Wednesday, November 29, 2023


Avoid being hit by lightning while hiking

By Mike Sokol 

Welcome to my J.A.M. (Just Ask Mike) Session, a weekly column where I answer your basic electrical questions. If you’re a newbie who’s never plugged in a shore power cord (or ask – what’s a shore power cord?), or wonder why your daughter’s hair dryer keeps tripping the circuit breaker, this column is for you. Send your questions to Mike Sokol at mike (at) with the subject line – JAM.

Dear Mike (aka J.A.M.),
I know that you’ve recommended that we unplug our RVs from shore power if there’s a lightning storm coming, but what if we’re out hiking or enjoying nature away from our RV? Can you provide any safety information for when we’re NOT hanging out at the campsite? —Karl

Dear Karl,
Indeed I can. But first I’ll provide a link to my previous JAM Session where I recommend unplugging from shore power during a lightning storm. Yes, don’t do this while lightning is actively hitting the campground. Unplug from shore power BEFORE it gets too dangerous to go outside. Let’s reread that JAM Session HERE for a quick review. And there’s a link to my full article on RV safety during a lightning storm HERE.

So what do you do if you’re out in a boat or hiking or just walking around in the woods and a lightning storm shows up? Well, first, written on the first page of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” in friendly letters, DON’T PANIC. But secondly, have a plan in place so you know what to do to immediately safeguard yourself and your family. While I’m mostly an electrical expert, I’m not a lightning expert when it comes to being out in the open while hiking. But I have found someone who is.

Meet, a website dedicated to hiking safety. Now, I’ve never done a 50-mile hike in my life (even if you add up all my little hikes). But these folks are really serious about staying safe in the outdoors. Here’s a bullet point list of what they recommend you do if you’re out hiking and encounter a lightning storm.

This is an excerpt from their article, which you can read in full HERE (and we recommend that you do).

If there is no building in which you can safely take shelter, here are a few safety procedures to minimize the risk of being struck.

  • Separate and, if possible, find cover under clumps of shrubs or trees of uniform height
  • Always, spread out 25′ to 30′ from each other, but maintain voice contact
  • Stay off ridges and exposed passes – you are typically better off at lower elevations
  • Stay out of broad open areas like meadows or lakes
  • Do not try to take shelter in a cave*
  • Stay away from water
  • Avoid high isolated trees (do not set up your tents near them either!)

*Rock shelters and cave entrances are also dangerous because lightning will travel along any surface to reach electrical ground. If any part of your body touches any part of these surfaces, the lightning will travel through your body. Mitigate cave risk by sitting far back from the entrance and having as much space between your head and the rock ceiling as possible. That means potentially finding a different cave to wait out the storm.

I’m recommending that you read their full article, and follow all the safety precautions listed within it. I’ve been up close and personal to a few direct lightning hits, and I can tell you it’s not something I want to watch from only a hundred feet away. No, I like my lightning show MILES away in the distance. So if a storm is coming close, seek shelter immediately.

OK, everyone. Remember that electricity (especially lightning) is a powerful force, so we all need to pay attention to safety precautions while around it.

Let’s play safe out there….


Mike Sokol is an electrical and professional sound expert with 40+ years in the industry. His excellent book RV Electrical Safety is available at For more info on Mike’s qualifications as an electrical expert, click here.

##RVDT 1100; ##RVT 897




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