PITCHING a tent in high winds seems a little ill-advised, but there are plenty of adventurers out there who think nothing of heading for a storm-battered night under menacing skies.
In fact, some actively seek out named storms, keen to test their gear in the most extreme conditions possible… and they genuinely enjoy camping in the wind.
Thankfully, the experiences of these thrill-seekers can be passed down for regular campers to learn how to still enjoy the outdoors – even when the wind is telling you not to.
We’ve gathered up some of the most useful expert tips to help make sure camping in adverse conditions can be a breeze…
As the saying goes, ‘failure to plan is planning to fail’. So, adhere to the old adage and make sure you’re paying constant attention to weather forecasts. High winds will often herald huge downpours or thunderstorms, so make sure you’re up-to-date with the meteorological picture.
It seems 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 hastily shelter from bad weather.
The trap many will fall into is using the trees as a windbreak. This, particularly near notoriously fragile ash trees, can be potentially fatal. 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.
You can still take advantage of the shelter provided by a treeline if you follow one simple rule – judge the height of the nearest trees you are downwind from, then add 20ft and pitch at least that distance away.
Remember, low bushes and hedgerows are always a safer option.
Avoid the ridge
You’ll see no end of fancy photo shoots in glossy outdoors magazines featuring tents pitched on mountain ridges. And, while this may provide some pleasant views over breakfast 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.
More hands make light work
While being out in the wilderness alone is a pleasure many solo adventurers seek and crave, 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.
Make use of what weight you can find to help pin down the interior corners of your tent. Your back pack is one, but use what’s available to you. Outside, use sturdy rocks for your guy ropes too. Pegs alone – even specialist storm pegs – may not be sufficient at keeping the rainfly, tarp or basha from being ripped off in a gust. If you have spare paracord, put it to good use by creating extra guy lines if you’re bunkering down to ride out bad weather.
Adverse conditions aren’t the time for an eight-man family tent with standing room and a kitchen, so make sure that whatever you’re camping in is as low and shallow pitched as possible.
You want to be a in a tent with a low profile that will allow the wind to pass over – not catch it like a sail.
Ensure your tent door or any vestibule opening is as 180 degrees to the wind direction as you can possibly make it. Even when you’re trying to pitch quickly in challenging conditions, pause for a moment to plan it properly – a mistake here could prove far more costly than a few extra minutes in the cold and wet.
If it looks like the weather is going to force you to camp in 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 high.
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, leg-raises 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. Getting your heart pumping blood will also push more oxygen into your brain – the most useful tool at your disposal when conditions are working against you.
High winds are rarely sustained at a constant speed, and it’s the powerful gusts that do the damage. Whenever there’s a lull in storm activity, get out and check your outer structure – guy ropes material integrity etc. Check everything at least twice – having peace of mind and confidence in a secure tent structure will help you remain calm during the height of a storm.
FURTHER READING: How to reduce condensation in your tent… How to reduce condensation in a tent – Ever Wild Outdoors