After purchasing my first tent and setting it up indoors , one question came to mind: which direction do I set this thing up? A proper tent orientation can have a big impact on both your night of sleep and your following morning .
If you are in the same spot as I was in, let me lay out a few options for you:
1. Opposite the prevailing wind (the most scientific option)
To give a quick overview, the prevailing winds are the average wind direction and speed for a given area based on the time of year. It can be affected by distance from the coast, proximity to mountains, and a variety of other markers.
To get an idea of the prevailing winds, you can do one of two things: take daily measurements of the wind speed and direction for several weeks, plot out the data, and use the data for future camping trips.
This is the more fulfilling option, but it will also be an entire year before you can use the data you recorded. As if that wasn’t enough, you will need several years worth of data to get an average measurement.
As much fun as that sounds, you have an alternative if you are in the United States: the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservations Service has already compiled all this data for you.
Click on the blue “Wind Rose Dataset” button, which will take you to a directory of Wind Rose Datasets, sorted by state. Next, click on the state and observation point nearest your location.
I noticed for me, at least in the Midwestern United States, there are very few data measurement stations, so you will have to use your best judgement when choosing a location.
After obtaining this data, whichever method you choose, you will want to point your tent the opposite direction of the longest point on the Wind Rose Dataset. Using Des Moines, Iowa in March, as an example, I would point my tent door opening to the Southeast. Assuming there were no extenuating circumstances, such as precipitation or obvious wind direction, your tent would be properly set up.
Congratulations! This is the most challenging of the below methods!
2. To the East
The concept of pointing your tent to the east is a fairly safe one. The biggest selling point of this orientation is that when the sunrises, it will shine on your tent and you will be able to wake up and watch the sunrise.
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If you are not too concerned with the prevailing wind method mentioned above, this is generally a safe bet for most casual overnight expeditions.
3. To the West
At Arctic Monsoon, we understand that not all people are alike; we generally encourage people to be their unapologetically weird self.
That being said, we understand that while some people like to watch the sunrise, other people may not want to leave their sleeping bag until the sun is directly overhead - and that’s okay!
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The selling point of this orientation, as compared to the Eastern method mention above, is that instead of the sun waking you up you point your opening away from the sunrise, so you can sleep in for a few extra winks. Sometimes, after a long day of hiking, this is the type of orientation you must go with.
4. Away from the precipitation
There are some special circumstances where the above 3 methods do not apply: if you have to set up camp while it is precipitating. No camper likes camping out in the rain, but that loating is doubled when you have to pitch your tent in the middle of a torrential downpour.
In cases like this, or when you know it will start raining soon, it is generally a good idea to pitch your tent away from the direction the wind is blowing. This way, you can open and close your tent door without getting blasted with a gale force of wind every time you want to leave your tent.
At the end of the day, the method you choose is entirely up to you. The effectiveness of the above mentioned will be very depended on geography, seasonality, and climate. There is no sure-fire method for positioning your tent while camping.
From my experience, I have done the opposite prevailing wind method, only to have the wind direction pull a 180° and blast my door all night. I have position my tent with the door facing the sunrise only to struggle with the blinding morning sun, just as many times as I have faced the West only to be disappointed I missed the sunrise.
What orientation do you typically pitch your tent? Please let us know in the comments below!