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Today on the short geocaching trip I've barely escaped hail storm. It wasn't very long, but I was without any special equipment. Light umbrella would survive a few minutes, and my jacket would provide a limited protection from water for a short period of time.

What are the strategies to deal with such situations? Look for the protection of big tree (yes, I know, thunders, but staying on open ground is not a good idea either)? Search a thick bush? Improvise some umbrella from sticks and leaves?

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You won't have time to improvise anything, usually. I'd just get under anything I could - trees, outcropping whatever. Lacking that, if you have a pack on and the hail is large enough to cause injury, I'd get under the pack and sacrifice it to avoid the injury. –  Don Branson Aug 6 '13 at 22:37
    
We had this happen one time but fortunately had already strung a tarp up which was enough to deflect the hail. –  Russell Steen Aug 7 '13 at 12:08
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2 Answers 2

I was caught by a hailstorm the weekend before last. I was high above the tree line, the nearest trees were perhaps 20 km away, and several hours hiking from shelter. The hailstones were not huge, but large enough to hurt.

Hail above Gautelisvatnet
Hail north of Rássevárri, above Guovdelisjávri, Narvik, Norway.

There's only one place to hide: under my backpack. A backpack provides as much protection as is possible under such circumstances. Hopefully it won't get damaged. If it does, I rather have my backpack getting damaged, than myself.

This hailstorm lasted no more than 30 seconds, and I think that's common for hailstorms (although where I live, hailstorms are rare; it's the first one I've seen since I moved here in 2008). Your backpack in available immediately. If it's painful, you might not have time to search for any shelter that is more decent.

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+1 for the photo –  Sdry Aug 8 '13 at 6:50
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I always keep a folded parka or thick contractor garbage bag in the bottom of my pack - rain or shine. My pack is designed such that I can get into the bottom through a zipper quickly.

Find any way to suspend it above you. Put two sticks in it on the sides and hold the sticks up. Or I prefer to tie/tuck one end on the top of my pack and hold it up the front while I pack on down the trail.

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