Stay Comfortable in Any Weather: Wind

Read the terrain and use anchors to stay grounded.
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Read the terrain and use anchors to stay grounded.

On the Trail | In Camp | Key Gear



ON THE TRAIL

Understand and adapt to wind patterns. Ridges, passes, rivers, and lakeshores see the strongest gusts; avoid them unless you're fleeing bugs or heat.

Prevent windburn. In an unrelenting blow–whether it's sunny or cloudy–apply sunscreen (we like Dermatone; $7, dermatone.com) and wear sunglasses to protect your face and eyes.

Turn your head. When you have to hike head-on into an icy breeze and your hat and hood don't shield you enough, turn your head sideways and use peripheral vision to see where you're going.

Tie off loose pack straps. "They're like little whips," notes Van Steen.

Wait it out. Temperature fluctuations make air rise and fall, creating winds that can quickly change. In the mountains, wind often rises at dawn and in the afternoon as air heats up. Heading into exposed terrain? Time or delay your departure to match the local patterns.

Pick your path. If the wind doesn't die down, hike behind natural windbreaks. The lee side of a ridge offers protection from winds whipping at high elevation.

On the Trail | In Camp | Key Gear

IN CAMP

Increase stability. Trust us: A poorly pitched tent that groans and flaps for hours makes for a terrible night's sleep. Give your tent much-needed flexibility by passing a 5mm bungee cord through your fly's guy loop several times, tying the cord to the guyline, and staking it out. Because it gives a bit, says Fierer, "It'll stay tighter longer, and this prevents ripping the tent."

Pitch a lead tent. Set up other tents in a line in its lee, advises Van Steen. The lead tent (which should be the largest) will shield the rest from cold gusts during setup and throughout the night. Build a windbreak. In winter, use snow to construct a wall around your site. (Don't dig a pit around your tent, or drifting flakes will fill it in.)

Keep meals grit-free. Stick to easy, one-pot recipes served in bowls. High-sided Tupperware containers work best.

On the Trail | In Camp | Key Gear

KEY GEAR

Windshell For windy–but relatively dry–conditions, get a breathable windshell that won't cause overheating (like Marmot's Tempo; $90, marmot.com).

Cook Safely in Your Vestibule

Officially, no one cooks in a vestibule. Unofficially, veterans of windy, cold, and wet conditions all do it. But get vestibule cooking wrong, and you're at risk for serious burns, a melted tent, or carbon-monoxide poisoning. Here's how Andy Tyson, an 18-year guide in Antarctica, Patagonia, and Alaska, does it.

1) Make sure your vestibule faces downwind, so carbon monoxide blows away from–not through–your tent.

2) Organize all ingredients and supplies before cooking to eliminate the need to reach over the stove for anything. Alert your tentmates when you're about to start, so no one has to climb through the vestibule for a bathroom break while you're cooking.

3) Stabilize your stove on a sturdy, flat rock.

4) If you're using a liquid-fuel stove, be extremely careful not to let flames jump too high when priming (or prime it just outside the vestibule). Unzip the fly's door, and have a pot lid ready to shield the tent from flare-ups. Keep a water bottle close at hand to extinguish any unruly flames.

5) Unzip the vestibule's doors as much as conditions allow (even a few inches can help) to avoid carbon monoxide build-up. The longer the stove runs, the more important this becomes. Never cook inside the tent itself, no matter how nasty it is outside.

Sleep Easy

Orient your tent's narrow end into the wind so that gusts blow over, not into, your sleeping space. Stake out all guylines to keep the tent from bending or flapping. Soil too loose for stakes? Tie the guylines around hot-dog-shaped rocks. Pile bigger rocks on top to hold guylines in place.

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