Making Camp in Adverse Conditions

Know your tent so well that you can pitch it even when you're too tired to think. For greatest weather resistance and strength, pitch your tent very taut and tighten guylines until, in Phoenix's words, "you can play a tune on them." This also minimizes flapping and noise. In some areas and at certain times, setting up camp is not so easy.
Making camp on rocky terrain, in snow, in high winds, in the rain.
  • In rocky terrain where stakes won't go in you may have to attach loops to the staking points and tie them and the guylines to rocks to hold down the tent.
  • In deep snow, tent stakes are nearly useless. However, in total snow cover, you'll be carrying items such as ice axes, crampons, skis, and ski poles - all of which can be used to support the tent, through extra guylines tied to the staking points if necessary.
  • In soft snow, I use skis or snowshoes to stamp out a hard platform first a snow shovel is also useful for this, especially when it comes to the final leveling of the site.
    • If you use stakes, hook the guylines around them, then bury them length-wise and pack the snow down on top. Once the temperature falls below zero, they'll freeze in place. Come morning, you'll probably need an ice ax to dig them out.
    • Sticks could be used instead of stakes. An alternative is to fill stuff sacks with snow, attach guylines to them, and bury them.
  • If it's windy, I generally stake out the end of the inner or outer, whichever pitches first, that will face into the wind, then thread or clip the poles into position before raising the tent off the ground. In a strong wind, you may have to lay on the tent while you do this. Once the basic shape is established, the rest of the staking can be done in a more relaxed manner.
    • If the site allows, rectangular or tapered tents should be pitched with the tail or end into the wind keeping the door in the lee of the wind is a good idea for cooking, too.
How to strike camp in rain and in extreme cold.

When striking camp, I usually pack the tent last so that it can air out and any condensation can dry. Remember that shock cord-linked poles must be pushed out of their sleeves. If you pull them, they're likely to come apart.

  • In rain, I pack everything under cover. In very heavy rain, you can collapse the inner tent, leaving the fly sheet staked out, withdraw the poles, and then stuff the inner into its bag from under the fly sheet so that it stays dry.
  • In very cold conditions, pole sections may freeze together - don't try to force them apart, and they may break. Instead, rub the joints with your hands until the ice melts. In bitter cold, I wear liner liners to do this so the metal doesn't stick to my skin. If the poles are frozen together, the chances are that any condensation will have frozen to the fly sheet. If the fly sheet is coated with ice on the inside and frost on the outside, shake as much of it off as you can before you pack it. If the day is sunny and you have time, you could wait for it to thaw and evaporate.

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