Tips for tent camping in high wind
Vandals, that’s what it looked like it first. That vandals had wrecked our campsite.
Our tent was half collapsed, the poles not broken but bent inward. Two camp chairs were lying on their sides, one on the opposite side of the fire ring from where it had been. And the tablecloth my wife had carefully arranged on the picnic table was bunched up in a ball, held in place on one corner only by a cooler.
No one had messed with our stuff, though. We knew that.
Rather, our site had fallen prey to the same thing that had hit us on the lake.
We were fishing from a canoe. The day had started bright and sunny.
After a few hours, though, the skies quickly darkened. And then the wind picked up.
Boy, did it ever.
We pulled our rods in and started paddling for the boat launch, far up the lake and upwind. At one point, the wind was blowing in our faces so hard that it didn’t look like we were going to make it. Turning around, going down lake with the wind to the far launch, and then walking several miles back to the truck looked like it might be our only option.
Fortunately, we didn’t have to resort to that. Some serious, dig deep paddling got us to where we wanted to go.
We beat the wind.
Our campsite did not, however. It was in disarray.
We put out world back together, fixing the tent, righting the chairs and otherwise cleaning up.
But that was yet more evidence that wind can play havoc on a campout, especially when it’s unexpected like that. There are, however, ways to prepare for it.
Here are some tips on how to do it.
Plan for debris. Veteran campers know to always look up when picking a tent site, so as to avoid “widow makers,” or tree limbs than can come crashing down at any time. That’s especially critical if you expect wind. So set up in the open.
Clean up beforehand. Pack away anything – chairs, empty water jugs and the like – that you brought with you that might get knocked about by wind. Look also for limbs, loose litter, sand and other natural objects likely to take sail in high winds, too.
Batten down the hatches. There are situations when you can set up a tent and not even need to stake it down. In the presence of high winds is not one of them. Be sure to secure everything to withstand the wind.
Play the angles. Speaking of staking your tent down, when you put the stakes into the ground, avoid driving them in straight up and down. Put them in at a 30 degree angle or so. That makes it much harder for the wind to pull them back out.
Face the right way. Position your tent so that the door is downwind. You don’t want everything that gets blown around to potentially come rolling into your tent. Aside from that, set the tent up based on its shape, meaning that if it’s something other than a dome, it sits so that the wind tends to roll up and over it.
Rain or no? If high winds are accompanied by rain, you’ll need to use the rain fly on your tent. But it not? Consider ditching the fly, which is just one more thing that the wind can play with. If you don’t need it to stay dry, don’t use it.
Pack it. If you’re backpacking, most of your gear is going in your tent anyway, simply because there’s nowhere else to put it. But that can be a good thing. The extra weight can help hold the tent in place if a stake fails. Car campers can operate the same way and bring some extra gear into the tent just to help anchor it.
Ride it out. Most campouts center around opportunities to do something outside: like fish, hike, paddle or whatever. Being forced to stay in the tent because the wind makes playing uncomfortable or unsafe can lead to boredom, especially if there are children involved. So take something along to do, be it books, games, puzzles or something else
Bag it. There’s usually a lot of time, often and money tied up in going camping. All that makes it hard to pull the plug on an outing. But if things get too bad – bad enough that no one’s having fun anymore or safety is an issue – end the trip and go home. There’s always another day.
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See also: Keys to successfully camping in the rain
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