Author Topic: riding and camping in thunderstorms  (Read 3127 times)

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Offline sspeed

riding and camping in thunderstorms
« on: June 12, 2013, 05:42:07 pm »
As my trip gets closer the one thing I get nervous about is thunderstorms.

The first question is what to do if one is approaching and I'm biking in the middle of nowhere?  If it gets bad I'll look for a bridge or culvert to hide under, but what if there is none of that?

And then what about camping in a thunderstorm?  I know to stay away from big trees, but what if there is no safe haven to run to?

Offline staehpj1

Re: riding and camping in thunderstorms
« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2013, 06:22:57 pm »
I have no solid answers to any of that, but...  I'd suggest just doing the best you can in whatever situation happens to arise.  Sometimes your options aren't perfect, but it is highly probable you will be fine anyway.

As far as camping, I always try to pick a sensible location for the tent and then just stay with it.  The concept of "running to" some "safe haven" seems pretty unlikely to me.

Offline jamawani

Re: riding and camping in thunderstorms
« Reply #2 on: June 12, 2013, 10:28:22 pm »
Prayer and a fast sprint??

I've toured for years and have encountered many storms.
Also, because I have done the majority of my touring in the West in later years -
I have often been in open terrain far from any shelter.

So waddya do?
Instead of any footprint for my tent, I use a small 5x7 tarp with grommets.
It's readily accessible on the back rack - with two bungees and a fence line - a quick lean-to.
Most highways are fenced - so you use the top fence line for the bungees.
If you have time you can stake down the two bottom corners -
Otherwise hold one and use bike for other in a 2-minute case.

I've been caught out in hail a few times and it ain't fun.
Your helmet is essential for protection - heavy hail is dangerous.
Quickest, safest thing is to pull out your sleeping pad and cover yourself.

Both of these situations do not involve something like tornados.
(Although in the West you can have some darn high winds.)
I've ridden out many a storm in a culvert.
There are a lot more than you think if you are just a car user.
They may be a little groaty - but hey.
Barring that, flatten yourself in a low area - again use your sleeping pad for protection.

Storm in Thunder Basin, Wyoming
(The nice thing abour Western storms is that you can see 'em coming for miles.)

Offline cyclocamping

Re: riding and camping in thunderstorms
« Reply #3 on: June 12, 2013, 11:12:26 pm »
Most of us camped dozens of times during storms. I think it is actually fun, but you need a good tent with a good waterproof rating. Otherwise it can really be a nightmare.

You may want to check this guide that I wrote about bicycle touring tent. There are several sections including tips when using your tent, and a section on how to choose a touring tent”

Depending on the region there are a few things to be aware of:

- In the desert, make sure you stay away from flood washes. Here you can find details on what they are: http://travellingtwo.com/13478

- Also, stay away from river beds even if it looks like a nice little stream.

- Don’t worry about lightning as the chance to get hit is very very low. You have more chance of getting hit by a car, or fall while biking away to a “safe heaven”.

- As you mentioned, stay away from trees!

- In Tornado areas, pay attention to the news and ask the locals so you are aware of “tornado watch”. Don’t camp out if there is a tornado watch going on.

- On mountain roads, in areas known for landslides, stay away from the edge/cliff when choosing a camping spot.

You’ll see, once you trust your tent you will sleep like a baby! Enjoy!
« Last Edit: June 12, 2013, 11:26:48 pm by cyclocamping »
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Offline Gif4445

Re: riding and camping in thunderstorms
« Reply #4 on: June 15, 2013, 11:47:04 am »
I would think the first line of defense would be to watch the weather forecast.  Although it is not 100% accurate, it is usually reliable for the most part.  As a farmer, I'm looking at the forecasts all the time for precip, wind and severe weather possibilities.  Sometimes it's best to simply avoid the situation, if the likelihood of an event is great enough.

Offline John Nelson

Re: riding and camping in thunderstorms
« Reply #5 on: June 16, 2013, 06:31:05 pm »
Lots of good advice and I agree with it all.

Rain doesn't worry me. Lightning, hail and tornadoes worry me, but not too much. During the day, I just ride through most rain. If it gets violent, I look for a house, building or bridge that I can take shelter from on a porch or under an overhang. Sometimes, however, they're aren't any around. I actually like sleeping in the rain, but I don't much like it if it's raining while I am setting up or breaking down camp. If tornadoes or high winds are forecast overnight, I look for someplace inside to sleep. Ask at churches and fire stations or look for a Warm Showers host.

Offline bogiesan

Re: riding and camping in thunderstorms
« Reply #6 on: June 19, 2013, 11:48:28 pm »
there are many sites offering complete lightning safety advice. Anyone who is involved in an outdoor sport of any kind needs to know how to deal with thunderstorms and lightning. The actions you take are specific to your location and equipment at your disposal.
Your chances of being injured in a thudnerstorm are very slight but the chances of being injured while trying to avoid a thunderstorm are higher.

Violent winds and wind-borne debris and precipitation like hail and horizontal rain or sleet can be really dangerous. i've ridden in hail only once, like trying to stand on ball bearings. I've ridden in many storms and severe winds but rarely out in the middle of nowhere although it happens. Idaho can stir up some interesting weather out on the deserts or high in the mountains. You hope you packed correctly for the day's ride. You hope it will pass quickly. You are comforted by the fact you can only get so wet and there's a hot shower and dry sleeping bag at the end of the day.

Knowledge is better than fear.
I play go. I use Macintosh. Of course I ride a recumbent

Offline Westinghouse

Re: riding and camping in thunderstorms
« Reply #7 on: June 21, 2013, 04:53:59 am »
Jamawami took the words right out of my mouth, so to speak. There isn't much to add. In fact, some storms can be lethal, and if not that, at least harmful if you are caught out unprepared. I use a 10 by 12 polytarp when I bike tour. The part about making a lean-to shelter with a fence line is good.

I have been caught out in some freakish deadly storms, and I weathered all well enough except for one where I got chilled to the bone. That was High Island, Texas across the road from the beach. Later I was told that if I had camped on the beach side of the road where I was, I would have been toasted because there were over 90 lightning strikes all over the beach there.

If you carry a tent, freestanding or other, set it up right away. Usually, the conditions for such storms present themselves before all hell breaks loose. When out in the middle of nowhere, set up your shelter right away just in case. If it storms, you're covered. If it doesn't, pack up and go. All you've lost is a little time, and you're better safe than sorry.

Weather is always a major concern to people who cross oceans in small sailboats such as thirty and forty foot sloops. What they learn to do is read the wind and clouds which presage certain kinds of weather systems. This is an extremely important part of sailing because reefing sails and putting up a storm jib can range between pure hell and impossible to do in a gale. You can do the same weather predicting on land. Read books on sailing and there are usually sections detailing cloud formations which indicate certain types of approaching weather systems. You can get small, light weight, inexpensive radios which have weather radio stations at the flip of a switch. They had them at Big Lots for about $10.00.

The thing about heavy weather is it often goes unreported unless it is a killer storm because people who live in houses and work inside are not to be concerned with it. They stay inside or in their vehicles. Being out there on a bike is a whole different world when the devil comes to visit. That's why weather radio is a good thing. 

Offline Shane

Re: riding and camping in thunderstorms
« Reply #8 on: July 16, 2013, 03:46:16 pm »
One of the few times I've feared for my life during touring  :o Lightening bolts hitting the ground only 300 yards away.....But boy was it amazing...

http://vimeo.com/43489266

Offline lukethedrifter

Re: riding and camping in thunderstorms
« Reply #9 on: July 19, 2013, 02:54:52 pm »
Years back, in the early stages of a trip from Nashville to Newfoundland I was riding the Blue Ridge Parkway when an electrical storm snuck up on me. What did I do? I rode on a bit scared and ducked when the thunder clapped. Not much else I could do until I could get to shelter some distance away.

I suppose it would be totally different now with smart phones and weather apps.

Offline DanE

Re: riding and camping in thunderstorms
« Reply #10 on: July 19, 2013, 04:08:01 pm »
"I suppose it would be totally different now with smart phones and weather apps."

Probably so, the world does move on. However, I don't see how you are going to get much help from them when you are some place like the Blue Ridge Parkway. There are just places there which are miles from any civilization or cell tower, and there are plenty of places in the US that are the same way.

Offline Glamis Sand Dunes support

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Re: riding and camping in thunderstorms
« Reply #11 on: September 06, 2013, 06:07:09 pm »
Monsoon seasons with sudden intense downpours, filling up dry washes into rivers that take out the roadway, hours of lightening strikes as the storm passes, heat and humidity ranging from 89 to 107 degrees in a matter of an hour, are all formidable challenges for cyclists who dare the deserts of the southwest in late August and early September.
Ask your locals about local weather patterns as much as possible.

Nancy, host on ST  Glamis Sand Dunes

Offline PeteJack

Re: riding and camping in thunderstorms
« Reply #12 on: September 16, 2013, 09:00:03 pm »
Quote
You may want to check this guide that I wrote about bicycle touring tent. There are several sections including tips when using your tent, and a section on how to choose a touring tent”

Cyclo the link seems broke. Any chance you can fix it?

Offline pickupel

Re: riding and camping in thunderstorms
« Reply #13 on: September 18, 2013, 10:20:42 pm »
Slept out in thunderstorms a bunch of times. Worst storm I've ever slept out in was in North Dakota earlier this year when I was riding the Northern Tier. I was lucky enough to find a picnic shelter to sleep in. You can read about the full account of that night on my website (http://edwardpickup.com/2013/09/19/day-14-just-past-rugby-to-grand-forks/).

In terms of general advice — take a good tent / bivy bag and choose somewhere away from trees! It can be quite good fun to be tucked up and warm when a huge storm is going off around you.

Offline tonythomson

Re: riding and camping in thunderstorms
« Reply #14 on: September 25, 2013, 08:47:18 am »
It's all to do with you assessing the situation as things develop. knowing where you are and what you have passed and having researched what's on the road ahead.  For me the biggest fear in heavy rain is vehicles coming up behind you, your hearing is probably impaired and their vision definitely impaired.

But the thing I fear most in being caught out in the open is the wind, you have little control (I'm talking of sudden unexpected strong wind)  and my advice is to get off the bike and lay low.  The worst I ever had was in Australia when I really thought  I had been hit from behind by a truck.  Again the problem here was no control over the bike and the dust and sand dropped visibility down to 5 yds.  Next town lost roofs and trees uprooted. I had no idea this was approaching as it came up from behind. But I recorded the highest speed ever on my computer and not even down hill  :)
Just starting to record my trips  www.tonystravels.com