A rain jacket for hiking is not enough during thunderstorms!

2. Sep. 2021

7 helpful rules of conduct for hiking when a thunderstorm threatens.

Hiking is necessarily an outdoor activity. And during outdoor activities, bad weather cannot be avoided. Now one could think that there is no bad weather, only bad equipment. But in a thunderstorm a good raincoat is not enough for hiking. Therefore, we want to give you 7 helpful rules of conduct for hiking in case of a thunderstorm.

Avoid dangerous situations in advance
The most important part of the body for all outdoor activities is the brain. Recognizing potentially dangerous situations in advance is the most effective way to deal with threats. When hiking, this means that you compare the route with the weather forecast on the evening before and in the morning. One should bear in mind that especially in the Alps, the weather can develop very differently over very small areas. This means that in one valley the sun is shining and in the next valley a hailstorm is possible. Therefore, we also advise the local community to be involved in the decision-making process, as they have experience with local weather phenomena.hier.

Be prepared for a thunderstorm
To be prepared means not only to wear a rain jacket for hiking, but also to be aware of the route and to know the exposed places. Avoid them at certain times of the day. In the Alps, thunderstorms typically occur on hot summer days at noon or early afternoon. Then it is important to get up earlier and pass through passages with exposed spots by noon. It is also important to know any escape points so that in an emergency you can leave to a hut or another safe place or shorten the stage..

Panoramaweg Südalpen Panorama am Hochplateau

Luchs Trail: What will the weather be like? Being able to cloud-read would be awesome! © ARGE Luchs Trail, Max-Mauthner

Recognize alarm signals
A thunderstorm comes only in combination with a cold front without more recognizable signs – and a cold front is usually predicted very accurately. If cumulus clouds already shoot up in the morning or at noon, this always means an unstable air stratification and an increased risk of thunderstorms. The darker the cumulus clouds are, the higher they are – and thus the chance of thunderstorms increases. If a flat ambos-like shape forms at the upper edge of the cloud, then the cloud is at the tropopause: by that time a thunderstorm is not far away. So observe the clouds and their migration direction during your hike and constantly adapt your tour to the current cloud situation – thunderstorms do not always follow the weather forecasts of the previous day.

React in time
Reacting in time leads us back to the first recommendation. But what to do if a thunderstorm nevertheless appears unexpectedly fast – for example because you are hiking in a narrow valley and the thunderstorm can only be seen too late? To estimate the potential danger, you can count the seconds between lightning and thunder. From 30 seconds on you are already in the danger zone and from 10 seconds on there is an immediate danger. First it is important to stay as calm as possible. Becoming hectic involves the danger of quickly turning a potential problem (lightning strike) into a real problem (injury from falling, etc.).

Just bear in mind that lightning is always faster than you. You can’ run away from it anyway. You can only use the rules of conduct listed in the next point. And reacting in time also means putting on a waterproof rain jacket for hiking as quickly as possible to avoid cooling down too much (see last point).

Panoramaweg Südalpen Panorama am Hochplateau

Luchs Trail: ELuchs Trail: Even a high-quality rain jacket for hiking is not enough in case of a thunderstorm © ARGE Luchs Trail, Max-Mauthner

Recognize alarm signals
A thunderstorm comes only in combination with a cold front without more recognizable signs – and a cold front is usually predicted very accurately. If cumulus clouds already shoot up in the morning or at noon, this always means an unstable air stratification and an increased risk of thunderstorms. The darker the cumulus clouds are, the higher they are – and thus the chance of thunderstorms increases. If a flat ambos-like shape forms at the upper edge of the cloud, then the cloud is at the tropopause: by that time a thunderstorm is not far away. So observe the clouds and their migration direction during your hike and constantly adapt your tour to the current cloud situation – thunderstorms do not always follow the weather forecasts of the previous day.

React in time
Reacting in time leads us back to the first recommendation. But what to do if a thunderstorm nevertheless appears unexpectedly fast – for example because you are hiking in a narrow valley and the thunderstorm can only be seen too late? To estimate the potential danger, you can count the seconds between lightning and thunder. From 30 seconds on you are already in the danger zone and from 10 seconds on there is an immediate danger. First it is important to stay as calm as possible. Becoming hectic involves the danger of quickly turning a potential problem (lightning strike) into a real problem (injury from falling, etc.).

Just bear in mind that lightning is always faster than you. You can’ run away from it anyway. You can only use the rules of conduct listed in the next point. And reacting in time also means putting on a waterproof rain jacket for hiking as quickly as possible to avoid cooling down too much (see last point).

Panoramaweg Südalpen Panorama am Hochplateau

Wörthersee Rundwanderweg: The time has come for you to find a safe place ©Bookyourtrail.com

Freezing after the rainstorm
The danger of lightning strikes should not be overestimated or underestimated. The probability of dying in a traffic accident is at least 10.000 times higher. The probability of a human being suffering damage from a lightning strike is around 1:20.000.000. More real is the danger of severe hypothermia after a thunderstorm. Now the high-quality rain jacket for hiking comes into play again. Make sure that you get as little wet as possible, put on your rainwear in time and thus minimize the danger of hypothermia.

With bookyourtrail.com you have another option. By calling the Info & Booking Center you can plan an additional rest day or organize a person shuttle to avoid the danger of a thunderstorm on a very stormy day or at least be brought to your accommodation as quickly as possible after the storm. For some stages, a shuttle can be arranged to shorten the stage so that you are safe in the hotel by late noon. This does not replace the rain jacket for hiking, but it is an additional aspect for the comfort and safety of our guests.

Author

Werner Mussnig

The habilitated economist has always been torn between the world of business and his hobbies of climbing & trekking, now immersing himself more and more in the universe of Bookyourtrail.

Related articles

Bernstein Trail – wine and hiking

Bernstein Trail – wine and hiking

The new Bernstein Trail combines pleasure and active recreation like hardly any other trail and is intended to position Burgenland as a new hiking destination ©Burgenland TourismusWhen thinking of wine landscapes, the pleasure hiker always thinks of sunny and very...

Wörthersee Rundwanderweg Hiking pleasure in perfection

Wörthersee Rundwanderweg Hiking pleasure in perfection

© Tine SteinthalerMy job is to develop the routes for new long-distance hiking trails. Or to prepare existing trails that can be booked at Bookyourtrail.com for you. If you get jealous now: You have good reason to be! Because in my job I can contribute to many...

All

Get in touch

Every great journey begins with the first click.
If we could inspire you for responsible tourism, just get in touch with us. Who knows, maybe something big will come out of this first click!