Backpacking in SEVERE weather (hurricanes/storms) etc.

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Home Forums General Forums General Lightweight Backpacking Discussion Backpacking in SEVERE weather (hurricanes/storms) etc.

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    Kevin Burton
    BPL Member


    Locale: norcal

    Hurricane Sandy had me thinking about backpacking in SEVERE weather.

    Specifically life threatening.

    It would be nice to hear stories from people who have been camping in storms. I've been in a few small ones. About 4 months ago I was in Yosemite and we had 20-40MPH winds for about 2 days… but other than that I was fine.

    What is your backup plan if your tent/hammock tears?

    How do you prevent (to the best of your ability) large branches, etc flying into your tent.

    I was thinking that one solution (if you are in the mountains) could be to camp near large rocks and sheltered from the wind. This way the branches/trees hit the rock.

    Would LOVE to hear stories.

    Stephen M
    BPL Member


    Locale: Way up North

    A buddy of mine and I where out in60mph winds well above treeline in Ireland last November. Gusts from all angle of 70mph+ where hitting us also (confirmed with wind meter), we where both using Tarp Tents Scarp 1's, his got damaged which pithcing(blew away and broke his poles) so we both slept under the flysheet of mine.

    If I was going out in those conditions again I would bring my Hilleberg Soulo.

    steven franchuk


    The best way to avoid faling free branches is to not cammp under trees. Whats my backup in the event the tent is ripped? Fully waterproof breathable rain jacket and pants.

    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    > It would be nice to hear stories from people who have been camping in storms.
    Ah yes, try When Things Go Wrong


    Richard Lyon
    BPL Member


    Locale: Bridger Mountains

    My biggest surprise storm was in the Sangre de Christo in Colorado one September years ago. Big blizzard, stranded for a day while it blew out, winds probably 60+ mph. Our tent was a bomb shelter – a Bibler Bombshelter to be exact, and it held up very well. A hunting outfitter nearby wasn't so fortunate, and we had to give shelter to one of his clients. After the storm the outfitter bailed immediately, leaving behind much of his spike camp. We hiked out after the snow stopped,after a thorough pack-up, slowly because of the drifts but with everything intact.

    Lessons I learned: (1) In shoulder seasons and winter check the weather constantly before departing. If we'd done this we'd never have set out. (2) If it's really bad, bail if possible. See Roger's article. (3) When it may snow and you are willing to risk it, take a winter tent. Whatever it weighs. Better a more difficult climb than inadequate or no shelter from Mother Nature. Safety ALWAYS trumps weight.

    Justin Baker
    BPL Member


    Locale: Santa Rosa, CA

    A tight ridge line will deflect or slow down falling trees and branches. I remember seeing a video where a guy intentionally felled a small tree onto a ridge line and it held. If you are forced to camp in a risky, wooded area, a web of lines could seriously save your life. Obviously thicker lines are going to work better.

    Eric Blumensaadt
    BPL Member


    Locale: Mojave Desert

    Justin, thanks for the advice about rigging a protective "web of lines" above a tent for protection from falling branches. Very smart as a last resort.

    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    > A tight ridge line will deflect or slow down falling trees and branches.
    With all due respect, anyone relying on this idea is likely to end up DEAD.

    When a decent-sized branch comes down you could easily be talking about 200 kg travelling real fast. The idea that a little bit of string, or even some 4 mm cord, is going to have any effect on that is … total moonshine.

    We have some big trees around the house on our farm. When a dead branch just 50 mm (2") comes down, it can spear 100 mm (4") into the ground and sit there pointing up. Tent? String?


    Charles Grier
    BPL Member


    Locale: Desert Southwest

    I wasn't backpacking but I was working as a Forest Service timber cruiser in the woods of western Oregon when the Columbus Day storm of 1962 came through with winds well in excess of 70 mph. We were working, and camped, in an area where, we later learned, almost all of the standing trees blew down.

    We had virtually no warning of the storm other than the steadily increasing wind that eventually made us decide to get out. By this time, trees were falling all around us. By the time we left the work site, blown down trees were completely blocking the road out for as far as we could see.

    Our decision was to go back to a recent clearcut and try to set up camp there and wait for it to blow over. Since the only level place on the clearcut was the landing we set up there. We were not in real danger from falling trees but had to deal with a lot of small stuff blowing around and our tent flapping and trying to blow away.

    The next morning, after the storm had passed, we explored the possibility of driving out; about 35 miles of Forest Service road. We were not in radio contact with the Ranger District. It soon became obvious that there was no way to get a truck through the blowdown. We decided to wait a day before walking out. Glad we did because the District Ranger sent a helicopter to take us out from where we were camped. It was nearly a year before the road was cleared for vehicle traffic.

    Leigh Baker


    Locale: Northeast Texas Pineywoods

    That's an impressive story!

    Mary D
    BPL Member


    Locale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge

    Roger is correct. I've seen a tree branch go right through a tent, through my 3-year-old son's sleeping bag and well into the ground in 60 mph winds. Fortunately, we were not in the tent at the time, having already bailed out into a nearby picnic shelter (we should have taken the tent and contents with us!). Out in the open on Puget Sound, wind gusts got close to 90 mph and Seattle's Space Needle was closed.

    That's not the only time I've seen fallen trees and branches go deep into the ground. IMHO it's best to move well out into the open when it's that windy. I figure that if the wind is too much for my shelter, I'll just wrap up in it, using it like a bivy.

    Backpack Jack
    BPL Member


    Locale: Armpit of California

    Here's just one of my winter trips.

    and this was the one of the more, shall we say, better of the 2 storms I've been in.

    Althoug it doesn't look like it in most of the pic's, this was the worst storm I've been in.


    Miguel Arboleda
    BPL Member


    Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan

    To add a little bit Roger's reply… I've seen entire, gigantic 500 year old OAK TREES get torn up from the ground and batted down like so many paper bags in several huge storms. In the Philippines I watched as the entire roof of the expensive neighboring house got ripped off and flung away. And in September the typhoon down in Okinawa overturned fully-loaded semi trucks. If some branch is determined to make a go at your tent in such storms, I'm pretty sure that some string is not going to make one iota of difference.

    Steven McAllister
    BPL Member


    Locale: Arizona, US

    I was caught twice in landslides caused by rain in arid parts of Utah.
    I lost a toe in one.

    Was once caught in a tropical storm in an area that was a forest of dyeing trees infested with some kind of critter.

    We spent hours trying find a place away from widowmakers. We settled on a clear flat very exposed slab of rock with no wind break at all. We must have carried a half ton of rocks to use as anchors for out tents/tarps.
    Didn't sleep very well with all the noise that night.

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