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Old 06-24-2022, 06:10 AM   #1
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Does a fiberglass camper act as a Faraday cage when struck by lightning?

I am sitting in a thunder storm just North of Lake Huron, wondering to myself, what would happen if this camper was struck by lightning.

I don't see how a bolt of lightning could be transferred to ground, without ripping the trailer apart. The frame is metal, but that is nowhere near the top.

Just wondering, Yeah, that's all. Ummmm.....
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Old 06-24-2022, 08:18 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by UncleTim View Post
I am sitting in a thunder storm just North of Lake Huron, wondering to myself, what would happen if this camper was struck by lightning.

I don't see how a bolt of lightning could be transferred to ground, without ripping the trailer apart. The frame is metal, but that is nowhere near the top.

Just wondering, Yeah, that's all. Ummmm.....

I think if the camper is wet then that will help. But no about the Faraday cage, in general: I use internal antennas all the time and being inside doesn't seem to affect their sensitivity very much.
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Old 06-24-2022, 08:22 AM   #3
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The Faraday cages that I've been involved in had little in common with a fiberglass trailer. A bolt of lightning is trying the easiest proximal path to complete discharge. There's little that you or I could do to prevent a random strike, other than to be somewhere else. Keep the trailer shell free of dust/dirt, lower any antenna, disconnect any power cables from the serving utility, and think good thoughts. Best of luck, and it is possible to survive a strike, but get back to your good thoughts! Being inside a nonconducting, shell, and staying in bed doesn't hurt.
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Old 06-26-2022, 11:03 AM   #4
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Agreed on all points.

Sparky did show up but did not hit anything in the campground. Just before dawn. Clouds were rolling off Lake Superior all early morning. And with lightning speed, they were on us. Excuse the pun.

We put away the Blackstone right before sparky showed up and settled for cold yogurt. The storm lasted 30 minutes. At least fiberglass does not conduct electricity. I did think about jumping in the car but my wife was still asleep.

I sat there, drinking coffee inside the camper.
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Old 06-26-2022, 11:29 AM   #5
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Fiberglass is thought of passing signals through it and not shielding signals.

For years they have been making fiberglass antennas which is just a tube of fiberglass with a wire placed inside.

On a larger scale they make fiberglass domes that go over mountain top antennas to keep snow from destroying them.

Having a fibreglass trailer means that all of your transmitting and receiving devices, like cell phones will work better inside than compared to an aluminum clad trailer.

If you are installing a radio in your fiberglass trailer there is very little need to mount an antenna outside unless you want the height.
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Old 06-26-2022, 06:06 PM   #6
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Glad you made it through

Quote:
Originally Posted by UncleTim View Post
I am sitting in a thunder storm just North of Lake Huron, wondering to myself, what would happen if this camper was struck by lightning.

I don't see how a bolt of lightning could be transferred to ground, without ripping the trailer apart. The frame is metal, but that is nowhere near the top.

Just wondering, Yeah, that's all. Ummmm.....
Fiberglass burns like crazy when ignited. The polyester resin which is it's component is made from petroleum. The glass in it is a non-combustible, electrical insulator. I watched a fiberglass boat smoke and burn to the waterline once. Gasoline leak and ignition on that boat.

Only thing I know that provides a Faraday cage protection is a highly conductive material, like steel. A car is safe, as long as you're not in contact with some metal inside. Look up Faraday cage sometime......metal cages that protected from mega volts, for crowd performances.
Same deal with the aluminum sausage tubes we all fly in. Airplanes get zapped, flying amongst the storms and heavens, and usually, little to no damage. Nearby electronic devices....that can be another story, depending.
Ball lightning. Now that's one that fascinates me.
St. Elmo's one is another of interest.

Lighten up. Glad you made it.

Where are you at, besides the Great Lakes area, north of Lake Huron? Specifically?

bon voyage,
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Old 06-26-2022, 06:16 PM   #7
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North of Lake Huron must mean Ontario, I'm thinking. But where? And was the location a nice one? We all want details...
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Old 06-26-2022, 07:44 PM   #8
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Can’t tell you about burning boats or faraday cages but I can confirm that fiberglass Port -o-potties will burn to the (ahem) water line if torched by vandals in city parks. An F 250 will push them over too. We finally resorted to putting them in pipe cages, lowered in by an articulated rubber tired loader. Didn’t stop the fires though.
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Old 06-26-2022, 07:45 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wackyburggeezer View Post
The Faraday cages that I've been involved in had little in common with a fiberglass trailer. A bolt of lightning is trying the easiest proximal path to complete discharge. There's little that you or I could do to prevent a random strike, other than to be somewhere else. Keep the trailer shell free of dust/dirt, lower any antenna, disconnect any power cables from the serving utility, and think good thoughts. Best of luck, and it is possible to survive a strike, but get back to your good thoughts! Being inside a nonconducting, shell, and staying in bed doesn't hurt.
So fiberglass is nonconducting? The frame on which it sits might be grounded, through the jack and/or the stabilizers. Usually my jack sits on a block of wood, so somewhat insulated. Maybe put blocks under the stabilizers, too?
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Old 06-26-2022, 08:12 PM   #10
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Faraday Cage

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So fiberglass is nonconducting? The frame on which it sits might be grounded, through the jack and/or the stabilizers. Usually my jack sits on a block of wood, so somewhat insulated. Maybe put blocks under the stabilizers, too?
It's not all about grounding the metal trailer frame to the ground. It's about having an electrically conductive (steel, aluminum, other metal or material) shell , aka "cage" surrounding you. There are "surface charges" that can conduct on the exterior of non-conducting materials, but no guarantees there.

P.S. Dry wood is also a partial electrical insulator. Non-conductive, unless just cut and milled and wet.
It has water in it, and minerals. We experience plenty of wildfires caused by lightning hitting trees. Pure water is a non conductor (insulator). Most water we see has a load of minerals and other conductive materials in it.

They call it a "Faraday Cage" for a reason.
Look it up on the web. A cage. A metal cage.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faraday_cage

Lightning is still a bit of a mysterious and not completely known phenomena, and certainly not something to be dismissed.
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Old 06-26-2022, 10:57 PM   #11
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Hah, this sounds like the one advantage of owning an Airstream over an Escape. I'm surprised Airstream hasn't added it to their product comparison.


"Unlike Escape, an Airstream protects you from lightning strikes, and government mind reading. You can leave your tin foil hat at home!"
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Old 06-27-2022, 08:11 AM   #12
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Lightning is to be respected. There are any number of guidelines to increase chances on not being injures when lightning is in the area. First off are lightning detection units that have ten mile or greater range for detection of an incoming storm. This allows you to seek safe shelter as is available. Once detected it’s up to you to initiate your chosen protocol.

Personal anecdote alert:

Rita and I spent the summer of 1970 as Forest Fire Lookouts for the Forest Service in Idaho. We lived in a
55 foot tall tower capped by a model L-4 lookout. It was 14X14 feet square. We were trained and sent up to watch for fires, mostly lightning caused. When lightning storms came we had two “barstool” seats, a step stool and a bed that had glass insulators screwed onto the legs. We stayed on those pieces of furniture until the storm moved through. Lightning rods on the roof and 4 large copper cables to ground the strikes that hit the tower. It was loud and exciting when it happened. And it happened numerous times that summer. From then on I’ve respected lightning a lot more than when I was younger.

Big highly conductive trees like cottonwoods are not your friend if you’re parked under one when lightning walks about. I have cleaned up exploded charred wood from cottonwoods many times and the pieces often weighed 100 lbs or better.
Respect nature for its power and unpredictability. Common sense, which is not as common fas it used to be is your best protection
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Old 06-27-2022, 08:31 AM   #13
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Personal anecdote alert:
.
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Old 06-27-2022, 08:37 AM   #14
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If someone here decides to turn their Escape into a Faraday cage, I'd sure like to see pictures of the construction! BTW, you'll need a higher tow-rated TV.
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Old 06-27-2022, 09:00 AM   #15
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Quote:
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. . . Big highly conductive trees like cottonwoods are not your friend if you’re parked under one when lightning walks about. I have cleaned up exploded charred wood from cottonwoods many times and the pieces often weighed 100 lbs or better.
Respect nature for its power and unpredictability. Common sense, which is not as common fas it used to be is your best protection
Iowa Dave
I wouldn't have a clue which trees are "highly conductive" and which not.

You were certainly safer in your insulated, grounded tower than we have been in our younger days, hunkering down in a small tent in the forest, while the storm boomed around us. I wonder if our Escape offers much more protection. Probably we'd be better off in the car.

How many actually go sit in their cars during storms?
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Old 06-27-2022, 09:57 AM   #16
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I have relocated to the car a few times while camping but usually when I’m out fishing or hunting and a storm comes up I head back to the car.

There’s quite a bit of research on conductivity of certain trees and their frequency to take lightning strikes. Cottonwoods, aspens and generally the very tallest trees in uniformly height
forests.

There is theory that the shaking leaves due to petiole shape is most likely to set up a field that is conductive to lightning. Don’t know how valid it is but if I had a dollar for every lightning stuck cottonwood I’ve worked on, I could buy a tank ful of gas. Can’t say that for ash, or maple, or oak. In the old growth areas of the west Grand Fir are a likely target. They are tall.
YMMV
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Old 06-27-2022, 11:13 AM   #17
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I've spent quite a bit of time on a sailboat in parts of the world where lightening is common. The biggest danger isn't that a strike will kill all your electronics but that it will follow a path that might result in a hole blown in your hull.

I had a jumper cable in the locker beside the rear stay. Any hint of lightening and I'd trail the cable in the water. Only one really close strike so I don't know if it would have saved me or not.

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Old 06-27-2022, 12:54 PM   #18
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Ah -Not to worry. It's just lightning over the hill.
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Old 06-27-2022, 01:01 PM   #19
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Wow, great picture there, Myron......
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Old 06-29-2022, 07:18 AM   #20
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This site is East of Sault St. Marie, just off off Lake Superior and Lake Huron in a little resort called Brown Lee Lake Resort in Thessalon, Ontario.

We came into Canada at Thunder Bay and are making our way to Maine. Today we re enter the U.S. in Vermont, leaving Montreal and Mont Orford N.P.. Very nice.

I would have retired to the car and surrounded myself with a known protector, metal. However, I was not willing to leave my wife who was just waking up and somewhat slow to do so.

Chivalry is not dead.

A note on camping in Canada. Watch out for resorts that are mostly seasonal campers. While very nice, they are not there for the same reasons as you and often times stay away from travelers. There is some kind of silent barrier, like not wanting to make the investment in time to meet people. However, the people we did meet were absolutely delightful!

This is a GREAT trip!
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