Your guide to camping throughout the year
Weather Conditions – Preparation really is key to overcoming any of the challenges posed by the trickier weather conditions. A tent and awning that is pitched properly should be able to stand up to most weather conditions, although this does not mean that they will withstand a storm, so make sure you keep an eye on weather forecasts when necessary.
What gear to take – Big woolly clothing and hot water bottles will definitely help to keep you safe from the chilly weather. A tent carpet will also help to protect you from the harsh cold ground. Taking waterproof clothing and footwear will save you from the trouble of having to sit in cold, wet clothing throughout the day.
Take plenty of lighting with you – Taking a strong torch and lantern with you will help to keep everything visible during the longer nights of winter. Some campsites will also provide you with an electrical power supply, so it’s worth considering your options before your travels. Don’t forget to take plenty of spare batteries with you just in case.
Pitch smartly – Make sure to pitch in the shelter of a building if possible, as this will help to protect you from the chilly winds. A well-placed windbreak will also help you to combat the wind and leave less of it crashing against the canvas of your tent bedroom. You should avoid pitching next to any open water as this may lead to condensation problems and avoid pitching at the bottom of any slopes to avoid the possibility of small flooding.
Factor in the nearby entertainment – The nights get darker a lot earlier during those Winter months, so it’s worth investigating whether your campsite has any nearby entertainment that you can rely upon during the long evenings. A nearby restaurant or pub can really help to warm you up for example, and gives you a perfect excuse to let someone else cook for you for a change. The nearer by these points of interest are, the better.
Take the right bedding with you - Make sure you purchase and pack your four-season sleeping bags and take any duvets and blankets from home. A sleeping bag with liner will help to improve the bag’s warmth significantly. Sleeping on a thick self-inflating mat will also help, as the air inside of an airbed is more likely to get cold more quickly. Also, don’t be tempted to have a hot drink before going to sleep, as you might have to wake up during the cold dead of night to go to the loo!
Build yourself a campfire – You can’t beat the feeling of sitting around a campfire with friends and family during a dark night, but of course this is only possible if it’s allowed within the rules of your campsite, so make sure you check first! The best way to build a strong campfire is to build it up gradually, adding larger logs in stages - but be careful not to build it too high, and be careful of wind direction as you may get smoke in your tent which will cause damage.
How to pitch your tent in high winds
As the saying goes, ‘failure to plan is planning to fail’. So, adhere to the old adage and make sure you’re paying attention to weather forecasts. High winds will often herald some incoming big and ugly meteorological event.
It seems almost ridiculously obvious, but pitching near trees is remarkably dangerous in high winds – largely for reasons that don’t need to be explained.
However, even experienced outdoors folk will make poor decisions in times of stress – such as trying to make camp in bad weather.
The trap many fall into is the shelter provided by trees from the wind. You can still use that shelter by following a basic rule – judge the height of the nearest trees, add 20ft and pitch at least that distance away.
The danger isn’t always falling branches, it can also be toppling trees. Certain species – pine for example – tend to grow in soft ground that becomes unstable in very wet conditions.
Low bushes and hedgerows are always a safer option.
Avoid the ridge
You’ll see plenty of adverts in glossy outdoors magazines featuring tents pitched on mountain ridges. And, while this may provide some pleasant views during a period of calm, it’s best to avoid it altogether.
Wind currents behave in curious ways and, often, the geographical layout of mountains and valleys will cause gusts to whip over ridges with alarming and random velocity.
Much like a treeline, you can use a ridge to your advantage by locating a near-by dip in the lay of the land downwind.
While being out in the wilderness alone is a pleasure many adventurers actively seek, going ‘lone wolf’ in bad weather isn’t always the best idea. Two heads and four hands are better when it comes to pitching in the wind.
Weigh it up
Make use of what weight you can find to help pin down the interior corners of your tent. Your backpack is one, but use what’s available to you – rocks etc. Make use of sturdy rocks for your guy ropes too. Pegs alone may not be sufficient at keeping the rainfly, tarp or basha from being ripped off in a gust.
Adverse conditions aren’t the time for an eight-man family tent with headroom and a kitchen, so make sure that whatever you’re camping in is as low and shallow pitched as possible.
You want to create something for the wind to pass over – not catch.
Ensure your tent door or any opening in whatever you’re sheltering in is as 180 degrees to the wind direction as you can possibly make it. Even when you’re trying to pitch quickly in poor conditions, take a moment to plan properly – a mistake could prove more costly than a few saved minutes of being cold and wet.
If it looks like the wind is going to keep you camped in the one spot for a lengthy period, be prepared to zip-up and be confined. Not just with food and water supplies, but also the things to keep your mind busy and stave off boredom – even it’s just a good book.
Boredom itself is enough to drain your morale, so make sure you’ve got plenty of ways of keeping your adventurous mind entertained, and your spirits up.
While the confined space of a tent or basha is hardly akin to a dance studio, there are plenty of ways of making sure you’re moving your body and keeping things flowing. Press-ups, sit-ups, yoga-style crouches and horizontal stretches etc will not only help pass the time, they’ll keep you active enough to prevent you succumbing to lethargy and boredom.
Check and check again
High winds are rarely sustained at one constant speed – it’s the gusts that do the damage. Whenever there’s a lull in storm activity, crawl out and check your outer structure – guy ropes, material integrity etc – then check again.
Written by Darren Parkin at the Wild Parkin website.