducting material between yourself and the ground.
• Ditch your metal. Metal attracts lightning, so drop metal stakes and poles before taking shelter; you can retrieve them when the storm has passed.


Thunder and lightning originate from the same location but travel at different speeds. The farther away they are from you, the more pronounced the gap between them is. Counting the seconds between a lightning strike and its associated thunder clap allows you to make a rough estimate of how far the storm is from you (about one mile per second) and if it is moving toward or away from you (decreasing numbers indicate the storm is moving closer to you).

6/21/2018 8:48:24 AM

I was always taught it was a mile every 5 seconds, not a mile per second. Quite a difference.

6/21/2018 8:48:23 AM

I was always taught it was a mile every 5 seconds, not a mile per second. Quite a difference.

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