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Subject Topic: Coping with the wind
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Message posted by Sceptical Camper on 02/6/2011 at 10:27am
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There's been plenty of discussion about wind recently here on UKCS - not surprisingly, given that early last week the Met Office issued severe weather warnings and in Scotland and northwest England high winds caused a fair bit of damage. It has been heartbreaking to read of tents wrecked, trips cancelled, and holidays ruined.

I have just been camping for over a week (including the days during the Met Office warning) in the north of England visiting East Yorkshire, North Yorkshire, Co Durham and various parts of Cumbria. It was certainly very windy - Force 9 (50mph or more) on the hills and Force 6 or 7 (up to 35mph or more) even in the valleys.

Apart from the inevitable anxiety and irritation, I suffered no problems due to the wind. However, I saw a lot of tents damaged or downed (including some robust-looking tents from quality manufacturers). But I also saw plenty of tall tents and very cheap tents which stayed up undamaged.

So here are a few observations from my trip that may be useful as pointers for dealing with the wind.

It seems to me that here are three crucial factors: seeking out or improving shelter; orientation and positioning; and, most importantly, pitching the tent securely.

Firstly, shelter. If you have not pre-booked on a camp site you can visit several campsites in an area and select the most sheltered one. As an example, while I was in Teesdale I looked round three or four sites within a few miles of each other. My original choice turned out to be halfway up a hillside so instead I went to a less picturesque but more sheltered site in the valley.

If, however, you have pre-booked try not to get fobbed off with an exposed pitch - insist on choosing the most sheltered location. Again as an example, at the site in Teesdale I walked around to suss out where the wind was coming from and then chose the least windy corner. In my experience most site owners and wardens will be understanding and helpful if they can but if the site is crowded you may have less choice of location.

Still on shelter, look out for natural windbreaks - the leeside of a hill, the bottom of a valley, a line of trees or a wood, or, best of all, dense hedges. One warning though - do not pitch under, or in the lee of, tall trees (especially conifers) unless you are somewhat further from the tree than its height. Last week I saw several trees blown down.

If there is no natural feature to deflect the wind, look out for barns or sheds or a strong fence or, best of all, a drystone wall. And don't forget the time-honoured trick of improvising a windbreak by parking your car upwind of your pitch.

On my trip, I was surprised to see that many tents (some of which were either down or wind-damaged) were pitched in exposed locations on campsites despite there being plenty of vacant pitches in more sheltered spots.

To be continued...

Message posted by Sceptical Camper on 02/6/2011 at 10:27am
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Continues

Once you have found a reasonably flat free-draining pitch that takes fullest advantage of any shelter, consider orientation. In windy weather, forget about which way you prefer to sleep or whether there'll be a nice view from the door - pitch the tent facing whichever direction offers most protection and stability. That will vary from tent to tent but 'bum to wind' is a fairly sound generalisation. Remember that if you pitch with the main door facing the wind not only will rain blow in but the tent will 'balloon' which increases the likelihood of it becoming a kite and puts unnecessary strain on the poles and guy lines.

If the wind is fairly steady in speed and direction (which, admittedly, is rare) it will probably be better to pitch at an angle to the wind. In other words, pitch so that a corner faces into the wind thus spreading the load over two sides rather than just one (obviously this only applies to rectangular tents, not round ones like bells and teepees). If the wind is gusty or changeable, it is not easy to even out the amount of force on the sides so be prepared to move the tent if there is a significant change in wind direction.

As an aside, I've found that if the tent has a SIG it helps to position heavy-ish items (coolbox or a clothes bag for example) in the corners to help anchor the tent and prevent the groundsheet billowing up under you.

To be continued...

Message posted by Sceptical Camper on 02/6/2011 at 10:29am
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Continues

As I've already mentioned, I saw a good few tents down (or about to go down) due to the wind during my recent trip. Although lack of shelter and poor orientation were factors by far the most common cause of collapse was sloppy and/or inadequate pegging and guying.

To resist the effects of wind a tent obviously needs to be pegged down - and that means using pegs that are suitable for the ground, using a sufficient number of them, and driving them right in. As an example, at one site I saw an unattended family tent partially collapsed. When I got closer I saw that the guy line pegs had pulled out. The reason was obvious from those that remained in place - the wire pegs had only been driven halfway into the ground allowing the loop of guy line to ride up to the hook and exert sufficient levergage to yank out the peg. There was no reason for this - the ground was fairly soft and the pegs could easily have been driven right in.

Conversely, I camped at a site with very stony ground later that week. Here it was very difficult to drive wire pegs more than a few of inches into the ground without them bending. At this site, the value of pegging was even more apparent - those tents relying on wire pegs that weren't driven in far enough went down, those that were securely pegged stayed up. I also saw a trick worth trying there; several campers had gathered rocks from around the site and placed them on top of the guy line pegs. This struck me as simple and effective augmentation.

I always carry strong stainless steel pegs with me and also some twelve-inch angle-iron storm pegs; even so, I bought extra rock pegs from the campsite shop. I also carry a heavy claw hammer in my box as well as the rubber mallet.

I chatted to a neighbouring camper who had pitched an Outwell Nevada. To my surprise, he had used only the plastic pegs supplied with the tent. It took him a while to hammer in the pegs (and, on the day he left, I noticed several had become banana-shaped) but once in they didn't budge even though it was very windy and a Nevada is quite a tall tent.

To be continued...

Message posted by Sceptical Camper on 02/6/2011 at 10:31am
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Continued

Guy lines are vitally important in the wind. The pegging points around the tent itself will hold it down but it is the guy lines that provide stability, rigidity and resistance to side-loading. It should go without saying that all guy lines should be deployed when it is windy. I was surprised to see quite a few tents pitched with only the corner guy lines in use, the other lines still rolled up. In particularly windy conditions, it may even be necessary to augment guy lines with additional ones - always carry some spares.

When it comes to tension, there are different schools of thought. Personally, I like to keep the lines pretty taut but some people advocate a little slack to allow for shrinkage as fabric and lines get wet or dry. To an extent, this depends on materials - polyester and natural fabrics have different shrinkage characteristics.

With guy lines, try to ensure the pull of any one line is balanced by an opposing pull from another; for example, you should tension the four opposing corner guys against one another. Different types of tent (rigid pole frame tent, flexi-pole domes, tunnel, bell and so on) have different guying requirements. If you are not sure of the optimum angle or positioning, be guided by the tent's instructions, look for illustrations of the tent in use, or look round the campsite to see how similar tents have their guys deployed.

The main things to avoid are slack guys, not using all the lines, and not applying balanced tension all round the tent.

So much for securing the tent once it is pitched. But often trying to get the thing up in the first place causes the most difficulty and damage on windy days. I'm afraid there is no secret technique but when pitching in the wind work swiftly, be well organised, and take advantage of any lulls between gusts. Equally obviously take advantage of any shelter (or position your car as a windbreak).

Get everything possible prepared before you unroll the tent; for example, assemble the pole sets and position them, lay out the pegs and mallet, and so on. Once you are ready to unfold or unroll the tent itself, be sure to have several pegs in your pocket and use anything heavy (coolbox, tool box, even your car's spare wheel) to pin down the fabric as you position the poles and raise the tent. And don't be afraid to ask neighbouring campers or the warden for help - the more hands the merrier when it's windy.

After many windy camping trips, I have concluded that you don't need a bomb-proof low-profile 'tech' tent to shrug off the wind. I've seen large family tents and bargain-bucket cheapies stand up to near gales - and the common factor was they were pitched properly in well-chosen locations.

Good luck, everyone.

Message posted by rjgukc on 02/6/2011 at 10:51am
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Excellent information. Thanks for posting.

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Regards,

Richard

2011
May: Crowborough (*****)
June: Oldbury Hill (*****)
July: Rother Valley (*)
August: Gate Lodge (Cancelled)
September: Graffham

Message posted by Sue999 on 02/6/2011 at 10:56am
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Hi Scep

A really detailed and informative thread - as usual I enjoyed reading it and hopefully learnt something along the way - Thank you.



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Sue

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Message posted by PigletandTigger on 02/6/2011 at 11:01am
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Good post, the number of tents I see pitched either without all the guys being used or with pegs hanging out the ground always amazes me.


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Message posted by rayn2409 on 02/6/2011 at 11:24am
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Thanks Seph - I always thought my OH was a little bit OTT when it comes to Guys'  however, after the weekend I am sure his diligence saved our new tent from damage.

 


Message posted by moonstone on 02/6/2011 at 11:28am
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an extremely helpful and informative post...many thanks...

we're heading off in a month to our first "windy" campsite, so will certainly be putting many of your suggestions into practice...

Message posted by a.lawton650 on 02/6/2011 at 11:30am
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yes skip, you must be shattered after writeing this but well done on the sound advice it certainly would've come in handy a few wks ago when we camped in the wind, thankfully only my nephews tent got stuck in the tree's wich took 3 of us to de-tangle!

 



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Enjoy life!

5-8th aug coniston hall!!

Alison




Message posted by 9iron on 02/6/2011 at 11:35am
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Thanks also Scep for the info you gave me when I was pitching at the East Riding meet. I always learn something everytime I go out. I've done frost wind and rain with you but I'm NOT doing snow

Message posted by Smutty nutty on 02/6/2011 at 11:51am
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Thank you I allso love reading your posts.

Message posted by debs398 on 02/6/2011 at 12:27pm
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Thanks very much - very useful information

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Message posted by Anne A on 02/6/2011 at 1:47pm
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Well Written! very good advice,
I would add on, we had no choice in pitching at a Festival during the high winds, but we did have several spare guys and good pegs, so were able to add on guys to the windward side.
Consider packing spare, Clingons guys and pegs, so you can supplement the standard guys. before any bad weather look for strong points on the tent where additional guys can be tethered.

Message posted by sunvalleysue on 02/6/2011 at 3:23pm
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Quote: I chatted to a neighbouring camper who had pitched an Outwell Nevada. To my surprise, he had used only the plastic pegs supplied with the tent. It took him a while to hammer in the pegs (and, on the day he left, I noticed several had become banana-shaped) but once in they didn't budge even though it was very windy and a Nevada is quite a tall tent.[/QUOTE]
Hi Scep.

On our recent visit to Thetford Forest C&C club site we used plastic pegs where possible,but as the ground was very dry and hard we struggled to get them in so used rock pegs as well.We always carry a 2lb club hammer as well as a rubber mallet
Indeed some of the plastic pegs were like banana's when extracted,but we never had one single peg pull out in very strong windy conditions.
We pitched 'bum' into the wind and the only real concern we had was on several occasions when big gusts hit the tent the rear fibre glass pole bend inwards but each time sprang back again.
These are 12.7mm durawrap poles and tbh anything thinner I think we would have had problems

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Sue & Phil
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Message posted by Sceptical Camper on 02/6/2011 at 10:24pm
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Yes, ClingOns are good - they can add useful extra tension in the wind.

Regarding not pitching right under trees, see this thread.

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