How to Camp in the Wind

Don’t let gusty weather ruin your trip—or your tent.
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Don’t let gusty weather ruin your trip—or your tent.
camp in the wind

Stuff tent parts separately and pull out one piece at a time, minimizing the risk of parts blowing away. Pictured: Scotland’s notoriously windy Isle of Skye. Photo by: Mint Images / Superstock.

Gusts of 40 mph qualify as gale force according to the Beaufort Wind Scale, which describes such wind as strong enough to “impede progress.” You can bet it’ll make pitching a tent hard as well. Here are tips from some of our testers who have faced 70-mph winds (that’s officially hurricane strength, by the way).

Consider waiting for the wind to die. This is not always possible—because of weather, darkness, or fatigue—but it’s often best to wait rather than risk ripped fabric or broken poles.

Seek a sheltered site. Seems obvious, but strong wind has a way of creating a false sense of urgency. Take the time to find even partial shelter in the lee of a ridge or boulder.

Before pitching your tent, look up. Is there a dead tree or branch that could fall on you? Move to a safer location, even if it’s less sheltered.

Orient the tent body so the lowest or most aerodynamic end is facing into the wind (but never the door) and stake the tent to the ground, starting with the windward side. Be careful not to let any parts blow away.

Recruit help. You’ll want a partner to stabilize the flapping fabric while you attach poles and then the fly.

Stake it securely. Using external guylines is critical in strong wind. Stakes don’t always work, so think outside the box when it comes to anchors (tie off to rocks, bury stuffsacks in snow, etc.). Tip: Tie stakeout loops to guylines with a short piece of bungee cord, which adds flexibility so your tent will stay taut longer. Retighten guylines as needed.

Avoid leaving the door open; flapping fabric will tear.

Stow packs and gear inside. If your rigging fails while you’re outside the tent, the weight will keep it from blowing away.