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Tent fail this weekend
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Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Tent fail this weekend on 05/19/2011 11:58:37 MDT Print View

The other title of this could also be my pack weight will probably go up after this weekend.

I just did a section of the PCT between Big Bear and Cajon Pass areas. The weather had said it would be cool and cloudy. The weather report was lacking in accuracy, failing to mention precipitation. I was precipitated on (snow and rain) for 3 of the 5 days I was out. I had rain pants, but forgot my umbrella so I wore my polycro ground sheet as a rain shawl.

I brought my tent because it was going to be chilly and I thought the warmth of a tent would be appreciated. My tent could not stay upright in the high winds. I could not sleep outside because it was raining. I had to sleep inside my tent like a plastic bag, with the four corners staked but the front and rear unstaked. After a night of no sleep, I walked 27 miles out to stay in a hotel. I felt I had no shelter from the weather. I'm not in 27 mile condition so my foot and my knee are killing me now.

I was coveting large car-camping sized tent stakes. It occurred to me that if I had brought my tarp I could have set it up very low and had shelter that was less a target for wind. With giant tent stakes and a tarp, I might have been able to shelter myself in this severe weather. I may have become a tarp convert this weekend. I don't care if my tarp/bug net combo is heavier, I think it might be better.

On my way home from the trip I bought a pack of big X-shaped mountain hardware tent stakes to replace the small titanium hooks I've been using. I think I'll be bringing a tarp in the future, even if my hiking partner is carrying a tent. My pack weight just went up.

Am I right in thinking that a tarp might hold up to wind better? Any other solutions to high winds?

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Tent fail this weekend on 05/19/2011 12:09:54 MDT Print View

First, thanks for sharing your experience. Second, I think you are on the right track. Lower profile is the key in high winds and a tarp can allow a very low pitch. There are tents that do very well in high winds, but these tent to be bivy like shelters and would lack the modularity that you seek.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Tent fail this weekend on 05/19/2011 12:13:10 MDT Print View

Hi Piper!

Was the problem that the front/rear tent stakes were pulling out, but the rest of the tent was okay? Couldn't really tell from your post. Also, what tent was it?

I guess I'm wondering if you could have secured the stakes better, do you still think you would have had the issues you did (was the problem the stakes and not the tent itself)?

Diplomatic Mike

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
Weather is fun. on 05/19/2011 12:14:22 MDT Print View

What tent did you use, and what caused the failure?

Rog Tallbloke
(tallbloke) - F

Re: Tent fail this weekend on 05/19/2011 12:18:34 MDT Print View

Sorry to hear you had a tough time.
My Golite Hut 1 has stood up in some pretty strong winds. I use golf club shaft sections for poles. I like the all round protection it offers over a tarp. I don't have to carry a bivy either, as my partner sewed some bug net round the bottom and I attached a tyvek groundcloth.

The setup weighs around 31oz with 8 pegs (golite Y stakes). Shared between 2 people this makes for light camping.

Edited by tallbloke on 05/19/2011 12:19:31 MDT.

Mina Loomis
(elmvine) - MLife

Locale: Central Texas
tarps in weather on 05/19/2011 12:32:45 MDT Print View

You are probably on the right track with the tarp idea.

On our first Guadalupe Mts. NP backpacking trip, with the Camp Fire backpacking kids (2002 I think) we learned this. GMNP is famous for its high winds that can come up very quickly. Camped at the group site at Pine Spring. A handful of backpacking tents--original-style REI Half-Dome, a couple of SD Clip Flashlights, a Walrus, etc. And two Kelty Noah's Tarp 9's. The Noah's is a catenary tarp with a corner-to-corner seam so it sets up like a wide parabola (I think) with 2 small poles and 4 stakes, pretty low to the ground but with enough headroom to sit up in the middle section. It is not a very lightweight item but the geometry is what's relevant here.

In the early evening a storm rolled in from the west, really fast, with wind probably about 60 mph. (GMNP gets winds often in the 80-100 mph range.) *All* our tents were flattened! Totally. You couldn't sit in one. Stakes pulled up all over. It was a mess. When it let up and we emerged from the vans, to which we had retreated with the kids, both tarps were standing just where they had been, no stakes pulled up. Some gear blew around, but the tarps seemed to have shed the wind instead of collapsing.

Maybe someone here can explain the physics of this. We expected the opposite at the time.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: Tent fail this weekend on 05/19/2011 12:33:44 MDT Print View

Tent Fail, or micro-stakes Fail? There is a big difference.

I've had a Duomid, high and wide, in ferocious winds with no problems, using the Easton 8".

Tent or Tarp, MSR Groundhogs at .5 ounces, or a mix of Easten 8" and 6", at .5 and .3 ounces respectively, will (usually) assure that your shelter of choice will stand up in a wind.

The Groundhogs pack tighter and hold as well as the Easton 6". Think about going with 2 Easton 8" for front and back, and then Groundhogs for the perimeter.

Tent Satkes
Details can be found Here, in Will Rietveld's article.

Edit: OOps.... didn't realize you are not a member. Salient points are above.
Edit#2: Corrected attribution.

Edited by greg23 on 05/19/2011 19:30:03 MDT.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Tent fail this weekend on 05/19/2011 12:43:04 MDT Print View


Edited by FamilyGuy on 10/30/2013 08:56:33 MDT.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Tent model??? on 05/19/2011 13:14:53 MDT Print View


It would help greatly if we knew what tent model you were using. I've had X poled 2 person dome tents collapse in high winds. The X pole design is not very wind-worthy.

Tell us you tent model and what pole design it had.

I have a single pole TarpTent Moment and a North Face Tadpole that, WHEN PROPERLY GUYED OUT with extra lines and stakes, will withstand very high winds. Guying out a tent properly is the key to a good nights' sleep in high winds.

I have found MSR Groundhog stakes (the red stake in Greg's photo) hold in almost any soil. For very sandy soil my backup stake is an SMC snow stake that I carry as a potty trowel.

kevin timm
(ktimm) - MLife

Locale: Colorado (SeekOutside)
Low Profile or flat edges on 05/19/2011 14:22:46 MDT Print View

I would dispute the low profile comment. I've had a small dome tent blow away while an 8 ft tall tipi withstood the wind fine.

Flat sides and edges are a problem. Also with floored shelters the wind will pull up the stakes over time by forcing the floor up and then the tent is flying. Sure a low profile helps, but a well staked out tent without flat sides can be 10 ft tall and survive in 50 MPH winds or better.

Could you have made stakes from available materials that had better holding power ?

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Low Profile or flat edges on 05/19/2011 16:20:18 MDT Print View

I used two of the small titanium hooks in each corner (I had extras) and with very large rocks placed on top of the corners that seemed to be getting the majority of the wind, they held.

I used an aluminum hook for the rear pole and an X-shaped stake similar to the ones I just bought for the front. These are my only large stakes and both were found. I placed the largest rocks I could find on top of these. There were not a lot of rocks in the immediate area so I went in search of more rocks at a nearby stream. I don't think I could have made stakes from anything in the area.

I was using a Gossamer Gear One. I used that tent for most of the PCT. I remember that it fell down often in So Cal. I thought maybe I had finally gotten good at setting it up after two thousand miles. It just seemed so saggy when I set it up this time. Is it getting old? The panels bowed inward in the wind like, well, spinnaker sails. I swear the front vestibule panels almost rest completely against the mosquito netting when the wind is at rest and everything is as tight as I can get it. They are very loose. I'm thinking of pinching the excess fabric and sewing it so they will be tight. Also, as I was setting it up, it seemed that the knots that hold the four corners were all coming undone. I don't understand how the knots are tied so I did my best to just tie simple knots in order to get the thing set up. With the wind blowing it was a little difficult to figure out how to tie them so that the bottom made a nice tight bathtub and the top had enough line to get it really tight.

To be fair, a couple weeks ago I was camped near San Jacinto in a Lunar Duo and the wind blew so hard up there we had a tent failure that night too. I swore that night if I was ever in similar conditions I wouldn't even try to keep the tent set up. That is why when the first stake blew out I decided to sleep on top of the tent. Also, it was dark when the stake blew out and I couldn't find it.

I was camped in a spot where there were little nooks carved into the chaparral. I first selected a very small spot that seemed relatively calm. I was able to cook dinner without my stove flying away, but there wasn't enough room to set up the tent. I could have slept there out under the stars but there were scary clouds in the sky. I searched for another spot. I found one that really wasn't as sheltered as I hoped and I wasn't really able to set the tent up in the optimal direction. The wind seemed to come from every direction, swirling all around, but mostly either slamming the rear, one side or once in a while, the front.

I kept thinking that night that if I had a tarp, I could have had more options for how to set it up. I wouldn't have been forced to have 125-130 cm high poles forming sails to catch the wind. I could have set the tarp up with my poles collapsed and crawled under. I could have set up one end way deep under the chaparral. I could have folded the tarp in half to form a smaller shelter that might have fit in the first spot I found (my tarp is an 8x10 flat silnylon).

I know I was wishing I had those giant golden nail stakes. I was also thinking that if I had those, I could have wrapped another line around it and staked that line down with two titanium stakes and then placed enormous rocks on top of all three of the stakes. Maybe that would have held. The wind on the PCT at the transition zones between the So Cal mountains and deserts is unbelievable and the sandy soil is hard to get the stakes secure.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Tent fail this weekend on 05/19/2011 18:13:33 MDT Print View


Edited by FamilyGuy on 10/30/2013 08:57:04 MDT.

alan barber
(azbarber) - F

Locale: SE
Re: Tent fail this weekend on 05/19/2011 18:20:04 MDT Print View

I think in this case it blows.


Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Tent fail this weekend on 05/19/2011 18:23:43 MDT Print View


Edited by FamilyGuy on 10/30/2013 09:01:51 MDT.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Tent fail this weekend on 05/19/2011 18:32:51 MDT Print View

The tent stake article is Will's not Roger's

John Nausieda
(Meander) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Tent fail this weekend on 05/19/2011 18:39:51 MDT Print View

Another stake suggestion. I use MSR groundhogs and love them but for loose soils I just picked up a set of Coghlans 9 inch Ultralight Tent stakes #1000. They look identical to the groundhogs but are longer and have the same anodizing and pull out loops at the top. Haven't used them yet but that additional length may help. About $1 each at a physical store.tent stakes

Christopher Holly
(climber72) - F

Locale: At my desk
JMT with The One on 05/19/2011 18:56:44 MDT Print View

Great thread here... I am leaving for a JMT hike on July 28th and will be taking The One along for the duration. As will my partner. As we live close enough to San Jacinto or Gorgonio, I think it may be worth our time to practice the storm configuration Gossamer Gear recommends - in short I have nothing to offer you in terms of advice, but your cautionary tale has sparked my imagination.

In a good way?

Let you know after we do some wind testing!

Rog Tallbloke
(tallbloke) - F

Re: Re: Tent fail this weekend on 05/19/2011 20:06:57 MDT Print View

Hmm, those coughlan stakes look good. Haven't seen anything like those over here in UK.

There was a thread posted by a guy in Iceland here last year. He put up a couple of videos comparing his home made tarp tent to a Stephensons warmlite in high wind. He got slated by some warmlite owners for the way he set up the warmlite but I was impressed by his design, which used two sets of trekking poles as A frames set at a low angle.

Basically, the lower and flatter the setup, the better it will cope with wind. The trailstar tarp looks good in this respect.

kevin timm
(ktimm) - MLife

Locale: Colorado (SeekOutside)
There is more to it than that on 05/19/2011 20:16:16 MDT Print View

"Physics sucks, doesn't it."

I meant there is a lot more to it than a low profile. I routinely see large round floorless tents handle winds in the 40 - 50 MPH range.

There is profile, shape, staking out, guying out , taught pitch and floors.

Jeffs Eleven
(WoodenWizard) - F

Locale: Greater Mt Tabor
Re: Re: Tent fail this weekend on 05/19/2011 21:15:26 MDT Print View

+1 to John N.

Those stakes are long, light (for their size) and cheap.

Probably the best ULish thing Coghlans makes (maybe the only- lol)