Am I Safe from Lightning in my RV?
We are currently Yamping (Yard Camping) at my parents house for a few weeks. A huge thunderstorm rolled in at night earlier this week and BOOM, lightning violently struck a pine tree less than 150 ft from our RV. It was so intense it reminded me of tent camping (get it, “In Tents”).
During the day you could see the damage. Two trees were damaged. One of them had a lightning mark and one was shattered. You can see the burn mark on the tree. The strike was so powerful that a chunk of wood landed two feet away from the RV. That’s almost 150 feet!
After this event it made me wonder what would have happened if lightning hit the RV.
Would we be safe? Would our hair be standing up straight for a year? Would nothing happen at all other than a neat story to tell? I went on the hunt for real data to answer these questions. I did extensive online research and I even reached out via email to some of the top lightning experts in the country.
Here’s a few facts I found interesting about lightening strikes.
- Over 80% of lightning victims are male.
- Over 60% of lightning fatalities happen when people are engaged in leisure activities such as biking, hiking or fishing.
- Most lightning victims are close to safe shelter but wait too long to get there.
If you want to know how close the lightning is just count the seconds between the lightning flash and the thunder that follows it, then divide that number by five. That’s how many miles away it is.
Let’s start with a common question even non-RVers have, are you safe in a vehicle when hit by lightning. If you’re in a car with a metal roof you’re safe. This is not the case with a convertible. You may be thinking “who drives a convertible in the rain”? Danielle and I rented a convertible sports car on our honeymoon and got caught driving across Florida in a big down pour.
We quickly found out that if you drove over 60 mph the aerodynamics of the car allowed us to drive without getting wet. Our suit cases were in the back seat and they stayed dry too. It was quite the experience.
The science behind why you’re safe from lightning is very interesting. I’ve heard from people that the rubber tires on the vehicle is what keeps you safe, however that isn’t correct. You are essentially in a big metal box and protected because it forms something called a Faraday Cage. This is where the electricity goes around the vehicle rather than inside.
What about an RV? Well, using this same theory an Airstream is about the safest as you can get since it’s shaped like a big aluminum twinkie. An aluminum skin Toy Hauler or Travel Trailer would be just as safe in a lightning storm.
When it comes to fiberglass RVs, if they’re made with an aluminum cage using fiberglass panels the Faraday Cage effect should still work. If your RV is made with wood and fiberglass you need to head to your tow vehicle.
Tents have come a long way with the ease of setting up over the years. We have a tent that pops up within 45 seconds it’s fully setup. Which is good because pop-ups and tents DO NOT protect you from lightning. If there is a massive storm heading your way it’s best to take down the tent and head somewhere safe.
Another thing to consider is if you are underneath a tree or branch and lightning hits the tree the RV could be damaged and you could be injured.
Before a big storm it’s a good idea to disconnect your power plug because a lightning strike on the ground can head into the wiring and cause a big surge to your camper. If you have a generator in your RV it is safe because it’s protected in the Faraday Cage.
Next time you’re camping and a storm rolls up you’ll know how to stay safe from the lightning.
For more information on tips to manage or prevent falling trees Click Here for a great resource!
Thank you. I bought and remodeled a old aluminum vintage camper. The base of it is wood and so I have been very worried about living in it. I have an all metal carport for it and I may ask some old timer in the area about caging it better or setting some grounding rods but reading your article made me feel better. Have been quite scared thinking how thin that aluminum is. Thanks
Yep we’ve heard of many RVs struck by lightning and in all cases everyone was safe.
Yep you’re good to go!
Thank you for the information.
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I thought it was the tire! All this time… ha!
I thought the same thing!
I am thinking of buying a teardrop camper and I am going to make sure it is an aluminum frame. This is a serious thing to consider for RVers, and we don’ think about it until we are already in the storm!! Thanks for the info.
I’m pretty sure the teardrop is, let me know what you find!
Great information. Similar question about a new-to-me vintage camper. 1966 It’s got an aluminium skin over a wooden structure. Will that still protect me? Thanks. And happy camping!
My understanding is absolutely the aluminum protects you.
Thank you for the informative post. My MIL has a camper, it was an aluminum one before it was remodeled, now it’s board and batten. The bottom construction is metal, and there are 4 or more metal beams underneath the wood, at least 4 in corners but there are a few more. I have no idea what is the top made of, it’s rubberized. Is she safe from lightning in this camper, considering that the outside isn’t metal anymore? If not, what should she add to the camper to keep safe?