3 Emergency Camping Scenarios + Solutions

Emergencies come at unexpected times. That’s part of what makes them emergencies: you don’t see them coming. But even if you can’t predict a lightning storm or flash flood coming in, you can prepare yourself against it.

We put our heads together with our partners to give you these three scenarios you should be aware of, and tips for how to prepare so you and your family stay safe.

1. Flash Flood

A flash flood is perhaps the most immediately damaging emergency situation you might find yourself in. Why? It’s hard to get away from. If you’re in its path, you need to get out of its path, and that’s not always easy. Especially if your staked-in tent and gear is also in its path. There’s nothing worse than having all your gear get swept away into a larger body of water, or having thoroughly soaked gear.

So, what do you do when you see a flash flood? Well, let’s take a step back. By the time you see a flash flood, it’s probably coming towards you.

The best way to avoid a flash flood is therefore preventative and ahead-of-time, rather than in the moment. What do we mean by this? Set up camp on high ground. Choose a spot that, should there be a flood of a couple inches to a couple feet, will still be above the water level.

2. Lightning

Depending on where you camp, lightning storms can roll in and pose a serious threat to your safety. Again, there are preventative steps you can take against lightning.

Avoid open fields when you pitch your tent, as the metal in most tentpoles conducts electricity. Don’t set your tent up under the tallest tree in the forest.

If you find yourself out in the field when a lightning storm rolls in, go down. We’ve all heard pieces of advice around avoiding lightning: squat in a ball and cover your head, get away from big trees, avoid bodies of water… In the moment, though, it can be hard to remember all these things. And it’s certainly difficult to remain calm huddled in a squat ball. So, watch the sky. Lightning won’t just appear on top of you, it will come from afar, and you will almost always hear it before it gets close to you. When you start to suspect lightning is on its way, make moves to get to low ground or safe shelter.

3. Tornadoes

The golden rule of staying safe during tornadoes? Get small. Imagine being a gopher. When a tornado comes, you would go into your hole in the ground and wait it out. You, as a human, want to do something similar. Get to a low-lying area such as a ditch or a depression, and get small. Curl up on the ground and you’ll significantly reduce the chances the tornado affects you.

If your camp is set up and tornado-force winds start blowing in, assess your situation. Depending on the type of camping you’re doing, you have a couple options. For instance, the car camper would do best to break down camp and drive to a safer, less exposed location. The backcountry camper, on the other hand, has fewer options. You might need to break down your tent regardless to make sure it doesn’t blow away. Then, the best course of action would be to follow our tornado mantra above: get small. Find a spot for you and your pack, then hunker down.

Whether you’re dealing with flash floods, lightning, or tornadoes, emergency preparedness can save your life.