I’m in Death Valley National Park’s Texas Springs campground and tents are flying past the window of my vehicle. As I type a yellow and white tent has broken free of its stakes and is shooting across the dusty ground like a tumbleweed.
It’s not the apocalypse. It’s a windstorm, with 20-30mph winds and gusts up to 50mph.
Camping in a windstorm isn’t fun, but it’s a reality that can be handled without too much grief. Here are a few recommendations for what to do if you find yourself camping in a windstorm.
Secure your belongings. Nothing should be left outside unless it’s sturdy and heavy, such as a full 7 gallon water jug or a stack of thick firewood. Pick up everything else and put it in your vehicle.
Stay inside. The wind will pick up dust, vegetation, and anything your neighbor failed to secure and throw it through the air. You, your pets, and your camera lenses will all benefit from staying out of the wind. I either stay inside my parked vehicle, or head to a nearby museum, visitor center, library, shop, etc.
Avoid driving, especially during sandstorms. Sandstorms can bring visibility down to zero. High profile vehicles like campers are particularly at risk in windstorms as they can become unmanageable (or, terrifyingly, tip over) in high winds.
In addition to the basics, if you’re car camping:
Take down your tent and store it in your vehicle. Tents can collapse and twist no matter how well they are staked down. To save your tent – and to save yourself from coming back from an outing and having to pick it out of the bushes – deal with the minor inconvenience of taking it down and setting it back up once the winds settle.
If the winds don’t settle after the sun goes down, consider sleeping in your vehicle.
In addition to the basics, if you’re in a camper or RV:
Secure everything you can in, especially awnings and fan covers. I’ve been in windstorms that are bad enough that nearby campers have pulled in their slides, too.
Park into the windwhere possible. Instead of letting the wind broadside you, park with the front of your camper into the wind. This will decrease your surface area and cut down on the camper listing from side to side.
If you get motion sickness, take Dramamine or similar. A camper rocking back and forth in the wind feels very much like a ship in choppy seas.
Always use common sense and prioritize your safety. If that means checking into a nearby hotel for the night, do it. If it means sleeping uncomfortably in your car for a night, do it. I’ve done both, and have not regretted it.