Are Rooftop Tents safe from lightning? ( A complete guide to staying safe in thunderstorm)

No doubt, Rooftop tents are more clean and safe than regular tents. But during rainy weather, are rooftop tents safe from lightning?

They provide shelter from the rain but they are not safe from lightning, wind, flash floods, or hail. Being above ground, rooftop tents may make you more vulnerable to lightning strikes.

My article explains what you should do if a thunderstorm strikes while camping in your rooftop tent. So, let’s start.

1. Plan Ahead

Always keep an eye on the weather. You should check the weather forecast ahead of time. Monitor the conditions periodically and make sure they haven’t changed. Turn around or find a safe place if you have any doubt about it.

Portable weather radios, such as the NOAA weather radio, are the most accurate source of up-to-date weather information. You can also use the internet, your smartphone, radio, or TV. Plan your lightning safety if you are traveling in a group.

2. Understanding the Risk

To be safe from lightning, you should first know about the probability of being injured and its consequences. In your immediate area, thunder means you may be at risk for lightning. 

It isn’t necessary to get struck by lightning to be injured. You can suffer serious permanent injuries or even death if you are outdoors near a lightning strike.

Lightning strikes are rarely fatal i.e. 10% but serious injuries are common. Injuries can be permanent or have lasting side effects e.g. brain damage, cardiac issues, spinal weakness, focus problems, etc. 

Seek shelter immediately if the weather worsens out in the forest. Never think yourself safe, just because you can’t see lightning.

3. What you should do to keep yourself safe

“Go indoors when the thunder roars”

According to John Gookin, author of National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) lightning, the proper response to lightning can differ, depending on whether or not we find ourselves in a “frontcountry” or “backcountry” environment.

Frontcountry campsites typically have bathrooms or outhouses, and they are often near roads, unlike backcountry campsites.

Is it safer to be in a car or tent during a thunderstorm?

There is no better option than a fully enclosed vehicle (car, van, truck) with a hard roof at a backcountry campsite. 

According to Faraday Cage Principle “Lightning will travel around the outside of a metal-framed vehicle, essentially protecting the passengers within from electrical shock.” You just have to keep your hands in your lap and don’t touch the handles.

If you’ll be traveling into the backcountry or any wild area where you won’t have immediate access to your car, check out the site ahead of time. It can be any ranger station or a visitor’s center state park or a national park.

You should follow these steps while considering any place for shelter.

1. Avoid exposed Areas

If the storm is already too close and you do not have enough time to find an appropriate campsite. The best place to shelter is an alpine hut or cave because your rooftop tent is not safe from lightning.

Avoid hills, mountain peaks, and rivers. Your tent should not be set up near a forest edge or under isolated trees, as these could attract lightning. 

2. Trees, especially oaks should be avoided

All trees are susceptible to lightning. So, ignore the myth that taking shelter under an oak tree is safe. 

However, lightning does not affect all trees in the same way. Heavy rains can cause the bark of oak trees to become waterlogged more quickly. A large area is covered by fluid. If lightning strikes, it can be deadly.

3. Avoid being near water areas

The lightning hits straight into the water. If you are standing on naturally wet ground, it won’t make a difference as long as you don’t stand in water. Therefore, avoid lakes, ponds, and rivers.

4. If traveling in a group

If you are camping in a group, each member should spread out widely.  As a result, if someone is hit, there will be less chance of other members being injured, and they will assist first aid or seek assistance.

In addition to minimizing the risk of serious injuries, it protects your party from flying debris from other tents. 

5. Avoid shallow caves

Neither small caves nor large boulders are safe.
Lightning can strike you when it comes from the top to the bottom of a gap. While taking shelter in a cave that is not prone to flooding is a good idea.

6. Store metal objects in the right place

Lightning can be attracted to metal equipment such as hiking poles, climbing irons, carabiners, as well as cookware such as pots, cookers, and mugs. Store them water-tightly packed, a few meters apart in a safe place.

Iron ladders and wet ropes also carry electricity, so stay away from them.

7. Safety from ground current

Each lightning strike produces a ground current. Keeping your feet close together will decrease your exposure to ground current. Avoid laying down flat on the ground. In a lightning strike, half of the fatalities are caused by the ground current. 

The safest time to come out of cover is 30 minutes after the last thunder rumble.

8. Camping in the tent during a thunderstorm

  • Consider these options if it’s too late to leave the tent to go somewhere safe.
  •  Keep your hands off the tent’s frame and cover. Keep yourself in the middle.
  • Sit as compactly as possible in a squat position. You can avoid being electrocuted if you touch only one spot on the ground.
  • Be careful not to sit on bare ground. Adding layers of folded camping mats, a dry air mattress, or your backpack might enhance insulation, keeping you from getting grounded.
  • Ensure that no wiring leads into the tent.


Rooftop tents are not safe from lightning during thunderstorms. You should check the weather conditions and seek the appropriate shelter beforehand. You should avoid shallow caves, open places, water bodies, etc. which are more prone to a lightning strike.

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