On our annual camping trip we’ve always been fairly lucky until this year. Usually we have 1 day that’s a bit drizzly, but the rest are reasonable. We have had to rush on the last day to beat the rain’s arrival when striking camp. And we’ve ‘slept’ through winds, ending up with a broken pole the next morning.
This year we weren’t so lucky with the weather. Over 20mph winds and rain on night one, night two had stronger wind and heavier rain. But it was the last night we wussed out and left early. Camping in storms isn’t fun, and we knew thunderstorms were due in overnight, with the day we were due to leave, non-stop rain and increasing winds – up to around 40mph.
We made the call to leave on the Thursday – to put away dry tents, avoid more broken poles or tents, and get a decent night sleep. We weren’t the only ones to leave, with the 2 other tents (both air tents) in our exposed campsite area, leaving only 1 new arrival. I hope they were ok as there was no shelter where we were pitched, and no space to park cars behind as a barrier.
The wind and storms were a topic of conversation across the camping groups I’m in. Some people were like us, leaving as it was cheaper than losing a tent and equipment to the wind. Others were sticking it out or still arriving at other campsites. So if you’re due really bad weather when you’re away camping, what can you do to make camping safer. And make it more likely to still have a tent at the end of your trip.
Camping in storms tips
1. Learn how to pitch a tent properly
If you’ve never been taught how to pitch a tent and are just following your tent’s instructions, then learn how to pitch properly. Youtube has plenty of tutorials, and look up your tent’s pitching advice on camping shop websites.
2. If you can, pitch with the back of the tent into the wind
This is especially important if you have a porch or awning as the wind can get under and into these and wrench them out.
3. Buy decent tent pegs
The tent pegs that come with tents are basic, and aren’t going to be the best at staying in the ground. You can buy much stronger and longer pegs like rock pegs (similar cheaper ones are sold in places like Aldi), although for good storm pegs, Delta pegs are meant to be the best. Make sure you have more pegs than you need as well, then you can double up if really windy.
4, Put tent pegs in properly
Pegs should be hit into the ground, pointing diagonally away from the tent, so they’re harder to pull out. Guy ropes should be pegged out at 45 degrees rather than more vertical or horizontal.
5. Tighten guy ropes
Especially important when windy. Guy lines need to be tightened, if not they’ll flap around and the tent won’t be held in shape. Taut but not pulled overtight. Use the plastic tensioner, and if there’s still some slack, you can move part of the guy line over the knot to tighten a bit more.
Don’t forget that in the rain, ropes will get wet and potentially loosen a bit, so do go round the tent and check again if needed.
6. Double peg
If there’s gusts or strong winds, you want to make sure your tent pegs stay in the ground. Double pegging should help, on top of using decent pegs. Double pegging simply means using 2 pegs at different angles in the same guy rope.
7. Add storm guys
Some modern inflatable tents have storm straps as guys – much thicker straps. And Vango tents usually have tension straps inside the tent to help keep it more in shape. But you can add extra guy lines where needed in case of storms.
Either take additional guy ropes with you, or take a long length of guy line on a roll, and cut to length as needed. You can add these to double up the guy lines from the same guy line points. If doing this, rather than using one guy rope to follow the line of the frame or pole, you take each outwards to be 45 degrees apart. You can also add extra guy ropes to other points on the tent if you have them.
8, Take down unattached items
Gazebos, porches, open shelters, awnings that aren’t secure. You don’t want to wake up or return to the campsite to find yours is missing, or it’s ripped the tent in being lifted off by the wind.
9. Protect the tent with barriers if possible
If you’ve room, use your vehicle to shield the car from the wind. Windbreaks may also help (although we struggled to even get ours set up due to the wind this time) if they’re in securely – add guys if possible for extra stability. Pitch the tent in a sheltered place but not in line for flying items like breaking trees or branches.
10. Take a storm kit with you, just in case
You don’t need to take much, but it’s often useful and you never know when the weather might change. Include spare poles, duct tape, extra pegs and guy lines.
11. Pack unnecessary belongings in the car
In case you need to make a quick escape.
12. Understand the difference between tents when choosing one.
Air beams are said to be good in the wind. The ones on our campsite were certainly a lot more stable than the poled tents which flap around a lot more, even if pitched well. But air beams can flex and bend in strong winds, so you may end up with 1 or 2 collapsing. You should just be able to push them back into position, and add a bit more air to check they’re at the correct pressure.
Steel poles are strong, but so strong, it might mean tent fabric rips around the poles.
Fibreglass poles are lighter than steel, but are more likely to split under force from winds. Duct tape will help until you can replace them.
Hopefully these tips will help keep your tent more secure in the wind. But remember, if you don’t want to sit it out, then don’t. Decamp to your car or go home early.
What’s been your experiences of camping in winds and storms?