22 Tips for Camping in High Winds

Last Updated on 01/01/2022

camping in High Winds

Guide to Camping in High Winds

Camping in high winds requires a good level of planning and skill to ensure a successful trip. Knowing that you are heading into strong winds is half the battle. Once you have planned your trip properly, you can start to take precautions to make your life easier, such as longer stakes and finding more sheltered locations.

Pitching a tent in strong winds often becomes a lesson in kite flying. It’s hard work, frustrating, and can lead to broken and torn equipment if you aren’t careful.

Even once your tent is pitched, camping in strong winds can be uncomfortable. Cooking becomes difficult and cold winds can whip around the inside of your tent, giving you a cold and uncomfortable night.

Often on windy nights, you retreat to your sleeping bag early, sheltering and trying to get warm in your tent. However, with the wrong site selection, you can spend long, sleepless nights hoping the surrounding forest is strong enough to stand up to the weather. This, then, is your guide to having a good night, even in strong winds.

What is Considered Strong Wind?

What some people consider to be strong winds, others won’t consider an issue. Skill and experience will play a part in this, as well as the environment.

Wind strength is measured in miles per hour, both at a base level as well as gusts. Gusts can often vary from the base strength by a notable level. You may find that the base wind doesn’t affect you too much, but that the gusts call for more thought.

Moderate breeze is considered to be consistently over 26 mph, with strong winds being 40 mph +. You may be camping in a moderate breeze, but experience gusts that take the level up to strong.

Anything over 58 mph is considered to be dangerously strong and we would advise that you avoid going camping in these conditions. There are whole articles written to tell you about strong winds and this one is particularly in-depth.

22 Tips for Camping in Strong Winds

So here are our top 22 tips for camping in strong winds.

tent blowing in high winds

Check the Weather

Planning is essential before you head out into strong winds. Knowing the predicted weather and the wind speed can let you plan your chosen equipment before you head out. If you are expecting strong winds, you may choose the warmer sleeping bag, thicker jacket, or a tent over a hammock.

It’s no good just knowing how strong the winds are, or if the weather is good for hiking during the day. You need to know the wind direction too before camping in high winds.

Knowing the wind direction allows you to plan your trip to find shelter from prevailing conditions. Certain wind directions can cause particular weather characteristics or temperatures to occur depending on where you are.

Avoid Exposed Locations

This might sound obvious, but it’s worth mentioning. You should avoid exposed locations that don’t have any shelter from the wind like when camping on the beach.

Wind tends to blow through exposed locations and gusts travel across these areas more easily. Camping in exposed locations can lead to your tent being hammered by strong winds all night and your equipment being strewn around.

Seek Sheltered Locations with Natural Windblocks

If you’re avoiding exposed locations, then you should be seeking out sheltered locations. Camping in strong winds can be much calmer and easier when you get yourself out of the worst of it.

Your pre-trip planning should take into account your need to find a sheltered area to pitch your camp. Plans have to be malleable, though, and if the wind direction changes you may have to make the best of whatever shelter you can find.

Searching for walls, forests, or rises that divert the wind are all viable options for sheltering you from the wind.

Don’t Pitch Underneath Trees with Big Branches

When selecting your microsite, don’t forget to look upwards. Large branches can come loose in strong winds and while it’s bad enough having small sticks land on your tent, a large branch might be the end of your camping trip, in more ways than one.

Regardless of the wind, avoiding large branches can be advisable anyway with certain trees. Trees like oaks, elms, and beech trees are susceptible to sudden limb loss. Although this won’t happen often, it’s easily avoided and can give you peace of mind overnight.

Pitch into the Wind

When you reach your camping spot and finally pick where you want to put your tent, you should plan how to align it into the wind. If your tent has an obvious windward side, set it up that way.

Most tents have a more aerodynamic side, which will be less affected by strong winds. If you can, avoid large or flat sides of your tent facing into the wind. These will catch the wind and buckle overnight.

Pitch with the Door Away from the Wind

As an extension of camping with your tent into the wind, your should always position your tent to keep your door away from the wind. This avoids your tent billowing as you open the door to get in and out. It also means you can leave your door open and cook in the lee of your tent if you need to.

Use Deep Stakes or Special Windproof Anchor Stakes

Normal tent pegs can be pulled out easily as your tent writhes around in the wind. Using longer stakes, or windproof stakes will limit the chances of your tent coming unpegged overnight.

Windproof tent stakes are usually either cross-shaped or spiral into the ground. This helps to increase the surface area of the stake, as well as prevent them from wriggling around in the wind.

tent with rocks on pegs in wind

Put Rocks on Top of Your Tent Stakes

If you don’t have windproof stakes, or if you still aren’t certain that they will withstand the wind, then adding weight to them can help to stop them from coming loose. You can use fabric tent anchors like the ones in this article or simply place rocks over the top of your stakes.

If you are going to add weight to your tent stakes, you should be careful how you go about doing so. For a start, if you don’t add enough weight, the rocks may be flung around and land on the tent. Regardless, the tent is going to move in the wind and can tear on sharp or rugged rocks.

At the end of your camping trip, remember to put the rocks back where you collected them from. This is an essential part of leaving no trace.

Pitch Tent Edges Lower to the Ground

Usually, when you pitch your tent, you want to leave a gap at the base to increase airflow. When camping in high winds, you want to limit this as much as possible.

The tighter that you pull the edges of your tent to the ground, the less likely your tent is to fill up with wind. This not only means you will stay warmer, but that your tent will put less pressure on the stakes, too.

Secure Tent Straight Away

As soon as possible, you should use a camping hammer to peg your tent out. Usually, this is the moment you start laying out the groundsheet or whichever part of your tent pitches first.

Peg this out with at least two pegs, at the windward side of the tent. You will almost definitely  have to adjust these pegs before you are finished, but it’s better than chasing your tent around the mountain as you try to insert poles.

Use a Weight

Once you’ve got your tent poles in place, open the door and put your backpack inside. This extra weight should be enough, along with the pegs we just mentioned, to stop your tent from taking off.

Of course, you should be aware that in strong winds, if your tent does take off with your backpack inside then you have lost everything. Once you are inside your tent, you can remove your backpack, as your weight should be sufficient.

If you leave the tent to cook, or to answer nature’s call, remember to put your gear back in so that your tent is there when you get back.

Avoid Campfires

A little breeze will help your campfire, but in strong winds, they become a hazard. Strong winds cause sparks and embers to be sent flying about. These can easily burn a hole in your tent or equipment.

Use a Tent with a Strong Frame

If you’re heading out camping in strong winds, you need a tent that can withstand the conditions. Tents come in different shapes and sizes, but when it comes to withstanding wind, geodesic or semi-geodesic tents always perform the best.

Geodesic tents are freestanding and don’t rely on being pegged out for their structure. They are usually dome-shaped, which means they don’t leave one side more exposed than another.

Geodesic and their semi-geodesic partners stand up to wind on all sides, unlike tunnel tents which have to be pitched in certain directions. You should always be careful when putting up a tent in the wind, as poles can bend and snap.

Take Earplugs

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The sound of a tent flapping in the wind can get irritating when you’re trying to sleep. Not to mention the sound of trees creaking in the wind, or branches bouncing off one another. A pair of earplugs can make all the difference to you getting a quality night’s sleep.

Use Guy Lines

Guy lines are available for most tents, even if they don’t come as a standard. In windy conditions, you should use all the guylines available to you, especially those on the side of your tent facing the wind.

Before your trip, make sure you have enough lines and pegs if you know it’s going to get windy. You can also attach these lines to trees or rocks, which can be more substantial than pegs in strong winds.

Keep Your Camp Tidy

Perhaps this should be a rule for camping at any point, but in strong winds, it’s vital that you keep your camp tidy. Anything left out overnight most likely won’t be there in the morning.

One of the main culprits for blowing away is litter. You may prefer to keep your litter bag outside your tent, but in strong winds, it will blow away. In areas where you have to keep food and food waste away from your sleeping area, you should find a way to secure it before you get into your tent.

Get a Stove Wind Screen for Cooking

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Strong winds often blow out stoves or reduce the efficiency of camp wood stoves. If you plan to cook in camp, having a stove with a wind block is essential.

Some stoves are designed with the wind in mind and work regardless. Others require a wind block, which is usually metal sheets that fold together to fit in your backpack.

If you don’t have a specific wind block, you can make one from rocks or sometimes by positioning yourself to block the wind.

Pack a Tent Repair Kit

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No one wants to get up in the night to repair their tent, but it’s better than the alternative. Strong winds can snap poles and tear tents. A small tear in your tent that is battered by strong winds overnight will quickly turn into a large hole.

A small repair kit will let you fix your tent on the spot before the issue gets out of hand.

Make One Last Check of Pegs Before Bed

The final check before bed is an important one. A quick check around your tent to make sure the pegs are in place and that guy lines are tight can stop you from being woken up in the night. This is also a good chance to check for any litter that might get lost overnight.

Windproof Your Sleeping Bag

If the wind continues to blow through your tent, you can cool down quickly overnight. The addition of a bivvy bag over your sleeping bag can windproof your sleeping bag and keep you warm.

Hoods are Your Friend

You tend to lose a lot of heat from your head while camping. Hats are useful in strong winds but don’t stop the wind from blowing down your jacket and making you cold.

Wearing hooded jackets will keep you warm in the evening while pulling the hood of your sleeping bag tight overnight will keep in the warmth and keep out the wind.

Pack Some Entertainment

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Even the most intrepid explorer can be forced to stay in their tent in strong winds. Hopefully, at most, it will just be your evening that is spent inside, but high winds can stop you from venturing on, especially if your planned route is over high peaks.

Packing something like cards or a book can keep you entertained when you’re windbound. This is not only a good way to stay entertained but can stop you from being tempted to just push on in dangerous conditions, just because you’re bored.

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Gear Assistant

This article has been written and/or edited by Andrew N. 20+ years of hiking, mountaineering, and camping experience, with access to all the latest outdoor gear.

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