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Are Travel Trailers Safe in a Lightning Storm

Witnessing pure and untarnished wilderness in the middle of a thunderstorm is a sublime, awe-inspiring experience.

But as much as it can move us when we are well-guarded inside a wooden cabin, the sounds and sparks feel different when staying in an RV.

Plus, there is something about metal components and electricity that’s dangerous, right?

This will leads us all to wonder, “Are travel trailers safe in a lightning storm?”

The answer is yes – as long as you are inside a camper, travel trailer, or RV with a metal roof, where all windows are shut.

This is due to the “Faraday cage” effect, which makes current circulate around the vehicle.

Are Airstream Campers Safe?

Iconic RV and travel coaches Airstream have built their bread on their well-polished design, portable comforts, and superior safety standards.

However, many are understandably wary when they see their light metal tubes in the middle of a lightning storm.

As it turns out, Airstream campers are among the safest to be during a thunderstorm.

Their recognizable “bullet” shape allows you to close all windows tightly.

As a result, the electricity should pass around the vehicle very quickly.

Because of the way the rig is set up inside an Airstream camper, even if lightning hits you directly, the materials will likely not be damaged.

What about other types of RVs?

To be protected by the Faraday Cage effect, you need to be fully inside a structure with a metal frame and a metal roof.

This includes:

  • Most travel trailers made in the past 20 years
  • Fifth-wheels
  • Motorhomes

A fiberglass roof will not provide the same level of protection.

A few decades ago, some custom RV models were made using a wooden frame.

However, these are rarely found today.

If you happen to own one, know that they do not count as safe shelter.

And what about pop up campers?

Unfortunately, that’s a different story.

Pop up campers don’t have a fully closed structure and may even attract lightning towards you.

Because of this, they are not safe during a thunderstorm.

Should I Unplug my RV in a Lightning Storm?

During a lightning storm, you should unplug your RV from shore power or any external sources of energy.

This will help protect the electronic equipment and electric appliances inside your RV.

Your safety and that of your electronic equipment are two different issues altogether.

If you are traveling in an RV and get caught during a thunderstorm, it is safe to assume that any electronic equipment may be at risk.

But doesn’t the Faraday cage protect everything inside your RV?

Yes, in the sense that it will cause any strikes coming straight towards you to slide off.

However, if lightning strikes a tree or the nearby ground, the dispersed electricity can still find its way into your wiring through your power cord or leveling jacks.

This is unlikely to harm you directly, but it is enough to dry all your electronics.

Surge Protectors and Electrical Management Systems

rv Surge Protector 30 Amp Smart RV Surge Protector with Waterproof Cover All-in-1 Circuit Analyzer Power Guard for RV, Camper, Trailer, Truck, Motorboat, Yacht, Mobilhome

Sometimes, RV travelers prefer to keep everything plugged and running during a thunderstorm, believing their surge protector will protect their equipment.

In reality, most surge protectors only deal with power surges that come from the post.

They will not necessarily handle the power coming from the ground.

Editor’s pick: Do I Need a Surge Protector for My RV

On the other hand, if you have a high-end Electrical Management System, you can gain some protection for your electronics during a thunderstorm.

Still, if a strike hits really close, you will be better off unplugging your RV.

Do They Make Lightning Rods for Travel Trailers?

For extra safety, a competent electrician can install a lightning rod on top of the travel trailer. 

Most trailers only need a single lightning rod, as long as it sticks out on top of the trailer.

In addition, it is crucial to ensure this lightning rod is connected through a straight path to a grounding rod.

The grounding rod should be dug into the ground by at least 3 feet.

This will attract any nearby lightning rods and drive their current into the ground.

Proper grounding on your RV can save your life – so it’s best to get that installation checked by an electrician.

What Happens if Lightning Hits my Camper?

If lightning hits your camper directly, it may damage the outer structure and leave deep markings in the metal case or ceiling.

However, as long as the roof stays intact, you and your belonging should be safe from electricity.

If you are camping far away from any RV park or campsite, or if you will be in the wilderness for a while, you should keep an ear out for any approaching thunderstorms.

You can monitor the weather using a smartphone weather app, check the local news, or carry an NOAA radio.

Whenever you hear a thunderstorm approaching your area, you should:

  • Check that your RV is parked away from any trees, nearby metal structures, or power lines
  • Locate a secondary shelter, just in case.
  • Disconnect your RV from ground power
  • Roll down your satellite dish
  • Disassemble and store away any side tents, flag poles, or structures

After the storm has begun, count the time between the moment you see the lightning strike and when you hear the thunder.

If they are less than 30 seconds apart, seek shelter immediately: storms can often move rapidly and unpredictably.

Once inside your RV or vehicle, unplug all electronics, and close all the windows.

It is also best to stay away from windows and doors and to avoid touching the glass

How to Stay in a Travel Trailer Safe During a Storm

Electrocution is dangerous, but it is not the main danger posed by inclement weather while you are in an RV.

In reality, flash flooding and strong winds are much more likely to cause disaster.

Because of this, it is imperative to park your RV away from trees during a storm, especially if you are expecting winds above 60 miles per hour.

If a tree or lighting pole falls on top of your RV, it can easily damage or break your roof. If that happens, you can get crushed – and you will lose your Faraday cage.

Conclusion

Provided they are made from metal or aluminum, a travel trailer or camper can provide safe shelter during a lightning storm.

However, there is still a good chance that your electronics will be damaged, especially if a lightning strike hits you directly.

Your safest bet is to monitor weather patterns.

Whenever a thunderstorm approaches, get ready and head somewhere safe!