9 best windbreaks that shield you from the elements while camping

·8-min read
We've tested a range of the windbreaks, screens and tarps in 40mph-plus winds on exposed hillsides (iStock)
We've tested a range of the windbreaks, screens and tarps in 40mph-plus winds on exposed hillsides (iStock)

A sturdy windbreak is an absolute essential for late-season camping – they’re so much more than just a flimsy sheet that you bring along to the seaside.

A windbreak can protect you from everything that camping in bad weather can throw at you – from sideways rain that soaks your fire pit and gusts that stop your stove from lighting to icy breezes that cut through your layers while you stargaze.

We never set off on a camping trip without one, so have tested a range of windbreaks, screens and tarps in 40mph-plus winds on exposed hillsides. But we’ve also trialled them in gentle summer breezes, and on family trips where speed of set up and take down (for the inevitable rush to the beach on a nice day) is the priority over weather resistance.

The kind of windbreak or windscreen you need depends on your camping set-up: for large scale family camping, with multiple tents, cars or caravans, and where you know you’ll stay on one pitch for a while, it’s worth investing in one of the larger, pricier options.

This season, many newer models have air poles rather than conventional metal poles. This means you need a pump, but you also don’t need to worry about anything snapping, and they inflate quickly and in one go – so there’s less risk of anything blowing away while you scramble to set up.

For smaller pitches and fewer tents, look for a more traditional multi-panel, poled screen. These are robust, dependable and portable; unless you expect to take them anywhere really adventurous, don’t worry about specs like hydrostatic head or denier. Even basic polyester will make a solid difference in a cold wind.

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There are even options for hikers, bikers and ultralightweight travellers: one of our favourite windbreaks is a trusty Decathlon tarp that stows down into an ordinary pack. The smallest screen we tested was the size of a gas stove, which was just the job if you’re struggling to get the kettle going in strong winds.

Rigging most windbreaks is fairly simple, but there are a few tips to bear in mind for tarps. Look for reinforced loops and guy ropes, which will help you fix the tarp to the strongest, steady point – your car, for example, or trekking poles in an emergency. In very high winds rig it low to the ground and use extra tent pegs to keep it there – the last thing you want is the sound of billowing canvas keeping you awake when you're snug and warm in your tent.

The best windbreaks for 2021 are:

  • Best overall – Outwell windscreen air: £389.99, Outwell.com

  • Best for providing shelter – Quechua tarp fresh: £29.99, Decathlon.co.uk

  • Best lightweight design – Robens windshield: £16, Robens.de

  • Best for easy set up – Easy Camp windscreen: £46.99, Easycamp.com

  • Best inflatable windbreak – Vango airbeam modular windbreak: £255, Vango.co.uk

  • Best for beach days – Olpro beach huts windbreak: £35, Olproshop.com

  • Best for day trips – Argos three section windbreak: £15, Argos.co.uk

  • Best for a small pitch – Regatta camping windbreak: £21.99, Outdoorcampingdirect.uk

  • Best for bivvying – Rab siltarp 1: £64.99, Ellis-brigham.com

Outwell windscreen air

Best: Overall

The ultimate windscreen if your camping set-up tends to sprawl away from your tent or caravan. This huge, sturdy windbreak can shield your cooking area, lounging area and fire pit in one go. It’s incredibly easy to set up thanks to the air poles (you’ll need a pump for these), although – at 8m long – it’s a two-person job. It withstood moderate wind with ease in our testing. The guy lines are hefty straps and could handle much worse conditions than the usual late summer British weather. Because you can pitch it in a semi-circular shape, a bit like a roof-less yurt, it provides wrap-around protection from bad weather and real warmth. Our favourite feature was the mesh window: if conditions turn sour, at least you can still enjoy a bit of a view. Perfect for large groups and families, caravans and car campers.

Buy now £389.00, Outwell.com

Quechua tarp fresh

Best: For providing overhead shelter

This unassuming tarp has saved many of our camping trips from becoming disasters. Decathlon says it can give you up to 8sqm of sheltered space: strung to an awning or tent, we’ve managed more than that. If you want to create a whole shelter, it comes with poles and straps, but the most effective way to use it as a windscreen is to fasten it vertically like a shield, attached to something sturdy (like your car or a strong tent). Best of all it is light and small (about 1kg without the poles), so you can bring it along for emergencies without sacrificing a lot of space.

Buy now £29.99, Decathlon.co.uk

Robens windshield

Best: Lightweight design

Don’t rule out packing a windshield if you’re a lightweight camper: a small, foldable screen like this one can rescue your dinner or your morning cup of coffee. Small enough to fit in the pocket of your rucksack, it’s still tall enough to shield a medium-height gas stove and is a lifesaver in strong winds. It’s much tougher and more durable than the foil shields many stoves come with, and it weighs less than 2kg. Brilliant for hiking or bike packing in bad weather or if you’re spendinb the night somewhere exposed.

Buy now £16.00, Robens.de

Easy Camp windscreen

Best: For easy set up

A lightweight windscreen with excellent coverage, this tall fence-like windshield is also a great way to mark the edge of your site (good for wandering kids) and gives you have a bit of extra privacy. It’s easy to put up and take down and perfectly fine for moderate weather, although it isn’t designed for full-on gale-force winds. At 5m long, it’s enough protection for your camp kitchen or to screen the wind from your fire pit.

Buy now £46.99, Easycamp.com

Vango airbeam modular windbreak

Best: Inflatable windbreak

A lovely, lightweight but sturdy screen that’s ideal for smaller campsites. The three tall panels – with a strip of mesh window on each – are really easy to mould to your site, allowing you to create a horseshoe shape or a long fence, depending on your needs and the weather. We found this was perfect for two tents and a central cooking/living area, or one larger car/caravan pitch – but if you want a little more sheltered space, you can buy extra panels to clip on.

Buy now £255.00, Vango.co.uk

Olpro beach huts windbreak

Best: For beach days

Eye-catching, gorgeously vintage and easy to set up and take down, Olpro does our favourite colourful, cheerful camping windbreaks. Think English seaside: the fabric, a strong polyester, is stretched across wooden, steel tipped poles to create a classic but effective windscreen. It isn’t designed for super strong wind, but it is perfectly sturdy for seasonal camping. At almost 5m in length, it will shield even the biggest family campsite.

Buy now £35.00, Olproshop.com

Argos three section windbreak

Best: For day trips

A simple, lightweight and inexpensive windbreak, this is perfect for camping trips that might involve an afternoon at the seaside. The three-panel screen (in brilliantly retro red, white and blue stripes) is good for gentle gusts, a little bit of privacy around your site, or a bit of extra protection for your camp kitchen. It packs down to a carry-able size and is incredibly easy to put up or take down, making it ideal for day trips where it can double as a shade or changing area.

Buy now £15.00, Argos.co.uk

Regatta camping windbreak

Best: For a small pitch

We were really impressed by this smaller windbreak, which is ideal for a single tent or a smaller pitch in busy season. The two panels, which open up to about 2.5m, can stand as a fence or at a right angle, making it great at protecting your cooking or living area from gusts, or to add a little extra protection to your tent in bad weather. The guy ropes are sturdy, and the material is remarkably tough and waterproof – don’t be fooled by the price, this little screen can handle extremely tough weather. While currently out of stock, you can sign up to be notified for when it’s back.

Buy now £21.99, Outdoorcampingdirect.uk

Rab siltarp 1

Best: For bivvying

The ultimate lightweight, rugged tarp for hiking and biking adventures. This super tough tarp is designed to shelter you while you’re bivvying, so it’s more than up to the task of shielding your cooking pots from a storm. It weighs in at just under 220g and comes with webbing loops and reinforced guy points that mean you can rig it to anything from a tree to a trekking pole, in any iteration you need. When properly deployed, it will provide a mighty 40sqft of shelter. It packs down small into its stuff sack, so is easy to bring along if the weather looks unsettled.

Buy now £64.99, Ellis-brigham.com

The verdict: Windbreaks

Outwell’s windscreen air is a full-blown, weatherproof shelter that can shield even the largest campsite. At the other end of the scale, the endlessly versatile Quechua tarp fresh is brilliant in an emergency.

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For the latest discounts on windbreaks and other camping equipment offers, try the links below:

For a brilliant night’s sleep while you’re camping, read our review of the best air beds

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