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How to Set Up a Tent in Howling Wind

Jun 06, 2023

Of all the weather conditions to experience in the backcountry, wind can be the worst, especially when it's time to set up your tent at camp for the night.

Rain, snow, bitter cold, exhausting heat … I’ll take any of those conditions over a 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.

Pick your tent site, factoring in the direction of the wind, the slope of the 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.

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). Quickly throw them inside your tent once it is up.

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. Pro tip: Put the tent stakes in your pocket for easy use.

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. If you’re using a footprint or ground cover, set that up later. Keep it on the inside of the tent while the winds are strong.

Take the assembled tent poles and place them on top of the tent to weigh it down. Insert the tent poles into the corners of the side you just staked down. Proceed to the other side and stake out all remaining corners of the tent. Finally, insert the other side of the tent poles and snap all connection points of the tent to the poles. Pro tip: Put heavy things, like a backpack, inside the tent to keep it weighed down.

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.

Adjust and cinch the tent. It is important to have the tent and fly pulled tight. Not only will this minimize the annoying flapping in the wind, but it will also 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.

The steps described above should work to set up a tent by yourself, whether you’re in the wind or not. Lay the tent body out flat, assemble the poles and lay them over the tent, and clip the ends into the corners, running the poles through their sleeves or attaching the connection points to raise the tent. Once it’s up, stake down the corners attach your rainfly to the outside, and move in.

“Anywhere” is an absolute, and we try to stay away from those at GearJunkie. But I think it’s safe to say that, yes, you can set up a tent anywhere. Today there are tents you can set up on top of cars, tents you can set up in trees, and even tents that float.

There’s a tent for almost any situation and setting. The question is, should you? Sure, you could set up a tent on the deck of a pitching cargo ship in the middle of a transoceanic hellstorm. But, is it wise? That’s another question.

Yes, of course, you can. It kind of defeats the purpose — but living room campouts can be a lot of fun. Tents are rad little inside forts.

A camping cot can keep you warm, elevated, and comfortable outdoors. Here are the best camping cots currently on the market. Read more…

Rain, snow, bitter cold, exhausting heat …cooking dinnerhaving a campfiretent1. Pick a Site2. Organize Gearbackpack3. Prep Tent Poles4. Stake Out Tentfootprint5. Clip Poles Onto Tent 6. Attach Fly7. Guy Out Tenton top of carsset up in treestents that float