Hiking and Camping Safely in Storms


Lately we have seemed to find ourselves in the midst of some pretty huge and gnarly storms.  Lightening, thunder, tornadoes, and torrential downpours.  While we were thankful to not be in tents at the time or stuck in the path of flash flooding, it got me thinking a lot about storm safety .  The weather can change VERY quickly here in the mountains and it’s very easy to be caught off guard.  And being caught off guard can be a big deal depending on the storm and your location.

Since lightning and flash flooding is the most common weather danger when you are out in the mountains, it will be what we will focus on for these tips.

We’ve gathered some of our best tips for storm safety (and, as always, invite you to chime in with your own in the comments!):

1. Be Aware

  • Check weather reports before you head out.  While we all know the “weather man” isn’t always correct, it helps you judge a little more accurately what to expect.
  • Bring a mobile weather radio.  We have loved our Midland Portable Weather Alert Radio over the past few months (see end of this post for full review).
  • Be aware of the cloud cover and changing conditions.  Know that most thunder and lightning storms hit in the afternoon.  And since temperatures are much cooler in the morning anyway, it’s a great reason to start out early and be home before those storms.
  • Avoid a danger of being caught in a flash flood by not camping in gullies or ravines, too close to high rivers and be cautious during stream crossings.

 2. Be Proactive

  • Know that if you hear thunder, it is very likely you are within striking distance of lightning.  Take action immediately.
  • If you do get caught in a thunder and lightning storm in the mountains, first of all, do not panic.
  • Get to lower ground (though be aware of a danger of flash flooding…)
  • Never lie flat on the ground (even if you feel as though you are in a safe area)
  • If you can’t get to safety, “Crouch down on the balls of your feet, keeping them close together, to minimize your contact with the ground. To protect your hearing, cover your ears in order to block out the thunder. If you are with a group of people, crouch 20 feet apart to decrease the risk of multiple people being struck.” Wild Backpacker
  • Stay away from bodies of water and items that conduct electricity (barbed wire, power lines, windmills, etc.)
  • Find shelter in a metal car or between rocks.  Do not hide under an isolated tree, picnic table or the one higher object in the area.  Getting wet is better than getting electrocuted!

3. Be Safe

  • Keep up to date on CPR certifications should the need arise.  
  • Carry a first aid kit with you every time and know how to use it!


Midland HH54 Portable Emergency Weather Radio with SAME (Black)
(retails for $60, on sale at Amazon.com for $36.95)

Over the past few weeks we have run into an abnormal amount of rather extreme summer storms.  While I was a bit skeptical originally if we would use the radio, it has proven to be extremely valuable.  It has helped us avoid camping in tornado warning weather and kept us safe while hiking with live weather reports when alerts and warnings were in effect in the area. It is small enough to carry with us, holds a charge for a few days and easily picks up NOAA weather alerts for the local areas (can also be customized to only pick up certain areas.)  It also doesn’t require a cell phone signal and you can buy additional rechargeable batteries for it.  We think it is definitely worth the $37 at Amazon.com and wouldn’t hesitate spending $60 on it either.

The only tip I have is to hang onto the manual (which is also available online) for the first few weeks to help with set up and making changes.

midlandradio2 midlandradio1



NWS Lightning Safety

USS Scouts Flash Flood safety for hikers

Wild Backpacker.com – Surviving a Lightning Storm

Win one!

Midland Radio has stepped in and offered the chance for one of you to win an emergency weather radio – the same one reviewed here.

As usual, please use the Rafflecopter Widget below to enter to win. The winner will be emailed and announced on this post in the Rafflecopter Widget. Have questions? Please don’t hesitate to contact me at mountainmamatales(at)gmail(dot)com so I can help!  Sorry, this giveaway is open to the U.S. only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Midland Radio generously provided us this gear in order to facilitate this review.  However, as always, the opinions expressed here are completely and honestly our own.  Additionally, a few of these  links are affiliates.  Thank you so much for clicking through them to make your purchases – it helps offset the cost of this blog in a (VERY VERY) small way!  You can find my full disclosure here.  

© 2013, Tales of a Mountain Mama. All rights reserved. Republication, in part or entirety, requires a link back to this original post and permission from the author.

22 thoughts on “Hiking and Camping Safely in Storms”

  1. We do get very bad thunderstorms where we live! I tried to avoid camping when I think there is a threat/warning/watch… but sometimes you just never know! These storms can sneak up on you.

  2. I worry the most about weather with strong winds. I love trees, but not when they crash through my windows!

  3. william colquhoun

    Lightning. Just the other day I was at concert when of course the severe weather alert started flashing on screens. Would have been nice to know what was coming before tons of rain hit.

  4. Being outside, backpacking and camping and such, lightning storms scare me the most. At home, dry, gusty (fire prone) conditions make me most nervous.

  5. Lately NH has had a lot of tornado warnings, something out of the ordinary for us. That is what scares me, nothing in our area is setup for tornados, no good warning systems, nobody takes it seriously, etc.

  6. In the midwest, we get tornados that come up really quickly, a radio like this will he helpful even when the power is out.

  7. The most nervous I have been is when I was elk hunting and the weather turned on us. It was a thunderstorm and hail storm. Needless to say when you are 15 feet up in the tree and getting hail blown in your face and lightning crashing around you, you move pretty quick down the tree.

  8. Unexpected snow storms make me very nervous. Once I had driven out on a day trip with my husband, my sister and my sister’s husband. It started to snow lightly at mid-day. By the time we started driving home, the snowfall was increasing. We had to drive up a very steep road and at some elevation before getting home. There had been no prediction of a snowstorm earlier that day.

  9. Never been caught in anything extreme, but I worry about being in a tent with large branches overhead if a wind situation or bad thunderstorm were to come up. Id love to be able to monitor the weather.

  10. Thunderstorms with very heavy rain disturb me. I find it difficult to sleep when I’m camping in such conditions because I worry about what might happen.

  11. Tornados are the one thing that make me nervous in the part of the country because there have been a few bad ones the past few years and there are no tornado sirens to warn for them like we had when I was growing up. I like thunderstorms though NOT when I am camping! Yikes!

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