Last year, I was deep within Idaho's remote Frank Church - River of No Return Wilderness. Cozy in my winter-rated sleeping bag, I reflected on the day's adventures.
Suddenly, a gust of wind came rumbling down the canyon like a train. There was no time to brace for impact. The next thing I knew, my tent was flattened over top of me and sand was swirling in the remaining open space. The wind stopped long enough for me to turn on my dimming headlamp and evaluate the damage.
It wasn't until the wind became stronger and more consistent that I began to think about the large pine tree swaying above me.
I’ll save you all from the details of how I squeezed my sand-filled tent between two boulders through 50-60 mph gusts and freezing rain as my headlamp quickly died.
Although I arrived at camp under sunny skies, I should have anticipated the hazards of setting up my tent where I did. Being more aware would have saved me from the dangerous risk of losing my shelter to the wind and hypothermia from the freezing rain.
Now, what else did you learn, Emily?
Check for Potential Hazards
When I was setting up camp, I was only looking for a flat tent spot. I wasn’t paying enough attention to what was over my head. It’s not always dangerous to set up under trees, but considering this tree had already lost a massive limb (peeking from behind the tent in my first photo) it wasn’t a smart choice this time around.
Always look up to inspect hazardous branches and trees!
Make Sure Your Shelter is Fully Secured
Admittedly, I get a little careless and only throw in a couple of tent stakes.
She'll hold... It's fine.
That can work sometimes, but if there's a possibility of bad weather coming it’s best to put a solid effort into checking the security of your tent and fly tarp.
Keep a Clean Camp
You guys - I actually did one thing right!
My camp was nearly immaculate when I went to "sleep". The only things I had left out were my camp chair and two massive dry bags. Everything else was secured, giving me less to worry about as I moved my shelter to a safer location.
Charge Your Headlamp
I don’t know what more there is to say here.
A little more light would have made this process much easier and safer!
Keep Layers Inside Your Tent
I had my raincoat tucked into a dry bag in the tent's vestibule. It would have been more accessible had it been inside of the tent with me.
… or maybe not since I barely had a light to see anyways…
We are always learning, and I'm so grateful to have all of you inspiring ladies to grow with!
Although I’m a little embarrassed to admit my complacency, this night in the Frank Church Wilderness humbled me and reminded me how quickly weather conditions can change. I hope sharing this story can save you from a nightmarish experience like mine!
Emily is a freelance travel and outdoor recreation writer for hire. Samples of her published work can be found at emilylorenwriting.com.