NOTE: This post is written for comical purposes. The comments in this post should not be relied on as weather safety instructions. Always seek appropriate shelter and safety in inclement weather. Consult the National Weather Service website for official instructions on wind and weather safety.
In early January 2017, Sam and I enjoyed some boondocking at Fossil Falls Dry Lake Bed, (which we highly recommend visiting, by the way) which is located inside of the Fossil Falls Recreation Area near Little Lake, California.
Originally, we were not planning to visit the Fossil Falls area. However, flood warnings forced us out of our previous boondocking location in Alabama Hills Recreation Area, outside of Lone Pine, California. Fossil Falls happened to be the next nearest BLM boondocking opportunity near Alabama Hills that we were aware of, which was also outside of the flood warning zone. Fossil Falls is located directly off of 395, so it was a very convenient location to stay at after leaving the Alabama Hills area.
The weather in Fossil Falls when we arrived was not much better than that in the Alabama Hills. Fossil Falls is normally a dry lake bed area with lots of flat, open space for boondockers to spread out and set up. However, while we were there, the dry lake beds had collected a significant amount of rain run-off from the surrounding mountains and hills making them actual lakes once again. We found one of the only dry, flat sites that our rig could reach at the time to set up shop.
From what we understand, during this period, California was experiencing an uncharacteristically cold and rainy Winter season. As unpleasant as all of this cold, soggy weather was, it was also accompanied by serious, high winds, which for us, was much worse than the cold or the rain.
We have since learned that winds in the California desert areas are no joke. We are told that air currents moving inland off of the Pacific Ocean can lead to extreme winds when they meet the hotter, dryer air of the desert climates.
During one of the nights that we spent at Fossil Falls, the winds became very severe, with regular speeds at 25mph+ and gusts up to 70mph. Having never experienced significant winds in an RV before, this was terrifying for us.
We’re hunkered down in the midst of some serious winds. Pretty sketched out. ?
— Life Among Pines (@lifeamongpines) January 10, 2017
We debated relocating and trying to find shelter behind a nearby gas station. However, the station was several miles down 395 and the drive would have had us traveling broadside towards the wind. We ruled this out as being even more dangerous than our current situation.
What made our plight even more nerve-racking was that there was literally no one else at Fossil Falls at this time. We were entirely alone in the storm. Further, we were a solid 30-40 miles from the nearest town, should something have happened.
We made the decision to stay put and hunker down. Our leveling jacks were deployed to help with stability, and our slides were retracted to slim our profile and better center our gravity. With these in place, we settled in for a long, sleepless night.
— Life Among Pines (@lifeamongpines) January 10, 2017
My biggest fear during the storm was for our five solar panels that are mounted on the roof of our rig. They had held up just fine during highway speeds, but the gusts during this storm were something else entirely. Thankfully, when I checked them after the storm the next morning, they were virtually unchanged.
At a certain point during the storm, there was a single gust that actually caused our rig to lurch onto two wheels momentarily. Our 2007 Fleetwood Bounder 35E weighs 22,000 pounds empty. Add a full water tank and all of our belongings, and our rig probably sits around 23,500-24,000 pounds. This single gust of wind caused 24,000 pounds of RV to lean onto two wheels, and this happened with our stabilizer jacks deployed…
This was one of the most distressing experiences of my entire life. ?
Were we over-dramatic RVing novices? Probably a bit. Were we in any real danger? In this case, probably not. Yet, this was a serious windstorm nonetheless. The experience did teach us a few valuable tricks for making high winds in an RV a bit more bearable, and we are happy to share them with you, should you ever find yourself in a similar situation.
Point the rear of your rig towards the wind
If you are able to reposition during a wind situation, pointing the rear of your rig towards the oncoming wind can make a world of difference. This will significantly slim down the profile of surface area facing the wind which will make your rig feel much more stable throughout the storm.
Deploy Stabilizer or Leveling Jacks (If you have them)
This is pretty common sense, but increasing the number of points of contact between your rig and the ground makes a significant difference in stability.
If your rig has slides or pop-outs, retracting these will further reduce your profile and will better center your gravity. These steps will contribute to stability in high winds.
Many rigs also have slide covers, such as ours. Slide covers are essentially an awning that rolls out overtop of slides for rain and debris run-off. These covers are very susceptible to damage in high winds, which is another reason that retracting slides is a good idea during a windstorm.
Use your tow vehicle as a wind barrier
This is the best trick that we learned from our experience. If you have a tow vehicle, or a toad, placing it between the wind and your rig, ideally broadside, will create a barrier that breaks the wind before it reaches your rig.
This works even better for us, as our towed 1992 Jeep Cherokee Briarwood also holds our canoe on its roof. The additional surface area of the canoe helps to cut the wind even further before it reaches our rig.
This trick works very well for making your rig feel more stable in high winds, which really improves the comfort level during a storm. It may even buy you a few hours of sleep during a bad storm.
We hope that these tricks can help you to feel safer and more comfortable when riding out high winds from within an RV. If we missed anything, or you have any tips of your own to add, please drop them in the comments below!