Tent Camping and Outdoor Grand Wind Scale

Tent Camping and Outdoor Grand Wind Scale

Campetent has devised this tent-camping wind scale to help novice family campers increase their confidence in the outdoors.

The wind scale is easy to remember for both English and Metric System users. It is simple to apply to tent camping and to adverse weather conditions.

It quickly scales from light to extreme winds; each threshold doubles in speed while moving up the scale and halves as you move down the scale.

Here’s a quick page guide with more detailed information below:

Wind SpeedDescription
0 – 7.5 mphCalm to light.
7.5 – 15 mphLight to moderate.
15 – 30 mphModerate to strong.
30 – 60 mphStrong to severe.
60 – 120 mphSevere to extreme.
120 – 240+ mphExtreme to fatal.

Wind Scale Chart

Wind Speed And Description:

Tent-camping tips and adverse-weather advice for each wind category:

0 – 7.5 mph (0 – 12.5 kph): Calm to light

Calm to light winds are the most comfortable for being outdoors and sitting around a campfire.

A light breeze (7 to 8 mph) makes very warm and hot weather more comfortable, especially when sleeping in a tent.

7 to 8 mph is the average wind speed during the summer in much of the continental U.S., excluding the more windy regions along the coasts.

Calm to light winds prevail at most U.S. campgrounds approximately 50% of the summer months.

7.5 – 15 mph (12.5 – 25 kph): Light to moderate

Light to moderate winds are

  • an upper limit for outdoor comfort while sitting or standing in exposed campsites for long periods of time
  • a safe upper limit for campfires in pits
  • a prudent upper limit for novice car camping
  • the upper warranted limit for most family camping tents

These winds often indicate a passing low-pressure system and possible rain.

Campers should guy out their tents as a precaution in these winds.

Light to moderate winds prevail at campgrounds approximately 40% of the summer months.

15 – 30 mph (25 – 50 kph): Moderate to strong

The National Weather Service (NWS) gives a “breezy” or “windy” designation to these winds in forecasts.

Moderate to strong winds are

  • an upper limit for outdoor comfort while hiking, although it will take some effort
  • a prudent upper limit for experienced family tent camping
  • an upper physical limit for most 3-season, family-camping tents

Car campers generally do not choose to camp in these winds. Due to a passing storm, they sometimes temporarily experience them.

Wind gusts become significant in these winds and can knock down tents. They may reach a 50% faster speed than sustained winds.

Tents should be thoroughly staked down and guyed out.

Moderate to strong winds exceed manufacturers’ warranted limits for many family-camping tents, so use caution and good judgement to protect your tent and your camping experience. As the song goes… “You got t’know when t’hold ’em, ‘n’… know when t’fold em…”

In sheltered (forested) campsites, these winds are an upper limit for tent camping, due to the risk of falling branches and, occasionally, trees. Tent campers should note any hanging branches or rotting trees and site the tent away from them.

In exposed campsites, 30 mph winds are also an upper limit for most 3-season family tents, which will experience the full force of surface winds.

For a more windproof family tent in these winds, consider a 4, 6 or 8 person, 3+ pole dome tent from a well-regarded manufacturer, or consider an outfitter tent.

Moderate to strong winds prevail at campgrounds approximately 10% of the summer months.

30 – 60 mph (50 – 100 kph): Strong to severe

The NWS issues wind advisories for these winds, and designates them as “very windy” or “high winds” in forecasts.

Strong to severe winds are unpleasant and potentially dangerous for family camping.

These winds are more suited to experienced backpackers and expedition campers with camping gear designed for high winds.

Family campers caught in these winds should seek shelter in a vehicle away from trees.

Strong to severe winds prevail at campgrounds approximately 1% of the summer months.

60 – 120 mph (100 – 200 kph): Severe to extreme

The NWS issues severe-storm advisories as well as tornado or straight-line wind alerts for these winds.

Severe to extreme winds cause substantial destruction, making it dangerous to be outdoors.

It is also dangerous to be in a car or trailer in these winds.

Family campers caught in these winds should seek shelter in a building with a good foundation, away from windows and entry doors and away from large trees.

Severe to extreme winds occur at campgrounds less than once a summer.

120 – 240+ mph (200 – 400+ kph): Extreme to fatal.

The NWS will issue tornado warnings for these winds.

Violent winds cause massive destruction outdoors.

In these winds it is dangerous to be above ground.

If possible, seek shelter below ground.

Violent winds occur at campgrounds less than once every 50 years on average.

An easy way to recall this grand wind scale is to remember “15 mph (or 25 kph) = moderate wind” as a base and then use a motorcycle-shifting analogy: “One up and five down” (7.5, 15, 30, 60, 120, 240+ mph), doubling the thresholds as you move up the scale.

By applying this scale, it’s easy to understand how wind affects tent camping and how adverse weather can affect the outdoors. You need only remember the thresholds, and common sense will help you apply them. This scale will help you enjoy tent camping and remain safe in the outdoors.

You can also apply this scale when you read tent reviews, where wind-speed estimates by inexperienced tent campers can be a bit suspect. It will assist you in chosing the best tent for your camping needs.