Selecting campsites in windy places

4:06 p.m. on April 27, 2009 (EDT)
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I’m planning a trip to Adak Island (Aleutian islands Alaska) and was looking for some input on pitching tents in the wind. Average wind speed there is 20-30 mph, but it does get much stronger. Specifically I’m looking for info regarding picking locations and building windbreaks and any other tidbits you’ve picked up regarding putting tents in places that are windy and exposed. I’m looking for things like avoid places where the mountains will funnel the winds and increase their speeds or using rocks as deadfall on top of the steaks etc. I’ve learned a few tricks regarding camping in the wind, but I’m sure I have a lot more I could learn too.

4:57 p.m. on April 27, 2009 (EDT)
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Are you going to use a mountaineering tent that is well braced for windy conditions? I use my dome mountain tent for such places. A flimsy tent taht is easily blown like a sail may collapse under strong winds. Like my other tent a pyramid style tent gets blown like a sail on a ship and seems impossible to get set up so it won't.

6:01 p.m. on April 27, 2009 (EDT)
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Right now I just have a standard 4 season tent with 2 poles in the structure and 2 in the rainfly. It has several external guy wires as well. I wouldn't call it a mountaineering though. I'm thinking I might need to pick up a sturdier tent for this trip.

9:25 p.m. on April 27, 2009 (EDT)
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... using rocks as deadfall on top of the steaks etc.

Doesn't that affect the taste of the steaks?

10:17 p.m. on April 27, 2009 (EDT)
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True, but salt and pepper won't keep you're meal from blowing away.

10:39 p.m. on April 27, 2009 (EDT)
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Bill, I woulda thought you've cooked on a rock before, 'specially out west.

WISam,

The only thing I can add to set up is that if I'm setting up a tent by myself in windy conditions I prefer a clip type tent as opposed to a sleeve. My tent has an internal guy system that works well, I use it in higher winds. The guy line weighs next to nothing so I just keep it with me.

However some expedition tents use the sleeve system because it distributes wind and snow loads more evenly throughout the tent fabric. At least that's what I have read, I don't have one.

I don't know anything about the terrain where you are going, I look for natural shelter of course, I have a camping spot close to a mountain stream that is quite windy, but there is a large blow down with a the root system up in the air. I like to camp there, not many other terrain features there to block the wind. Other places I like to find a cliff face that blocks the wind, sometimes some really thick brush works.

You could bring a tarp and pitch it to block some of the wind, I've done this a few times and had better luck at pitching it at an angle to the wind. Either with one end up and the other to the ground, or V shaped, vertically around three trees.

Probably not much help, maybe others know more about the area your headed to.

12:02 a.m. on April 28, 2009 (EDT)
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Take a chin strap for your hat.

(I'm afraid that's about all I've got)

2:18 p.m. on April 28, 2009 (EDT)
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Bill, I woulda thought you've cooked on a rock before, 'specially out west.

Except WISam put the rocks on top of the steaks. And yes, I have cooked on rocks and cooked with hot rocks in the pot, just never put the rocks on top. I figured it would affect the flavor.

2:57 p.m. on April 28, 2009 (EDT)
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WISam,

You ask about windy places. Are there any other kind?

I don't know much about Adak, except that it is way out in the Aleutians, hence windy and foggy most of the time, except when it is blizzarding. The vast majority of the places I have pitched tents in the wind have been in snow conditions (except in the desert and on mountain peaks - which you should avoid, because of lightning potential). But some generic wind comments -

If you are dealing with a location where the winds are pretty much in the prevailing direction all the time, it is pretty easy to select a sheltered place. For example, on the Kahiltna Glacier (and many other glaciers and many valleys) the wind blows up or down the valley and rarely across the valley. So you can readily build windwalls on the up-valley and down-valley sides of the tent. If you are in snow conditions (which I gather you won't be), you will want to build a pair of walls in the upwind direction. The first, about 8-10 feet from the tent is the main protector and the second about 8-10 feet farther out acts like a ridge crest - the wind carries blowing snow up over it and tends to drop the snow in between the two walls (it's like windslab is developed, except the closer wall keeps the deposit from reaching your tent).

Whether blowing snow or just wind (or wind and rain), if the wind is pretty much one direction, shaping the wall (rocks in rocky terrain) with a bit of a prow (like the prow of a ship) does tend to split the stream to the sides as well as up and over. In a valley where the wind is coming up and down the valley, you can just put a wall to the two sides - no need to surround the whole tent. The height of the wall should be the height of your tent or better, a bit higher.

There are places where you pretty much have to surround the tent on 3 or perhaps all 4 sides with a wind wall.

Funneling - valleys tend to funnel winds along the axis of the valley. Passes tend to produce a venturi effect, with the wind speed higher through the pass. But a steep pass will generally have a calm area a short distance below the pass on the leeward side (and a more windy area on the windward side).

Pitching the tent - this is a place where Bibler's and Integral Designs' tents really shine - they use internal poles. The way that Jim S sets up his Bibler is to pull it over his head like an anorak, then set the poles in place from inside, reach out through the door to set the two stakes next to the door, then hop out and set the other two corner stakes, then proceed with the guy lines. Actually a variation on this works with most tents. With my Trango 3.1, I stake the two corners at the upwind side, then set the other 4 corners. Since the Trango is a clip tent, I next put the 2 cross poles in their holes and clip them, then the other 2 main poles. The fly is the big problem when doing it solo, but since the fly attaches to the peg loops with clip buckles, I start again at the upwind side by clipping the two fly clips there, then attach the velcro to the poles working from upwind to downwind. If the wind is particularly strong and I am solo, I will peg the upwind guys as soon as the upwind fly clips are attached and the corresponding velcro straps, again working my way downwind. If you have a second person, it is much easier, since the second person can be holding the tent at all times.

A sleeve tent is harder. But in that case, (my StretchDome, for example), I do the two upwind pegs for the tent floor, then insert the two cross poles in their sleeves and slots, followed by the other main tent poles, at which point I peg the remaining 4 tent pegs. The fly in this case is similar to the Trango, so again, start at the upwind end and work downwind. This also works for TNF expedition tents.

Tunnel tents are a whole different ball game. These almost always seem to require at least 2 people.

Building your windwalls first helps a lot. The pegging conditions make a big difference. For soft peg conditions, always dead-man the pegs, since the wind can just lift the pegs out once you get the tent more or less assembled. Rocky conditions potentially give you a bunch of rocks to use as anchors. By the way, putting your pack inside when pitching the tent doesn't always help - I have seen tents get blown away when partly pitched along with the heavy packs in them.

Putting rocks on top of the pegs sometimes helps, but not always. Dead-manning is always better. But if you are camping on rock, you just have to find large rocks to tie the tent to.

Highest measured windspeed I have pitched a tent in solo was about 45 knots, with something like 60-65 knots with a partner (we built a windwall first, which helped tremendously). I have dug a snow cave at higher speeds - the decision was that since we could barely stand, we could at least kneel down and tunnel into the slope. We kept our packs on while digging out of a combined fear of having the packs blow away and an irrational belief that the extra weight would keep us from blowing away. Well, it worked, so it must be true.

4:20 p.m. on May 1, 2009 (EDT)
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bill

i am confused...if you don't put the rocks on top of the steaks how do you broil?

8:00 p.m. on May 1, 2009 (EDT)
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I just lay out in the sun at noon on a summer day in the desert on top of a big flat rock. I broil real fast when I do that.

3:57 p.m. on May 28, 2009 (EDT)
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Got back from my trip and had a great time. Didn't get too windy either! The first day was practically calm which is pretty rare there. The last day the wind was gusting into the 40's but my tent was in a relatively sheltered spot so no issues. Best of all, I didn't loose one of my caribou steaks to the wind even though I didn't weight them down with rocks!!!

9:27 p.m. on May 28, 2009 (EDT)
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HaHa,.....I'm glad you had a good time WIsam!

Trip report?

July 29, 2014
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