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Are titanium trekking poles dangerous in a lightning storm? What do you recommend?
Submitted by – Alan, Berkeley, CA
As is so often the case, no simple answer suffices. Here’s the basic truth: A lightning bolt descending from the sky is not attracted to a specific material that you’re holding. You’re just too small and far away. Lightning is attracted to height (the tallest thing around), location (the most isolated thing around), and shape (the pointiest thing around). Titanium trekking poles won’t change your odds—unless you’re standing on a high, isolated peak during a storm and holding one above your head.
Keep in mind that even though trekking poles do not attract lightning, if a bolt strikes near you, the metal may conduct the charge up from the ground—and into you—if you’re using them while hiking during a storm. This conduction of ground current could be devastating to your health (and may burn any metal you’re wearing, like jewelry, to your skin). To prevent the problem, carry your poles in your hand and horizontal to the ground. Even better: Find a safe spot to wait out the storm.