Friday, June 2, 2023


Southwest snowbirds—Beware the wind of many names

By Bob “BoondockBob” Difley
When snowbirding in the Southwestern deserts this winter, be careful not to allow yourself to be lulled into complacency when you take off for a day of exploration and the desert is calm with nary a breeze. Desert winds (also called chubascos, Santa Anas and dust devils) can come up quickly and unexpectedly—and blow strongly for a brief period or for hours.

Take some time before you leave to set up some precautionary measures that may prevent you coming back to a wind-caused disaster:

  • Secure your awning arms with anchored stakes, tie-downs, and de-flappers before you leave your rig for any length of time. The stakes should be buried securely into the ground, though in some desert terrain the loose sand and gravel soil will not provide a secure hold or the hardpan may prevent digging into it. You may need to put heavy sandbags or rocks on the anchors to prevent them pulling out or you may return to find the canvas flapping in the wind. Otherwise, you will have to roll up your awning every time you leave.
  • If you are boondocking in an area with non-designated campsites, try to position your rig so that one side faces into the prevailing wind, leaving the other side in the lee. When you leave, make sure all windows on the windy side are closed tightly—I repeat, tightly—since any openings to windward will allow blowing sand to enter and you will end up with a fine layer of sand over everything. Open louvered windows on the lee side for air circulation and to help reduce the inside temperature.
  • Towels hung out to dry, unanchored carpets or mats, aluminum camp chairs, and any other lightweight items, if not secured, may end up snagged in a mesquite tree or blown several dozen yards across the desert from a sudden wind.
  • Listen regularly to the weather reports for any unusual wind predictions—wind speeds over about 30 or 35 mph. This should signal your early return to secure your rig.


Coyote camping (boondocking) in the Southwestern deserts

You can find Bob Difley’s RVing e-books on Amazon Kindle.



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7 months ago

Unless we had no other choice, I would NEVER ever park broadside into the wind!

Leonard Rempel
7 months ago

Why not just recommend to pull in awnings? I do that even if I am gone for 30 minutes, as a wind can take these awnings in a heartbeat! Anything else is a bit of a gamble, IMHO.

bill bateman
7 months ago

Try the app “windy” … Works well for me and .. NEVER leave your awning out on windy conditions or when you aren’t there.

Lawrence Neely
7 months ago
Reply to  bill bateman

dust devils (thermals) will not show up in an app since they just pop up anywhere when the ground warms up

7 months ago

Word of caution on leaving awnings out in dust devil country.

A few years ago we spent the summer on the shores of the Great Salt Lake, which is prone to dust devils. I drove metal fence posts into the ground on each end of the awning and secured the ends of my awning to the post with chain and nylon straps. One evening as I was about 100 yards away a dust devil formed and engulfed the RV. In the time it took me to get to the coach the front strut of my awning had been torn from the side of the coach and was banging against the side! (The ends, however, were still securely attached to the fence posts!) The dust devil had traveled under the awning causing it to billow up subsequently ripping the arm from the side of the coach!

Needless to say we now NEVER leave the RV with the awning extended!

Bob M
7 months ago

I damage my awning and roller some how. It took 3 months to get a replacement. Now I have to wait for the RV service department to install it. Hopefully; that don’t take long.

John S
7 months ago

I find it remarkable that a suggestion to leave an awning deployed during your absence, despite efforts to secure it, would EVER be offered.

7 months ago

We roll up the awning any time we leave, even for a walk. Same thing at night. Even if the wind is not dangerous, the wind shaking the awning ruins my sleep.

CB Roberts
5 years ago

Almost all awning companies tell you in their owner’s manual to never leave your awning out. We saw how many RVs leave their awnings out and tied down all the time so we also chose to ignore the manufacturer. We had a shade hanging from the awning and staked it all down securely. A gust of wind came up and bent the metal frame of our awning (well known brand) and loosened bolts securing awning frame to motorhome. We have seen others have similar experience. One RV had the awning torn loose from the RV and blown up and over the roof. Read the owner’s manual and never leave your awning out and unattended – securing with stakes only make the damages worse.

5 years ago

Many weather apps have a notification setting that you can set to alert if strong winds are expected that day. You can set the alert for wind speed and the time of day to notify you. I have mine set to 7AM. Of course this isn’t failsafe and you should stil take precautions but does help to remind you before you leave.

Tommy Molnar
5 years ago

When we head off to do some exploring, we always (as in NEVER NOT) roll up our awning. Then we stow most everything else under the trailer. PITA, but it keeps our “stuff” from blowing away.

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