Top tips for camping in windy weather
Camping in windy conditions can be a daunting thought but there's no reason why it can't be done... and you don't even have to splash out on an expensive technical tent.
Follow this advice, pitch your tent properly in the right location, and you should be fine even if it's blowing a hoolie.
1 CHECK THE FORECAST
Be prepared. Before any camping trip, check the weather forecast for your destination. Keep an eye out for severe conditions and make your plans accordingly. Make sure you continue to check the weather reports while you’re away, so bad weather doesn’t take you by surprise.
2 BRING SUITABLE GEAR
You don’t necessarily need a top of the range, technical tent to camp in windy conditions, but going for the cheapest option isn’t a great idea either. That bargain you picked up at the supermarket won’t seem quite as good when you’re stranded on a windy campsite at 3am in a pile of snapped poles and mangled material. Big brands subject their tents to rigorous tests and most are capable of withstanding a certain amount of wind, but different brands and models are capable of enduring more than others, so check out the ratings before you buy. In addition to the quality and design of the materials, some brands have additional features designed to improve stability, such as Outwell’s Wind Stabilizer System and Vango’s Tension Band System. And if things do go wrong, make sure you bring along a repair kit so you can patch your tent up as you go along.
3 CHOOSE A SHELTERED CAMPSITE
If you haven’t pre-booked your campsite, have a scout around the area you want to stay in and find the one that is most sheltered. Although they might have the best views, avoid sites on hillsides or on cliftops when strong wind is forecast and head for lower ground if you can.
4 FIND NATURAL WINDBREAKS
Whatever site you end up on, do your best to find a pitch that isn’t exposed to the wind. Try to work out which direction the wind is blowing and choose the pitch that is most sheltered, although obviously your choice will be limited if the site is busy. Natural windbreaks can be found all around the site – high hedges, the side of a hill or a thick, low bush. Buildings and stone walls can also provide excellent shelter and if all else fails, parking your car strategically can provide an excellent windbreak. Don’t pitch direct under trees though – branches can easily break off in strong winds and could damage your tent. And in the worst case scenario, large heavy branches and even entire trees can be blown over with disastrous consequences for anyone caught underneath.
5 PITCH IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
In windy weather pitch your tent facing in the direction that offers most protection and stability – this usually means directing the lowest and narrowest parts towards the wind. Try pitching at an angle to the wind so the force of the gusts is spread more evenly over the tent. Pitch with the main door facing away from the wind, if you can, especially in a tunnel tent, otherwise you could find your tent taking off like a huge kite when you open the door.
6 CHOOSE YOUR MOMENT
Putting a tent up in strong winds can be a nightmare, so if you know a storm is on the way, try to get to the campsite and get your tent securely set up before it arrives. Or if you can, wait until the winds have passed before you start pitching. If you have to pitch while you’re being buffeted by strong gusts, work as quick as you can and take advantage of any lulls in the wind.
7 PITCHING PROPERLY
In general, the more people on hand to help you pitch the better and that applies even more in the wind. Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance from fellow campers – you’ll be surprised how many will be more than happy to help you get pitched. Get yourself organised before you start pitching – before you open the tent out, assemble the poles and lay them out in position on the ground. Once you’re ready to put the tent up, start laying it out flat, pegging down each corner as you go along. If necessary, use something heavy to stop the wind catching the fabric before you’ve secured the corners and keep a firm grip when you raise the poles into position.
8 THE JOY OF PEGS
Pegging down your tent properly is always important, but even more so when the wind is strong and there’s increased pressure on the pegging points. Make sure you use good strength, steel pegs in windy weather – you can buy grooved, wind-resistant stakes specifically for those conditions – and always drive them right into the ground. Don’t hammer the pegs into the ground straight, though, always drive them in at a 45 degree angle. It makes them more rigid and it’s actually easier to get them into the ground that way. A heavy hammer as opposed to a rubber mallet is worth having if the ground is hard or stony.
9 SECURE YOUR GUYLINES
Guy lines are vitally important to the stability of a tent, especially in windy conditions, so make sure you use all of them. Some tents have more than a dozen guylines and it can be time-consuming to deploy them all. But as tempting as it might be just to use the corner lines, spending that extra time pegging them all out will be worth it. Try to get them as taut as possible to prevent the tent from moving in strong gusts and ensure they are of a similar tension all round the tent. For the angle and positioning of guylines look at the instructions or check on the manufacturer’s website.
10 ARRANGING YOUR TENT
Once the tent is pitched, you have to think about filling it. Heavy items like coolboxes, storage crates and holdalls are handy for placing in corners to help weigh the groundsheet down and prevent it from billowing up. Less stable items, like kitchen units and tables, should be kept away from the edges to prevent them being buffeted and potentially flipped over. Don’t be tempted to bring your gas stove indoors – it’s not safe at the best of times and even less so when the walls of your tent are being pummelled by wind. If it’s too windy to cook outdoors, use it as an excuse to go to the nearest pub for dinner! Hanging lanterns from the roof isn’t a good idea in strong winds either unless you enjoy being clattered on the head by a swinging chunk of plastic on a regular basis.
11 FEEL THE NOISE
There’s nothing you can do to stop the noise of the wind whistling and rattling round your tent and causing the walls to flap. It will sound even worse at night and getting to sleep can be a struggle if you let it bother you. The best bet is to try to tune out and stop worrying that every gust is a sign that your tent is about to take off Wizard of Oz style. If you’ve followed all the tips above then hopefully everything should be fine so relax and try to get some sleep. Earplugs are a good option if you’re really bothered by the noise.
12 BE SAFE
The trick of successful camping is knowing when to stick or twist. If the weather gets too bad and you feel you're in danger, there’s no harm in deciding to pack up and go home… or at least retire to the safety of your car.