I much prefer wet days to windy days. In fact, the only thing worse in terms of bad weather days is a wet AND windy day, which would probably be described as a storm.
Wind can destabilise or damage your tent and other gear, it kicks up dust and it can scatter valuables and the not so valuables all over the place.
Not only that, it can cause havoc when setting up and packing up camp, and you’re in a constant state of worry about what is going to happen next.
Windy conditions can materialise at any time of year so it's good to be always prepared for the inevitable.
Here are our tips for camping in windy conditions.
1. Check the weather - forewarned is forearmed
A pretty basic camping 101 tip for newbies is to check the weather forecasts. But usually the rainfall and temperature is on our mind.
Equally important when you are exposed to the elements is the wind forecast, including speed and direction. As always, check the weather forecast and consider whether you should alter your departure times to avoid any particularly windy or inclement conditions, or even cancel your camping plans altogether.
Your camping gear
2. Buy good quality gear
You will be less likely to suffer the consequences of high winds of you buy good quality and reliable camping gear:
- Your tent and shelter will need to be durable enough to withstand windy conditions. If cost is an issue, consider buying second hand rather than settling for the cheaper brands. You should also check any wind ratings the product might have as well as online reviews.
- Your tent pegs and guy ropes should be of good quality, at least for the highly exposed areas such as the awnings and the sides facing into the wind. Invest in some additional good quality products if those supplied with your tent are on the flimsy side.
3. Consider a smaller tent
The more aerodynamic, the easier the wind can move around or through your camping setup without also trying to take everything with it.
Smaller tents have a smaller surface area, so think twice before going for a very large multi-room tent. They may be more comfortable, but there are definitely numerous trade-offs, and aerodynamics is one of them.
As they get older, kids usually want their own separate space. When that time arrives, they would much prefer to be in a smaller and more aerodynamic hiking style of tent or a swag than in the adjoining room of a larger tent - right next to the parents.
4: Wind protect your gas cooker
Most gas cookers come with a windshield, but some don’t. Cooking over gas in windy conditions can really reduce the efficiency of your cooker and significantly increase your cooking times. Separate windshields are available to purchase if your particular gas cooker doesn’t already have one built-in.
5: Pack a tent repair kit
Familiarise yourself with your tent and the types of damage it could sustain in high winds. Include in your camping toolkit the items necessary to make running repairs, such as a tent repair kit, duct tape, extra poles, tent hubs and any repair instructions.
At the campsite
6: Choose a sheltered campsite
If windy conditions are expected, choose a location in the campground that is sheltered with natural wind breaks, and avoid particularly exposed locations, such as hill tops, beaches and open areas.
If conditions are likely to deteriorate, hills, wooded areas, hedges, buildings, caravans, motorhomes and other tents will all provide some form of protection from the wind.
7: Check surrounding trees
Trees can become extremely unstable in high winds. Look up and check the surrounding trees for signs of stress and if there are any loose or dead limbs that might fall onto your tent and campsite.
8: Face the smallest side into the wind
Direct the lowest and smallest side of your tent into the wind to reduce the surface area.
9: Position the main tent door away from the wind
Position the tent door away from the wind to prevent gusts from entering your tent and turning it into a kite or ship’s sail. If the wind changes, at least keep the door closed as much as possible.
10: Properly peg down and guy out your tent
If windy conditions are expected, or if you plan to stay for any length of time
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions when pitching your tent and shelter using all of the pegs and guy ropes. In fact, the warranty of many tents will be invalidated if they are not properly pegged and guyed out according to the instructions.
- Hammer your pegs at a 45-degree angle away from the tent rather than vertically for extra strength to withstand the pressure caused by the wind.
- Angle your guy ropes at a 45-degree angle (or more) away from the pole for added strength.
- Use a separate peg for each guy rope rather than pegging multiple guy ropes to a single point.
- Peg out two guy ropes at vulnerable awning corners to provide additional strength.
11: Establish a maintenance routine
Over time, guy ropes and pegs can come loose. Don’t scramble around in a panic to secure your campsite once the high winds have arrived. Establish a regular maintenance routine for your campsite which you could run through in the morning and evening and before you leave camp for any length of time. Include in your routine:
- Cleaning up your site and relocating items to their rightful location.
- Transferring your waste to the designated waste bins.
- Checking guy ropes and pegs / stakes to strengthen the structure and reduce the level of noise and damage from the loose panels.
When the winds arrive
12: Don’t leave your site
Think twice about leaving your campsite for any length of time in extremely windy conditions or if they are expected, especially if you are concerned your camping setup might not withstand the conditions. You don’t want to return to half of your campsite scattered across the countryside.
13: Secure your campsite
At the first sign of high winds, secure your campsite as much as possible:
- Check the guy ropes and pegs / stakes to ensure the tent and awnings are secure and correctly and evenly tension to facilitate water run-off and to prevent water pooling on the roof.
- Drop down your awning poles to improve wind resistance.
- Use your car as a windbreak by parking it between the wind and your tent
- Secure your camping gear and any other loose items lying around. Place heavy items on tables and other furniture to stop them from blowing away
- Dismantle unnecessary shelters and items not designed to withstand the expected conditions, and remove any detachable solid walls not required to improve wind resistance.
- Secure your rubbish and other small items.
- Look out for potential missiles or loose items in your surrounding area and secure them if possible.
14: Take advantage of cross ventilation
If the wind is pushing up against solid walls, where appropriate, open windows, doors and vents facing in the direction of the wind to allow the air to pass through the wall or structure. Release detachable wall accessories from their side fastenings, or remove altogether, to reduce the pressure on the wall and the associated structure.
15: Offer a helping hand
Probably the most grateful I have been to a fellow camper is when they helped secure our tent during strong wind gusts in our absence. If you see someone in need, whether they are around camp or not, give them a helping hand and they will hopefully pay it forward.
16: Stay positive and calm
As with everything, panicking never achieves anything, and only serves to hinder the process of dealing with high winds and the aftermath. A calm and positive attitude can help you to address any issues that might come your way.