In strong winds, your tent will behave like a sail, collecting lots of wind and threatening to blow away. If you’ve not set it up properly, the tent could pull the stakes right out of the ground and fly off.
Here’s a quick guide on how to secure a tent in high winds using things like heavy duty tent stakes, a tarp, and guy lines. We also have some tips on how to set up a tent when it’s windy.
How Much Wind Can A Tent Withstand?
The maximum wind speed a tent can withstand depends on how strong the tent is (e.g. a 4 season tent will be stronger than a 3 season tent) and the quality of various components like the stakes, poles, and lines.
Generally, most tents can withstand winds between 15 and 30 mph. A good quality 3 or 4 season tent that’s well anchored can easily handle 30 mph winds.
An extra-strong tent with heavy duty stakes and multiple guy lines could probably withstand 50 mph winds, but that’s pushing it and could be hazardous.
When it comes to camping, you always want to err on the side of safety. Don’t go camping in an area where the winds are forecasted to go over 30 mph.
Keep in mind that by the time the wind is getting to 30 mph, the tent will be so noisy that it’s hard to sleep. Wind speeds above that will make the tent intolerable to stay in.
The biggest danger when camping in high winds is that the tent will pull on the stakes. With sustained high winds, the stakes could come off the ground, causing the tent to lift up.
There’s also a risk that the tent poles could snap as the tent bends and flexes in the wind. Fiberglass poles are especially vulnerable to strong winds.
If you are camping near trees, high winds can cause branches to snap and fall on your tent.
How To Secure A Tent In High Winds?
Even if you only expect moderately strong winds, secure your tent to withstand strong winds. That’s because the weather can change without notice.
What you expected to be a strong breeze can turn into powerful gusts of wind. It’s safer to over prepare.
Here are some tips for securing your tent in high winds.
- Make sure you bring the right tent. Choose a strong tent that sits low to the ground. If you expect rain or snow in addition to the wind, we recommend using a 4-season tent.
- When setting up the tent, have the narrowest side facing the direction the wind is blowing from. This will reduce how much pressure the wind exerts on the tent. Another thing – make sure the door is facing away from the wind. Otherwise, wind could rush into the tent and lift it up.
- Stake the tent securely. Tent pegs are your best protection from the wind. Drive the stakes deep into the ground (not halfway). Consider placing heavy rocks against two of the pegs that are facing into the wind. It’ll provide more protection against the stakes pulling out.
- Drive the tent stakes vertically (90 degrees) into the ground, not at an angle. It’s a common misconception that 45-degree stakes provide better resistance. That’s not true. Here’s an analysis of the physics behind the higher resistance of vertical stakes.
- Consider replacing the regular stakes that came with your tent with heavier duty stakes that can resist strong winds such as MSR Groundhog tent stakes.
- Always use guy lines when it’s windy. Don’t depend only on the tent stakes. Secure guy lines on all sides of the tent (or rainfly) and stake them securely to the ground. You can also secure guy lines to trees.
With a good quality tent, proper anchoring, and guy lines, you should be able to camp in high winds.
For more help setting up your tent, here’s a great REI video. It shows how to set up the tent pegs as well as guy lines.
Tips For Camping in High Winds
Here are some additional tips on how to protect yourself and your tent when camping in high winds.
- Choose the right location. If you can, find a place that offers some shelter from the winds such as next to a hill or rock face, close to a tree line (but not too close), or next to some low bushes.
- Avoid pitching your tent close to or under trees. Wind can break off branches or bring down trees. If you want to use trees as a windbreak, make sure you are a safe distance away.
- Make your own windbreak using a tarp or your vehicle.
- Consider using shock cords to attach tent and guy lines to stakes. These elastic cords reduce the force of wind on the tent, and reduces the risk of the fabric ripping or the poles snapping.
- Avoid staking your tent or guy lines on soft ground like sand. If you know you are going camping on sandy ground, look for stakes designed for use on soft ground like sand or snow.
- Know when to pack up. If the wind gets too strong, it’s safer to pack up and go home or seek shelter especially if it’s still daytime. When selecting a camping location, identify multiple escape routes and nearby shelters.
How To Set Up A Tent In High Winds?
One thing many new campers don’t expect is how difficult it is to set up a tent when it is windy.
If you are not careful, the wind can carry off your tent, leaving you without shelter.
If it’s possible, we recommend waiting until the wind dies down before setting up your tent. It’ll be so much easier to pitch in calm weather.
But if it doesn’t seem like the wind is letting up, you have no choice but to set up the tent. Here’s how to do it without losing your tent or fly.
- Prepare the ground first before you unpack anything. Remove rocks, sticks and leaves.
- Get the tent poles and connect them. You want them ready to go as soon as you have the tent out.
- Before you remove the tent out of its bag, take out one of the cords attached to the tent and secure it around your belt or one of the straps of your backpack. This ensures that even if the tent slips out of your hands, it won’t fly away.
- Also take some tent pegs and put them in your pocket. You’ll need those immediately once you unpack the tent.
- Remove the tent from the bag and spread it over where you want to pitch it. Immediately secure one corner of the tent to the ground with a stake. This provides additional protection as you finish setting up the tent.
- Stake two or three other points of the tent.
- Now you can insert the poles into the tent or attach the tent to the poles (depends on the tent design). For extra security, place your heavy backpack inside the tent as you finish setting up everything else.
- With the frame of the tent set up, now you can properly stake the tent on all corners. Remember to drive the stakes deep into the ground at a right angle.
- Finally, attach the rainfly if you are using one. As with the tent, tie one of the lines to yourself or your backpack to keep the rainfly from going with the wind.
- Remove the rainfly from the bag and drape it over the tent, making sure it is properly aligned with the tent. Attach one corner of the fly to the corner of the tent, then attach all the other corners.
- Finish by anchoring all the guy lines on the rainfly.
Should I Put A Tarp Over My Tent When It’s Windy?
When camping in strong winds, a high quality tap can provide extra protection.
But make sure it’s a tarp that can withstand heavy winds without ripping. Also, the cords and other hardware you use to secure the tarp should be extra strong.
Usually, it’s best to secure a tarp to trees. It makes it extra-secure.
But since you won’t be camping near any trees because of the wind, the next best option is tarp poles. Look for telescoping tarp poles that are easy to carry in your backpack.
Note that you’ll need to stake the poles themselves to the ground (with cord and tent pegs) to make sure they are secure in the wind.
Adjust the height of the poles such that the tarp slopes down towards the back of the tent. This will help direct wind over the tent. It also allows water to run off the tarp in case it rains.
Set the tarp as low as possible over the tent. It’ll provide more wind protection for the tent.
Can A Tent Survive A Hurricane?
Hurricanes have wind speeds over 74 mph, well over the 30 mph recommended for most tents.
So, no, a tent cannot withstand a hurricane. Don’t attempt to camp during a hurricane or in a place that’s likely to be hit by one. And if you need more advice, here is our guide to tent and spiders.