How To Put A Dome Tent By Yourself (Simpler Than You Probably Thought!)

How To Put A Dome Tent By Yourself

Dome tents are some of the most common styles of tents that are on the market. You can find them just about anywhere! REI, Amazon, Target, and Walmart all carry and sell tons of dome tents every year. So, chances are, you’ll end up setting up a dome tent or two if you camp regularly!

While it’s best to set up a dome tent with more than one person, it is possible to do it solo! In order to set up a dome tent by yourself, you have to have a lot of patience and the right strategy. You can definitely work on your patience by yourself, but for more on strategy, keep reading!

Select the Right Location

When you go camping, you have a lot of choices for where to set up your tent. There are a few locations that you should consider when deciding on where to go camping that will help you make the right decision on where to camp based on your skill level and comfortability.

Paid Campground

Paid campgrounds are the best places for beginner campers to set up their tents. They are usually in well-developed national and state parks and have designated areas for setting up your tent.

These designated areas are fantastic because they usually are leveled out, which makes your job of managing your campsite much easier. They are also usually elevated, which is great for keeping potential rainwater from pooling around your tent and getting you wet!

Aside from being great spots for setting up dome tents, they usually have restrooms that have running water and sometimes showers. This can be very attractive to many campers, especially beginners or those who plan on camping for many days in a row.

A big con for paid campgrounds is that they tend to get busy quickly. Most paid campgrounds have an online reservation system that is used to book sites. Depending on the location and time of year that you plan on camping, you may find that all of the sites are booked up! Plus, camping in paid campgrounds can get a little pricy after a few nights due to the maintenance that needs to go into keeping them nice.

Paid campgrounds really are best for those who are new to setting up dome tents and new to camping in general. If you can afford to spend a few nights at one, paid campgrounds are a great choice. Just book your spot as early as you can!

Primitive Paid Campground

Primitive paid campgrounds are the next best place for beginners to set up a dome tent. They are great because they have a lot of the same campsite features that a paid campground does. They have established sites that are strategically planned to deal with thousands of users every year. Each site comes with a fire ring and a picnic table, making it easy to have a nice dinner by a campfire. 

The main differences between paid campgrounds and primitive paid campgrounds are in quality of restroom and price. 

Vault toilets are the norm at primitive paid campgrounds. There isn’t any running water at the campground, so the way that human waste is managed is through the use of vault toilets. This can be a bit jarring for some, so keep in mind what your comfort level is with using vault toilets.

Price is the next area that primitive campgrounds differ in. Due to the lack of maintenance that needs to go into the restrooms, primitive campgrounds are often much less expensive than normal paid campgrounds. If you’re on a budget, but you still want to camp in an established campground, primitive campgrounds will help you accomplish those goals! 

Dispersed Camping

The most advanced campers should attempt dispersed camping. If you consider yourself an expert at setting up tents and managing dispersed sites, this style is for you! What makes dispersed camping unique is that the campsites are not established, and you have no facilities nearby. It’s almost like stepping back in time to the days of when civilization didn’t exist yet!

Dispersed camping has many benefits over camping in a campground. The first for many campers is that they are uncrowded! Dispersed camping usually is allowed on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and US Forest Service land, which is plentiful all over the western US. For that reason, there are tons of areas to go dispersed camping, which means that you can really get away from people if you’d like to.

In addition to avoiding crowds, dispersed campers enjoy another benefit over using campgrounds and that is saving money. Dispersed camping is absolutely free! You don’t need to pay any fees in order to camp on BLM or US Forest Service land. 

Pay special attention to where you’re allowed to camp in those areas though. Visit the land management agency website for the area that you are planning on camping prior to going so that you can be sure that you’ll be allowed to set up a dispersed campsite. That will help you avoid potential fines for setting up where you aren’t supposed to!

With all of the benefits of dispersed camping, you may be wondering what the downsides are and why it’s best if advanced campers should be the only ones to do this style of camping. The biggest reasons are that you have to know how to properly manage your campsite and be comfortable with going to the bathroom outside.

Campsite management is a skill that most beginners don’t quite have down yet. One of the biggest issues that dispersed campers need to deal with is drainage. If you don’t set up in a way that will encourage rainwater to move away from your tent, you’re going to have a bad time!

And using the bathroom outside may not be too comfortable for people who aren’t used to it. Lack of privacy and having to deal with human waste can be enough to make beginners long for a vault toilet! Assess your comfort level with this subject before going dispersed camping.

Find the Best Spot in that Location

Find the Best Spot in that Location

Now that you have decided on what campground style you are comfortable with using, it’s time to find the best site within that campground! There are a few things to consider when selecting a spot.

Distance from a water source

In general, you want to camp at least 100 feet away from a water source. This includes ponds, lakes, streams, creeks, and rivers. The reason why is twofold. 

Staying at least 100 feet away from a water source will ensure that you stay dry in the event of a flood during a rainstorm. You’ll also avoid getting too much condensation inside of your tent during the night and in the morning!

The second is that by camping at least 100 feet away from a water source, you’ll prevent harmful erosion from happening that will end up expanding the banks of that water source and causing the destruction of nearby campsites over time.

Trees nearby

Nearby trees can offer shade, but also danger. When selecting your site, keep in mind that if a tree has a snag in its branches, that snag can likely fall on top of you! A snag is a dead branch in a tree that has been broken off but is suspended in the tree by other branches. Strong winds can knock snags out of the branches. If you’re under that snag when it falls, you can get seriously injured or even die! 

Most paid campgrounds are good about clearing snags out of trees, but with dispersed camping, be sure to scout out your campsite for any snags that might be around before pitching your tent for the night.

How level is the site

If you can help it, try to get a campsite that has a slight slope. The reason that you want a slight slope and not a completely level campsite is that when it rains, that slope will help shed rainwater away from your site without you having to dig a drainage trench around your tent. 

However, you also don’t want to get a campsite that has a steep slope as you’ll likely end up rolling around on your sleeping pad throughout the night!

Rocks in the site

Keep an eye out for rocks. While you may be able to clear a few, some rocks that you can see poking out of the ground may be only the tips of deeply buried boulders that you can do nothing about. Rocks can be very uncomfortable to sleep on and they can also make it difficult to stake down your tent properly.

Campsite Management

Campsite Management

Now that you have found and claimed the perfect spot, it’s time to manage your site before you begin setting up your dome tent! Start by walking around the site that you plan on setting your tent up on. This will do two things:

  • It will clear out any bugs like ticks and spiders from the site.
  • It will allow you to look around and feel out any rocks and how level the site is.

After you have done your initial inspection, you can start digging a small drainage trench around the area that you plan on setting up your tent. You don’t need to dig a deep trench, only just deep enough to encourage water to run into it and out a drain that leads the water away from your tent. Please, please, please be sure to fill this in when you go!

Another area that you may consider digging out is an area for where you plan on sleeping. Back sleepers and side sleepers can benefit from this, because it will allow you to set up a small pocket in the ground where you can rest your hips. By doing this, you’ll be able to sleep with your spine aligned, which will be much more comfortable through the night. Again, any holes that you dig when setting up your campsite should be filled in when you leave!

Set a Good Foundation

Set a Good Foundation

The next step in setting up a dome tent by yourself is to set a good foundation for your tent before you begin laying out each piece. This step is skipped by most because a lot of people don’t see the benefits of doing this!

Laying out a ground cloth or footprint for your tent is essential for setting up a dome tent because it protects the bottom of your tent from the abrasive rocks and dirt underneath. Your tent floor can be easily torn by these rocks over time, so having a piece of fabric that guards it from abrasions will help extend the life of your tent.

Plus, you’ll keep the bottom of your tent from getting wet from condensation, which in turn will keep you dry!

Lay Every Part of the Tent Out

Lay Every Part of the Tent Out

Another benefit of using a ground cloth or footprint is that it gives you a space to lay out all of your tent while keeping it from getting dirty. Lay out the tent body, the rainfly, the poles, and the stakes so you have accountability over each part.

Start putting your tent poles together. Place your tent into position by having the mesh top facing up. Set stakes at all of the corners of your tent to make it easier to push them into the ground.

Give Your Tent Structure

Give Your Tent Structure

Now that you have effectively accounted for each piece of your tent, it’s time to start setting it up. You’ll end up using two different techniques for setting up your tent, depending on the style of poles and style of tent you have.

There are two main styles of dome tents. The style to uses sleeves to retain the tent poles and the style that uses clips.

With sleeve style tents, you’ll start by inserting your tent pole into one end of the sleeve. Carefully push the pole into the sleeve as you slowly work it through the material. Be careful not to jam it through. If you’re feeling a lot of resistance when you’re sliding your tent pole through the sleeve, back it out and try again. If you try jamming it through, you run the risk of tearing the sleeve, which can ruin your tent!

Once you have effectively run a pole through the sleeve, you’ll want to insert both ends into the gromets at the corners of each side of the tent to secure your poles. 

Repeat this procedure for the other tent pole.

If your tent has clips to retain the tent poles, you’ll start setting up your tent by plugging the ends of your poles into the gromets at the corners of your tent first. 

Once you have done that, simply attach the clips of your tent body to the poles and voila! You have successfully set up your tent body!

Move the Tent to Optimum Position

Move the Tent to Optimum Position

One of the best features of dome tents is that they are free standing tents. This means that they don’t depend on being staked out to give them structure. Because of this feature, you can set up a tent and move it around after it’s been set up with ease.

You’ll want to position your tent so that the door is facing away from the wind. To find out which direction the wind is blowing, take a small handful of dirt or dry leaves and drop it from about shoulder level. Pay attention to which direction the dirt or leaves blows. Face your tent door in the direction that it blows. 

The reason why you want to do this step is that it will keep debris from being blown into your tent every time that you open the door. It’ll keep the inside of your tent nice and clean and save you time in clean up when it’s time to go home!

Stake it Down!

Stake it Down

Once you have your tent in the optimal position, it’s time to secure it to the ground with stakes. Staking out your tent is a critical step in setting it up, because if you don’t you run the risk of it getting blown away! This can be a real problem, especially if you need to get into it quickly in the event of a storm.

Start staking your tent by picking one corner to stake out. Once that stake is in the ground, go to the opposite corner and stake that side down. You’ll want to pull the tent so that it’s relatively tight, but not too tight. This will take practice, so don’t be afraid of taking stakes out of the ground to reposition until you get it right. 

Repeat with the other corners and presto, you’ve secured your tent to the ground!

Secure it to the Ground with Guy Lines

Secure it to the Ground with Guy Lines

Now onto the final step: putting on the rainfly and securing it to the ground with guy lines. Start setting your rainfly up on top of the tent. If you dome tent has vestibules, position them so that they are in front of the doors. A lot of tents have the rainfly buckles color coded so that they can easily be attached to the tent. Pay attention to the colors and where the vestibule materials are on your rainfly to properly install it.

Once your rainfly is on your tent, use the guy lines to secure the rainfly to the ground. Guy lines are the pieces of string that often come attached to the rainfly. Most people don’t use them, because they don’t know their benefits or how to properly secure them to the ground.

Guy lines are great because they help provide your tent with extra rigidity, with can help shed rain much more efficiently. Plus, they help keep the rainfly from flapping around in the wind, which is great for getting a good night’s sleep.

To properly guy out your tent, use the tensioners. Create a loop in the bottom tensioner and then string it around a stake. Drive the stake into the ground and slide the tensioner towards the tent body. Slide it until you get your desired level of tension and repeat across all of your other guy lines.

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

Just like that, you’ve successfully set up a dome tent by yourself! You now know how to select the right campsite for your comfort and skill level. You also know how to set up that site so that you can fully enjoy your camping trip no matter what the weather throws at you. And finally, you know how to set up your tent so that it is able to withstand any weather that you encounter on your trip. 

Where will you set up your tent this summer?

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Lisa Hayden-Matthews

Lisa Hayden-Matthews

An avid Skier, bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.

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