How to pitch your tent in high winds
As the saying goes, ‘failure to plan is planning to fail’. So, adhere to the old adage and make sure you’re paying attention to weather forecasts. High winds will often herald some incoming big and ugly meteorological event.
It seems almost ridiculously obvious, but pitching near trees is remarkably dangerous in high winds – largely for reasons that don’t need to be explained.
However, even experienced outdoors folk will make poor decisions in times of stress – such as trying to make camp in bad weather.
The trap many fall into is the shelter provided by trees from the wind. You can still use that shelter by following a basic rule – judge the height of the nearest trees, add 20ft and pitch at least that distance away.
The danger isn’t always falling branches, it can also be toppling trees. Certain species – pine for example – tend to grow in soft ground that becomes unstable in very wet conditions.
Low bushes and hedgerows are always a safer option.
Avoid the ridge
You’ll see plenty of adverts in glossy outdoors magazines featuring tents pitched on mountain ridges. And, while this may provide some pleasant views during a period of calm, it’s best to avoid it altogether.
Wind currents behave in curious ways and, often, the geographical layout of mountains and valleys will cause gusts to whip over ridges with alarming and random velocity.
Much like a treeline, you can use a ridge to your advantage by locating a near-by dip in the lay of the land downwind.
While being out in the wilderness alone is a pleasure many adventurers actively seek, going ‘lone wolf’ in bad weather isn’t always the best idea. Two heads and four hands are better when it comes to pitching in the wind.
Weigh it up
Make use of what weight you can find to help pin down the interior corners of your tent. Your backpack is one, but use what’s available to you – rocks etc. Make use of sturdy rocks for your guy ropes too. Pegs alone may not be sufficient at keeping the rainfly, tarp or basha from being ripped off in a gust.
Adverse conditions aren’t the time for an eight-man family tent with headroom and a kitchen, so make sure that whatever you’re camping in is as low and shallow pitched as possible.
You want to create something for the wind to pass over – not catch.
Ensure your tent door or any opening in whatever you’re sheltering in is as 180 degrees to the wind direction as you can possibly make it. Even when you’re trying to pitch quickly in poor conditions, take a moment to plan properly – a mistake could prove more costly than a few saved minutes of being cold and wet.
If it looks like the wind is going to keep you camped in the one spot for a lengthy period, be prepared to zip-up and be confined. Not just with food and water supplies, but also the things to keep your mind busy and stave off boredom – even it’s just a good book.
Boredom itself is enough to drain your morale, so make sure you’ve got plenty of ways of keeping your adventurous mind entertained, and your spirits up.
While the confined space of a tent or basha is hardly akin to a dance studio, there are plenty of ways of making sure you’re moving your body and keeping things flowing. Press-ups, sit-ups, yoga-style crouches and horizontal stretches etc will not only help pass the time, they’ll keep you active enough to prevent you succumbing to lethargy and boredom.
Check and check again
High winds are rarely sustained at one constant speed – it’s the gusts that do the damage. Whenever there’s a lull in storm activity, crawl out and check your outer structure – guy ropes, material integrity etc – then check again.
Written by Darren Parkin at the Wild Parkin website.
- Jack Barnett