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I am in the Western Balkans, where in some weeks you can hear the rumbling of thunder every night, and it is sometimes difficult to predict how close the storm will come to you for the purposes of camping.

The night before last I survived a windy storm in my two-season Lanshan 2 tent. The lightning was very frequent, sometimes several times per minute, for most likely over an hour. The rain was extremely heavy, and sometimes seemed to be raining sideways (but fortunately didn't develop into hail). One of my trekking poles fell over, so that the tent partially collapsed. I decided to pull the part of the tent that collapsed down with my hand instead of holding it up (to give my tent a smaller profile in the wind, kind of like what the Lanshan 1 has, and hopefully disrupt the airflow), and I felt the wind sucking that part of the tent upwards so strongly (causing that side to billow outwards from my hand in a doughnut shape) that I was constantly worrying that the whole tent could get pulled upwards into the air with me in it. If the earth had been less sticky I believe the wind would have pulled out some pegs (as it was it only undid a knot in a guyline, causing it to come loose, and stretched my tent's silnylon fabric). The whole tent was flapping in and out by up to 50cm for an hour, and this felt like the closest thing to a violent storm in two months of trekking the Balkans.

  1. I have already been out camping in an electric storm during a severe weather warning before in a forest in a steep valley, but this time was much, much worse due to the wind. This time I was on a grassy plain (Obstina Zabljak in Montenegro, which a relatively flat basin surrounded by hills and mountains), which is getting very warm during the day (perhaps warmer than the mountains, resulting in higher air density over the mountains than the plain by evening, ripe for it to rush down the slopes during a storm?). Is a flat grassy basin which is fully or partially surrounded by hills/mountains at risk of higher winds during a storm, in the same way that a sea of coastline adjacent to mountains might be subject to unusually strong katabatic winds (eg the Bora on the Montenegrin coastline)?

  2. Is an area of younger trees in a forest (small enough not to attract lightning or cause injury if their branches fall on you) safer during a storm due to the wind protection?

  3. Me and two passing bikepackers agreed that the problematic windy storm the night before last was not in the 3-hourly forecast for Zabljak (which is a town near where I was camping). One of them recommended I use the Windy app for richer forecasts, however I am not sure that it has any layer for hail. Is there any weather forecasting map which will allow me to see whether hail specifically is forecast in any particular hour?

Pitched by a stream before the violent storm (which was of course a risk, since the stream could overflow if it rained)

Pitched in a deciduous forest before the violent storm, no storm forecast

Stretched silnylon after the storm. Silnylon usually stretches after pitching anyway, such that you may need to re-tighten the guylines a couple of hours after pitching anyway, but not this much!

Stretched silnylon after the storm. Silnylon usually stretches after pitching anyway, such that you may need to re-tighten the guylines a couple of hours after pitching anyway, but not this much!

Stretched silnylon after the storm. Silnylon usually stretches after pitching anyway, such that you may need to re-tighten the guylines a couple of hours after pitching anyway, but not this much!

Tent previously stretched by the storm after I re-tightened the guylines

Tent previously stretched by the storm after I re-tightened the guylines

The storm shortly before the most intense rain hit me. The plain of Obstina Zabljak is in the centre of the image.

The storm as the most intense rain was hitting me. There are three areas of intense rain; I was under the one in the middle.

The storm after the most intense rain hit me. Note that the most intense winds lasted from 01:30am until 02:30am, so a fair bit longer than the just intense rains.

A zoomed in map of the rain over Obstina Zabljak. I would like to show a map of the winds over the area, but sadly I don't know how to access windy.com's wind map archive, if it is even available for free that is.

The topography of the area, showing the Obstina Zabljak plain surrounded on some sides by higher ground.

Pictures 1 and 2 show what I believe the tent is supposed to look like when pitched,

3, 4 and 5 illustrate the stretched fabric (note that silnylon does not rip when it gets damaged; it just gets stretched and stretched and stretched but it genuinely is damaged when stretched so far that it won't return to its original form, as seems to be the case here)

6 and 7 show the stretched (what I believe to be damaged) tent after the guylines were re-tightened

8, 9, and 10 show the rain from the storm in radar as it was moving over me. 11 is a zoomed in version of 9. If anybody knows how to find the historical speed of gusts of wind on Opstina Zabljak at that day/time please do share, I would be very interested because I believe that as Alex J. suggested that this could have been a violent "supercell" (which is the kind of storm which is capable of among other things spawning tornadoes). The way it was battering my tent really did seem very violent, I don't think I have ever been outside in such weather let alone in a tent. I genuinely felt under severe threat, I couldn't quite believe at this time I was in that situation, I thought at the time that there was little chance my tent would stay guyed or unflooded; it was horrendous. Edit: according to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2023_European_heat_waves#Storms, the July 2023 Balkan Supercells have been a newsworthy phenomenon, with gusts over 100km/h, large hailstones, and they have killed people as well. Just to make clear what I'm up against in an ultralight tent!

11 shows that Opstina Zapljak is a high basin surrounded by hills and mountains.

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    Hail is extremely difficult to forecast. Don't trust any weather forecast that claims to tell you about hail in the next three hours. Best one can do is forecasting the risk of hail.
    – gerrit
    Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 14:40
  • I don't see what 3 hour notice is going to do for you anyway. Can you really break camp and hike to a safe structure in 3 hours? Our ability to forecast weather is better than that. I mean they plan electric tariffs around tomorrow's expected wind and solar! youtu.be/0f9GpMWdvWI?t=842 Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 1:22
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    Please stop editing the basic question of your question. The question you started out with and has been answered is quite different from your latest edit, how to withstand a deadly storm in a thin small tent.
    – Willeke
    Commented Jul 23, 2023 at 20:28
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    @novice Yes, it would be great if we could reliably forecast hail. A single hailstorm can cause a billion dollar in damage, and if we knew in advance that huge hail were coming for sure, that might be reduced. If you want to know more about hail forecasts, head over to Earth Science.
    – gerrit
    Commented Jul 24, 2023 at 7:07
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    Sorry to be a bit frank but... you get what you pay for (or carry with you in this case). If you want to survive storms in a tent, then instead of an ultralight get a proper tent that is made for that, e.g. a good 3 season tunnel, or even better a 4 season geodesic/expedition tent.
    – fgysin
    Commented Jul 25, 2023 at 9:48

5 Answers 5

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The Lanshan design doesn't look great for windy conditions - normally I'd pitch with a pointy end (not the door, or don't use that door) into the wind, but on that tent you'll get wind coming underneath and trying to lift the flysheet and loosen everything. Perhaps shortening the poles would allow you to peg the flysheet down right to ground level, without making it flappy. That would help a lot.

Synthetic tent fabric can stretch permanently from their new state. This is generally a one-off, and not really damage (as indicated by figures 6&7, when the shape recovered). So can guy ropes, and I think the end guys may have done this and contributed to the problem. I generally expect to tighten everything a little after wind and rain even on a well-used tent, considerably more on a new one. Back in the 90s I recall some rather expensive tents saying that you should redo the seam sealant after the first trip because of this.

Also, were your pegs angled well, at right angles to the guys? Were the guys tight even after the wind and rain, or did they loosen? Seeing the pictures, I think you needed stronger attachment for your end guys. This could be longer/wider pegs, double pegging with the pegs forming an X with the cross where they meet the ground and rope, or a second guy rope. A second guy could be made from paracord, and either set straight out like a single one (but shorter or longer) or 2 can be used symmetrically angled off the centre line. With no ridge pole and changeable winds, that's probably a good option. When travelling light, I still have the means to add one extra guy upwind (cord and peg, though tying off to a big rock is also an option).

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  • I did a lot of research on what tent to buy, and for me it would have been a Durston X-mid or the Lanshan taking into account space, quality, weight, price etc. However when I'm staying 50% of the time in a tent, 50% of the time in a guesthouse the Lanshan is just much cheaper. It's one of the items which I least regret buying, I believe it has performed great overall, well surpassing my expectations. I thought about shortening the trekking poles, but this would trade off some of the steepness of the fabric vs the prevailing direction of the rain. Would the trade-off be worth it?
    – novice
    Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 11:04
  • @novice If wind is your concern, steepness isn't your friend. And rain itself should be less of a worry than wind. I'm not saying the Lanshan isn't good overall, just that it presents some difficulties with wind that the normal tricks of pitching don't deal with. In fact it looks quite nice if you're trekking with poles. I choose between my tent and a tarp over my bike, accepting that there are trade-offs.
    – Chris H
    Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 11:07
  • To my previous comment, do you want me to include a picture in the question of what the tent looked like after the storm, or would that be straying too far off- topic? I believe the way I pegged the guylines (at right angles) was perfect, and that they didn't loosen. I believe the silnylon fabric of the tent did get stretched a bit sadly. The doors of the tent were flush against the grass, but at low tension - in future I could increase the tension of the doors of the tent so they stay flush against the grass.
    – novice
    Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 11:11
  • I'm that case I will certainly shorten the poles and readjust the guylines before the next storm. Although I only had 10 minutes between getting woken by thunder and the first rain this time round!
    – novice
    Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 11:14
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    I've seen a similar degree of loosening in storms when the wind changes a lot. With no pole at the top, that results in more sagging on this design
    – Chris H
    Commented Jul 24, 2023 at 5:34
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I go to mountains in Europe all the time and I use windy app a lot. You need to use weather radar layer. You see storm cells there and lightning strikes. Hail is probable when there is more than 55 dbZ which can be seen in windy app. Depends on the kind of the storm cell.

This year is terrible. So many strong storms - supercells with strong winds that do a lot of damage. Few nights ago strong winds broke my plum tree into half. I was cleaning the mess half a day. A lot of trees were damaged in some cities and buildings as well. It is the most stormy year I remember. I cant go hiking, because there are storms forecasted almost every day. I am from Slovenia and storm lines travel from Italy, Austria to here and then to Croatia towards Bosnia, depends on the conditions. What I want to say is even with good tent, winds are extremely strong and if they can break trees in half it is normal that tents have problems. I usually pitch tent in a forest if there is no strong storm forecast. If there is storm forecasted the tree could fell on the tent and it is dangerous.

I don't know if area of smaller trees would not attract lightning. I was thinking the same thing to pitch it where smaller trees are. I can say that if you can't find shelter try to pitch it is spots that are not exposed. Not on the top of the hill or similar, better at lower elevations.

Windy app is great, use it!

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First of all, let us be clear that a tent offers protection only against wind and rain, but not against sizeable hail or falling trees. The best way to manage your risk is therefore being close to a sheltered place when there is a risk of thunderstorms. Be it a cave, a hut, your car or some house where you might be able to shelter on the veranda or let in by the inhabitants. On some days, the reasonable solution will be not to stay camping but book into some accommodation.

If you do not have this - and in any other case - minimize risk by choosing your camp spot wisely. Avoid being near the fall line of larger trees or parts of them. Areas with 1-2m bushes are a lot better, they will offer you some protection against the wind without the dangers of trees. Also, try to avoid anything that channels or collects water. I would not camp right next to a creek if severe thunderstorms are expected. What is 10cm of water now, might suddenly become a meter or more, once it starts dumping 30l/sqm in a short amount of time. If possible, avoid exposed hill tops and rather stay somewhere in the valleys.

Against normal winds, rigging of your tent is paramount. Use sufficient pegs (and ones suited for the given ground) and tighten the guy lines properly. If you consider this topic for the long term, buying a tent with a wind-resistant design is a good idea. Of course, that will be at odds with weight, but life is a compromise

Regarding forecasts, it is notoriously difficult to a) forecast the power accurately and b) interpret this sufficiently. Just two weeks ago, we were basically blown off from our terrace by a thunderstorm. We saw this coming - both on the radar and with our eyes - but believed we would be sheltered enough by the roof over the terrace. Instead of the expected like 6-7bft, we surely got double a digit wind force.

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  • thanks for your answer. For the long term (after my long walk to the Caspian Sea), I believe it might make financial sense for me to spend up to £450 on a more stable tent (or hammock system). Would been keen on any links in the comments to relevant reviews (I am only likely to consider ultralight designs though!)
    – novice
    Commented Aug 3, 2023 at 16:25
  • @novice Ultralight tents are not best in harsh conditions and no one can change that with the actual technology. There's always a tradeoff with the outdoors. Also, are the Lanshan, Zpacks, etc really ultralight compared to the others? No. Why? Because they require you to use trekking poles. So it's major for many not already using poles. For example, take your Lanshan and add the weight of your poles, then compare it to the weight of an MSR Hubba Hubba. You'll get a major surprise! And a Hubba Hubba is much more resistant. Same with Nemo and Big Agnes (two other very good brands). Cheers!
    – Diablo
    Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 16:54
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Very detailed question that deserves a very detailed answer :D

THE TENT Lanshan tents are very good ultra-light tents. But wait... ultra-light? Severe stormy conditions? Hail? ... not a good mix! The truth is that no tent is 100% safe in severe conditions, and ultra-light tents even less. In fact, ultra-light tents are to be avoided in very severe storms, and that includes the Lanshan ones.

THE PEGS Every single peg for the ultra-light tents is... ultra-small. They are good with hard grounds like your backyard or if used at a very popular campground. They are barely working, if not useless, with soft ground, and based on your pictures, you're wild camping. There's a saying that goes like this: "There is ultra-light and stupid-light" (not saying that you're stupid lol!). The outdoors is always a trade-off. What you gain on one side, you'll lose on the other side. So, no matter the tent you are using, get bigger pegs and take those along with you when going in the wild (more on that later). I have tons of pegs: ultra-small-ultra-light, regular plastic ones, BIG metallic ones and I've even made some out of tree branches. Those wooden ones are ultra-light but big, so they hang more in soft soil. Best even pegs in the world and they cost nothing!

WEATHER FORECAST As some have mentioned here, do not rely on weather forecasts. Always prepare for the worst and considering climate change, it's now mandatory. BTW, did you know that the best, biggest, baddest computers in the world are used to predict the weather? And even there, they're still unable to be very precise. The truth is that the weather is acting on its own mind and can change faster than Lucky Luke can shoot. So always be prepared for the worst. A good tarp and some paracord will help a lot (more on that below).

TOP TENT SETUP Let me share a true story with you. I had my tent set up knowing the coming weather was not good. So I used the "Diablo's setup" (my nickname). a) I pitched my tent the normal way b) I used my big metallic pegs (the ground was rocky) c) I added one pole at each end of my tent. d) I used those poles to set a very strong ridgeline. For this, I used a continuous length going from one pole to another. And from the first pole, going to the right at a 45-degree angle. And going to the left (same angle) from the second pole. Then I used two smaller cordes to go from the poles to the opposite side with the same angle. The result was a straight ridgeline going over the top of my tent and a V shape from the poles to the ground. This ridgeline was going nowhere trust me. all this with simple lightweight paracord. e) I then installed a tarp over it and pegged it to the ground. I used two small cordes in a V shape for each eyelet which is better than a single one because it redistributes the tension inside the rings.

I also made sure the trap would put some small pressure on my tent (not too much to avoid breaking the poles). I then went away for several hours. The weather got really bad on my return with very strong winds and rain. So I was a bit nervous about my tent. Would it still be there? Guess what? It was still there and in pretty good shape while everyone else where desperately fighting to keep their tents in good shape. Several didn't succeed... Amen...

FEW MUST IN YOUR KIT a) a good length of paracord along with several smaller lengths. b) a good sturdy tarp (avoid ultra-light tarps) c) bigger pegs depending on the weather and type of groudn. d) shock cords e) duct tape!

SHOCK CORDS Shock cords are elastic cords. Replace all your static guylines with elastic shock cordes. It's 10,000 better in bad weather and will avoid breaking or even worse, tearing apart your tent. Besides that, they may also save your tent if you accidentally trip on your guyline... This is one of the best pro tips when it comes to a tent. That and to have a tarp under to keep the condensation outside and another tarp ready to use in severe conditions.

THE TARP You now know the importance of having a tarp. It will also protect your tent from UV light and it's awesome to use even when very sunny so you have some shade. Simply bring one side of the tarp to the horizontal and you have an awning extending your tent and protecting you from the sun or the rain! Lower it if it's raining or snowing a lot.

THE KNIFE That's another pro tip. Always have a knife at hand when you sleep. Why? A collapsed tent at night is no fun since it'll wrap you tight and cutting your way out might be something you'll have to do. It's even more true in wintertime with the weight of the snow (if that happens, you'll know how food feels in a vacuum-sealed bag!). Also, you may need to cut your way out if attacked by a predator (bear, wolf, etc.)

ANCHORING THE PEGS Another tip. You can use heavy rock over your peg so stay put. But beware that you can damage your tent this way. Only use that if you forgot to bring bigger pegs (and even there, bigger pegs may still need a rock).

FINAL WORDS All this being said, the best of the best setup to face ANY weather. Even including the most severe hail or winter storm, is easy: Set your tent in your living room with the entrance facing the window.

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    Diablo, please read the reasons I have edited your answers. We do not want chatty lines as 'Hopes this helps'. We all answer with that sentiment. Please slow down and read more on all of Stack Exchange, and do not overrun a small site with more answers on a day than it had in a week for months.
    – Willeke
    Commented Aug 27, 2023 at 10:28
  • @Willeke Since when FOUR words of politeness are wrong? Besides that, what gives you the right to modify the content of my posts without asking me first? If posts are edited by others other than the author, then we can't trust much on StackExchange. As for your accusation of me trying to overrun Stack, this was crossing the line...
    – Diablo
    Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 16:25
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    Diablo, as a user on Stack Exchange you will find your posts edited, all the time. If you can not live with that it might not be the right site for you. And yes, a few words of politeness or a smiley do not fit the site rules. 10 answers on your first day on the site is also a warning sign to moderators to keep an eye out, certainly on smaller sites.
    – Willeke
    Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 20:08
  • Diablo, just to echo Willeke's point: On Stack Exchange we absolutely will edit posts to improve them as per our site guidelines. You explicitly give the rights to the community to do this.
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 21:14
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Disclaimer: I failed to consider the 'lightness' aspect while answering.

I've slept for about an year or two total(meaning for about 600 nights) in the cheapest department-store purchased tent(Yours looks military-grade in comparison) with huge wind profile(4 person) tent. Once slept in half a meter of snow and it was pouring all night. Also used about half of the anchoring points.

Never had any structural problems.

Conclusion: the tent was not correctly pitched. Was firm ground with some shelter from the wind(even a couple of trees count) chosen? Were all anchor points used? Were they deployed in a way the tent's roof was neither too stretched nor too lose? Were all zippers closed? Was nothing hanged from the ceiling?


Thanks for the uploaded images! Is this a possible rope mounting point? enter image description here


And to FINALLY say something useful:

IF weather is expected to get violent
DO use rocks and mud to entrench the edges
WHILE minding fabric damage from sharp rocks.

enter image description here

I think I did that once and observed it a couple but could just be making stuff up.

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    You make a good point, but note that cheap heavy tents often copy established designs and may be oversupplied with guying points. Ultralight gear is stripped back to the essentials, which can be marginal in some conditions, or at least require extra care. Vertical poles with only tension to hold them up are a clear example; yours I would guess was a dome or tunnel design, or if longer ago, a classic ridge tent with a ridge pole
    – Chris H
    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 10:28
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    @ChrisH your are correct with a p-value of at most .01. It was 4.3kg. I failed to consider the 'lightness' aspect while answering.
    – Vorac
    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 11:30
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    @Vorac, it isn't really supposed to be a rope mounting point (not sure it's reinforced for this purpose), it is to attach the rolled up door. Sounds like an interesting idea, to cover the edges of the doors with mud and then stones on top. I'll just need to leave a gap for water to escape at the lowest point in case of flooding. In wooded areas I can construct a windbreak between surrounding trees out of fallen branches (and if the tent is under a small tree I can lean branches over the tent and against the tree until it creates decent protection vs falling objects, and it disrupts the wind).
    – novice
    Commented Jul 23, 2023 at 11:59
  • @novice The 'mud and stones' solution is something I saw 15 years ago drunk. So: how to do it correctly is entirely up to You. I believe it works. I do not claim it is optimal, rather: an emergency measure. The stones do all the work with their weight while the mud/grass/noidea is there to protect the tent's fabric. I would be weary in the presence of any "branches-made structure" as tents tend to rip and storms tend to throw stuff around.
    – Vorac
    Commented Jul 24, 2023 at 7:03

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