How To Set Up A Tent In The Wind

When you are going out to camp, there are several things you will hopefully never happen when you are out in the wilds. One of the most common challenges that tent campers face is that you need to set up your tent with wild winds causing everything to become a kite with very short strings.

How to set up a tent in the wind:

  1. Choose the best tent for windy conditions
  2. Secure the tent as you are unpacking it
  3. Use tent pegs to secure each corner of the tens as it is unrolled
  4. Once the tent is secured, start lifting it with the poles or central stake
  5. Pull the corners tight on the tent
  6. Use rocks and sandbags to secure the tent once set up
  7. Use the guy lines to secure the tent further

1. Choose The Best Tent To Use In Windy Conditions

When choosing a tent that will survive in windy conditions, getting something that will not act as a giant wall in the wind is recommended. The tent should have strong poles to resist any strong winds hitting it and guy lines that can secure the structure to the ground as strongly as possible.

We’ve covered this question before in our guide to the best tents for windy conditions, and when we did our research, we found the MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-Person tent. This tent can handle some of the strongest winds we recommend camping in and would not easily tear when things get tricky.

2. Secure The Tent As You Are Unpacking It

Now that you know what tents you should be buying, we need to look at how exactly you will need to set up a tent in high winds. It is important to note that this process is slightly different than simply setting up a tent when there is almost no wind to deal with.

Using your tent pegs and a mallet, you should grab your footprint and secure the first corner before you start unrolling or unfolding it. Many people are tempted to throw the groundsheet open and hope for the best, but this is the fastest way for the wind to rip the footprint out of your hands.

Once the footprint is open and secured, you should do the same with the actual tent, ensuring that you secure each corner as you unroll it. Using a straightforward rock or heavy object right now may not secure the tent enough; before the stakes or poles are put in the tent, you need to ensure no wind can get underneath it.

3. Use Tent Pegs To Secure Each Corner Of The Tens As It Is Unrolled

This is the most important part right after securing the tent before actually building out the tent entirely. If you are camping on a typical campground with dirt or gravel, you can use the tent pegs provided with the tent for most windy conditions.

However, when camping on sand, ice, snow, more complex ground, or even frozen ground, you will need to get a set of tent pegs that work on the hard surface (such as these stakes). The standard tent peg may cause you to have tent pegs that bend as you are trying to hammer them in or might go in quickly but be completely useless.

It is important to remember that no matter what, there will be a maximum wind speed that your tent can handle and that you should not try to test this. Many people have made the mistake of setting up their tent in conditions they thought would be fine, only to have the tent torn away within minutes.

4. Lift The Tent With The Poles Or Central Stake

Once your tent has been secured, you will need to start raising it using either the tent stake or the tent poles included with the tent. Using these the right way will ensure that your tent is pulled taught before any winds can buffet it into becoming a complete loss.

Lifting A Freestanding Tent

Freestanding tents have tent poles that should be assembled before you start feeding them through the pole sleeves. Having as many of the poles threaded through the sleeves before you start erecting the tent will ensure that you can clip everything in place.

A good tent meant for windy camping will have aluminum poles that you should thread and clip onto the tent. Most smaller tents have flexible carbon or fiberglass poles that won’t keep the tent upright during high winds but can flex to prevent them from breaking.

Lifting A Non-freestanding Tent

Once the corners of a non-freestanding tent have been secured, you will need to raise it from the central stake or pole area. The stake should be easy to insert, and if you move fast, you can comfortably secure it to ensure that the tent is tight and ready for use.

It should be noted that larger non-freestanding tents struggle with the wind because they do not have enough support to keep them upright. In contrast, smaller non-freestanding tents can endure wind much better because they are lower down to the ground.

5. Pull The Corners Tight On The Tent

Once the tents have been raised, you must start pulling the tent’s corners again, ensuring they are as secure as possible. Further, you should use the guy lines to pull the tent, and the rainfly taught that securing everything to the ground with tent pegs or nearby trees or vehicles.

As the wind is blowing, you cannot allow the guy lines or corners of the tent not to be taught, as this can cause the wind to pull and tear the entire assembly. Many tents that have been torn off from their guy lines are torn because there is some give and take as the ropes have not been pulled as tight as possible.

Further, we have seen many people that have tents that are buffeting the entire assembly simply because the corners are not taught while the guy lines are. After assembling the entire tent, you should redo each corner tent peg to ensure they are taught.

6. Use Rocks And Sandbags To Secure The Tent

Once the tent has been fully assembled, you should use ropes, rocks, sandbags, and even heavy luggage to secure everything further. Making the tent too heavy to be pulled away by the wind is an extremely good way to prevent high winds from becoming a problem.

Many people forget about this simple step in the tent setting up process, only leaving a small bag and their sleeping needs in the tent. This is often when you see tents filled with cellphones and wallets flown around campsites like kites with no strings attached.

Simply not keeping everything you have in the car and using a few heavy rocks from around the area can ensure your tent is secured. Having to constantly stress about whether or not your tents are secured during high winds can adversely affect your entire camping experience.

7. Use Guy Lines To Secure The Tent

Guy lines are the ropes attached to the rainfly and on higher locations of your tent that are meant to be tied to nearby solid areas. Most tents have extra loops that will allow you to attach extra guy lines, securing the tent even against the heaviest and strongest winds.

Many people have thought that attaching the guy lines to their tent is unnecessary and purposefully remove them before setting the tent up. However, this causes headaches and slight sadness when the tent is constantly buffeted by the wind and is close to failing.

Further, when the tent has been fully secured using the guy lines and any extra guy lines, it might not move as much during high winds. This creates a more secure sleeping arrangement and will eventually mean that you can sleep soundly without stressing about the tent collapsing in on you at night.

Using The Environment As A Wind Break

We have seen many campers trying to set up their tents in high winds without considering using walls, cars, or campervans around them. Often the best way to prevent your tent from being buffeted at all times is to ensure that there is something else blocking the high winds.

You can ensure some wind is blocked by having a set of trees to break the wind, a few vehicles to absorb the worst winds, or just setting up camp close to a building. This can make for a much more relaxed camp, helping you to get some reprieve from constant winds.

Further, having a flat surface is also essential, as the tent will be less likely to have wind underneath it. Often, sandy beaches and grassy areas are problems specifically because the wind can pick up the tent from underneath; this is why a tent footprint should always be considered when setting up.

What Is The Best Way To Keep A Tent Secured During High Winds? 

Having the tent set up during high winds may not always mean that the tent will stay there as the winds increase. This is why it is essential to know the four best ways to ensure a tent is secured during windy nights and days after you have successfully built everything.

We have seen several people that used tent pegs to secure the tents during the initial set-up during the day. Only to have their entire campground be destroyed during the night when the wind inevitably increases dramatically as the temperatures drop and rise.

  • Using Guy Lines: Guy lines have been added to most tents to help them withstand high winds once everything has been successfully set up. The guy lines will ensure that the tent will shake and move during the winds but that it never gets picked up and thrown while you are trying to sleep.
  • Use Every Tent Peg Area: Most people will be tempted to skip this, and we have seen many campers cry about not using every area after the fact. Most tents have five areas where they can be secured, one on every corner and one underneath the front door zip location.
  • Weigh Down The Tent: Once all tent pegs have been used and the guy lines have been secured to the nearest stable structure, you need to add weight. Putting your bags, cooler bags, bed, sheets, and everything else you can need inside the tent will secure it even more. Or you can pick up some weights.

What Tools To Use When Setting Up A Tent In The Wind?

You will need tent pegs, extra tent stakes, a mallet, and a tarp with you when you know that the wind will become a problem. While you should not have everything conceivably possible to handle the wind each time you go camping, having the basics will be helpful.

Each camper will have essential tools to set up a tent in heavy winds, as they will have experienced the challenge before. Most veteran campers have a full back of tent pegs that they would never entirely use, specifically when they need to face strong gusts of winds.

We always recommend that you keep in this mind when you are getting your camping gear ready as you may find yourself having to help someone else. Further, a suitable mallet will always be helpful around any campsite, allowing you to solve most problems by hitting it.

Using The Tent To Store Things

When many people have set up their tent, they usually make the mistake of trying to keep things out of it or even keeping everything in the car or van. You will need to store these things in the tents to help secure them; tents with bags, cooler bags, and beds are usually safe.

The biggest challenge of setting up a tent in high winds should be the initial set-up, with the rest of the camping trip going over without a challenge. This is why we recommend keeping everything in the tent instead of your car or outside the tent where it can be kept safely.

Many people have forgotten this simple tip and have their tents ripped apart where the pegs and the guy lines are. These spots can become damaged over time, especially if you regularly camp in high wind areas.

Packing Everything Up After The Trip

When you are done and the wind has decided to stay around for your entire camping trip, you must be careful when packing up. Many campers become so used to the wind that they forget to consider it when packing everything up, starting with the heavy things first.

Instead, we recommend you pack the linens and pillows first, using the heavier bags and equipment to hold the tents down while packing. The guy lines should be removed first for the rainfly, while the whole tent should be disassembled while the regular pegs are still in the ground.

Once you are ready to roll the tent up and put it back in the bag it came with; you should be sure to have the tent pegs removed as you start rolling it up. Many people have found their tents challenging to manage when just packing them up in the standard procedure.

Find A Good Anchor When Camping In The Wind

If it gets too windy, the tent pegs may not be entirely helpful in ensuring that your tent will not be ripped up and become one with the winds. You should consider using rocks or small bags of sand in areas that do not have tent pegs, ensuring the tent does not lift.

If you have made camp in an area close to trees, you should use the guy lines to tie onto these instead of just using tent pegs. This will ensure that your tent will be stable in even the highest gusts of winds and rains, as the trees will usually stay highly stable.

Non-freestanding tents have the problem of having to be staked out with a central pole or system when there is nothing to secure them to, drastically decreasing how much wind they can handle when not staked properly. A freestanding tent can handle more initial wind speed but may break more completely once the limit has been reached.

Author at Wilderness Redefined camping website

James has been escaping to the outdoors for as long as he can remember. This first started in family camping trips but soon turned into adventure camps and hiking through the Scottish Hebrides. Now he has turned towards trying to make camping more comfortable and accessible.