Of all the weather conditions to experience in the backcountry, wind can be the worst, especially when it’s time to put up your shelter for the night.
Rain, snow, bitter cold, exhausting heat… I’ll take any of those conditions over harsh wind. Blowing air makes the simplest of camp tasks difficult, from cooking dinner to having a campfire at night.
Perhaps none of the windy-condition tasks are more frustrating than setting up a tent. This is made all the more difficult on a solo expedition.
I have been solo trekking in Patagonia, and regularly I do battle with the region’s famous wind as I set up my tent. Here are a few tricks I learned along the way.
1) Pick A Site
Pick your tent site, factoring for direction of wind, slope of earth (if any), and possible windbreaks. You want the narrowest part of your tent facing into the wind, usually the foot of your tent, and have that coincide with any slope. If your tent is sideways to the wind, it will catch the tent like a sail and the wind’s influence will be greater.
2) Organize Gear
Before you unpack your tent, have your backpack and other heavy things close by and ready to use to weigh down your stuff, like your tent fly, and to quickly throw inside your tent once it is up.
3) Prep Tent Poles
Take out only the tent poles and fully set those up first. As soon as the tent and/or fly are out of their container, they need to be managed in a strong wind. Having the tent poles ready and set aside is extremely helpful. Tip: Put the tent stakes in your pocket for easy use.
4) Stake Out Tent
Pull out the actual tent, leaving the fly packed for now and weighed down. With two tent stakes in hand, grab the tent by whatever side will be facing the wind. While making sure you don’t let go, allow the wind to blow the tent away from your body. Lower the tent to the ground and stake this side of the tent. NOTE: If using a footprint or ground cover, set that up later, putting it on the inside of the tent when the winds are strong.
5) Clip Poles Onto Tent
Take the tent poles and place them on top of the tent to weigh it down. Insert the tent poles into the side of the tent you just staked down. Proceed to the other side and stake out all corners of the tent. Insert the other side of the tent poles and snap all connection points of the tent to the poles. TIP: Put heavy things, like a backpack, inside the tent to keep it weighed down.
6) Attach Fly
Pull out the fly. Hold the fly from the side that coincides with whatever side of the tent faces the wind (in my case the foot). Allow the wind to billow the fly out over the tent. If all goes well and the wind maintains its direction, it will actually assist you. However, this is likely the most frustrating part to do solo, as the wind might flap the fly all over the place as you scurry back and forth around the tent trying to fix it. But the point is to minimize the amount the wind works against you.
7) Guy Out Tent
Adjust and cinch the tent. It is important to the have the tent and fly pulled tight. Not only will this minimize the annoying flapping in the wind, but it will add strength to the overall form of the tent. Tent damage, such as busted poles or shredded fabric, is more likely when the tent and fly are loosely connected.