Setting up a tent is a pretty straight forward process. You feed the tent poles through the sleeves, insert the ends into the grommets at the bottom, and put on the rain fly. Easy! You’re all done setting up your tent in less than 5 minutes and you decide to go for a short hike before you hit the sack for the evening.
But all of the sudden, a big gust of wind picks up and carries your tent off to Neverland because at the rate that it’s flying away, it’ll never land! What was the thing that you missed in this scenario?
You missed staking out your tent! Now, don’t feel too terribly bad. Most people fail to stake out their tents properly as well. But why is that? Well, in short, it’s because they don’t see the benefits of staking out a tent or they simply don’t know-how. This guide will show you how to properly stake out your tent in a variety of situations so that you can rest assured that your tent setup won’t end up with Peter Pan and the rest of the Lost Boys!
Bring the Proper Supplies
The first thing that every beginner needs to know when staking out a tent is that bringing the proper supplies is crucial. This should be checked every time that you are getting ready to go, not when you have already left! The key things you need for staking out are:
A rubber mallet with a hook at the end
Rubber mallets are a requirement for staking out a tent or a tarp to the ground, especially for car campers. They are inexpensive and will help you with the installation of your stakes and the removal of them at the end of your trip.
The reason why you should go with a rubber mallet to help you drive in your stakes is that they will do the least amount of damage to your stakes. Using a rock or simply stepping on each stake to push them into the ground will likely result in you bending them or breaking the rock and hitting your hand.
By using a rubber mallet, you distribute the shock of the force that is generated when you strike your stake into the ground over the surface of the mallet. That way, you’ll be less likely to bend it or injure your hand!
The hook at the bottom of the mallet is a very handy tool to have because it makes removing the stakes at the end of your trip a breeze. All you do is hook the mallet around the end of the stake that is sticking out of the ground and pull up. Presto! You’ve removed all of your stakes, which means that you can finish packing up camp to head to the next campsite or to head home! Plus, you get to take home all of your stakes!
Several tent stakes
Now, I know that this might seem pretty obvious that you need to bring tent stakes but hear me out. Technically, all you really need to stake out a tent are 4 stakes: 1 for every corner of your tent. While that may be true, you’ll want to bring more than that!
Tents stakes can be a bit finicky to put into the ground and are commonly bent or broken in the process. By bringing several more tent pegs than you need to stake out the 4-corners of your tent, you’ll provide yourself with a bit of insurance that you’ll have all the stakes that you need to finish the job in case you do end up breaking one.
The other reason why you want to bring several stakes along is that you’re going to want to use them to help “guy out” your tent. Guying out simply means using the strings that are attached to your rainfly (from here on out, they will be referred to as corner guy lines) to make your rainfly tighter and more secure to the ground. This will help shed rain should you encounter any precipitation during your camping adventure as well as keep the rainfly from blowing too loudly at night when the wind picks up!
And finally, you’ll want to be sure that you have enough stakes to properly stake out any vestibules that your tent has. Vestibules are the spaces created on the outside of the tent by the rainfly. They provide a few more square feet of storage so that you can leave something like packs and shoes outside of your tent but keep them covered so that they don’t get wet should it rain during the night.
Know how to Tie Basic Knots
Now that you have all of the supplies that you need, it’s time to identify some critical knots that every camper should know in order to properly stake out their tents. This step is crucial to the guying out process, as the guy lines are the only parts that you will be tying knots on. Be sure to know how to properly tie the following knots before you go camping next time
This knot will be used to secure your guy line to your rainfly. Bowline knots are incredibly strong, but also easy to untie when you want to untie them.
Square knots are very useful when you need to link together multiple cords while maintaining as much strength in your cords as possible. This could come in handy if you’re in a spot where you need to extend the length of your guyline. A great example of this is if you’re camping on a beach and you need to stake out your tent by using a method known as a deadman anchor.
Deadman anchors are done by tying a few loops of cord around a rock or stick and then burying it in the sand. This provides plenty more security to your tent when camping on a sandy surface because it will ensure that your guy line won’t get pulled so easily out of the sand.
Remember this for staking out your tent: easy in, easy out. If it is easy to put into the ground, it will be easy to remove it. That’s the opposite of what you want to happen if the wind picks up!
If your tent doesn’t come with guy lines or you’ve broken a few guy lines, you’ll still be able to tie your guy lines to your stakes and put tension on them. A trucker’s hitch is easy to tie and will ensure that you can tighten or loosen your guy lines as much as you like, even if you’re missing a tensioner!
Proper Tent Stake Placement
Putting your stakes in the ground might seem like a straightforward task, but if done improperly, you might as well save yourself the work and not stake your tent out at all!
The best thing to remember is that you want each of your tent stakes to be angled so that the top of it is facing away from your tent body at a 45° angle. By doing that, you ensure that the loops at the bottom of the tent won’t slip over the tops of the stakes throughout your trip.
Do this for your vestibules and your guy lines as well. The tension put on the guy lines and tent loops by the stakes will keep your tent securely fastened to the ground.
You’ll also want to be sure that you drive the stake into the ground as far as it will go. While using your rubber mallet, tap gently on the top. Don’t feel like you have to drive it into the ground with one mallet strike! Doing a series of frequent light strikes will help ensure that your stake doesn’t get bent while you’re installing it.
Something to keep in mind with driving stakes into the ground is that you might encounter some serious resistance. If you’ve been working on getting a stake into the ground for a while and you’re not making any headway, try repositioning it. Rocks and roots are buried under the surface of the ground and can be obstacles for driving stakes into the ground.
While you don’t want your stake to slide easily into the ground, you also don’t want more than half of it sticking out of the ground. So if it’s too hard to get the stake driven into the ground, it’s ok to move
Use Your Guy Lines
Guy lines are one of the most underused and misused pieces of camping equipment. They come with almost every tent and are either not installed on the tent by the user because they don’t know how to do it or they simply don’t see the reason for using guyline at all.
Guy lines help secure your tent to the ground. The more stakes that you have going into the ground, the better! This will ensure that your tent won’t go anywhere, even in the event of extremely strong winds.
Attach your guy lines to each guy line loop that is sewn on your rainfly. The strongest knot that you can tie on your guy lines with is a bowline knot. Bowline knots are incredibly strong and won’t come untied until you decide that you’re ready to untie them.
Once you have tied your guy line onto the rainfly, be sure to use the tensioner that is provided with each guy line. Tensioners are often misused because people simply don’t understand how they work. The tensioner is the little plastic piece that comes on each guy line. The guy line passes through it through 2 holes. A knot at the end of the guy line keeps the tensioner on the line.
To use your tensioner, simply open up a large loop of the line at the bottom of the tensioner. From there, put that loop around the top of a stake. Then, use the tensioner to make your guy line as tight as you like by simultaneously pulling slack out of the guy line that is attached to the rainfly while you slide the tensioner towards your rainfly.
You want to repeat this process around each of your guy lines so that the tension is evenly distributed. Remember, the more guy lines you use, the more secure your tent will be to the ground. You’ll also benefit from a tight rainfly in that it’ll be very efficient at shedding rainwater off of the tent as well as keeping the rainfly from blowing around loudly at night!
As with staking out your tent body, be sure to set your stakes into the ground with the top of the stake angled 45° away from the tent body.
Common Errors to Watch For
The most common error that people do when staking out their tent (aside from skipping staking out their tent altogether) is not putting the tent stakes into the ground at the right angle. Remember, it’s important to get this right so that the loops that you stake your tent through don’t come off of the stakes.
After that, the error that most people make is not properly using their tensioners on the guy lines. A lot of people will simply tie their guy lines directly to the stakes. This prevents you from being able to put the exact amount of tension on your guylines, which can make your tent not as secure or effective at shedding rainwater.
If you’re in a pinch and you don’t have a rubber mallet to drive stakes into the ground, be sure to use a decent-sized rock to help you drive your stakes into the ground. Try your best to locate a rock that has a flat bottom so that you have plenty of surface area to work with. And instead of using the rock as a hammer, try to use it to help you press the stakes into the ground. By pressing, you can avoid accidentally breaking your rock on the stake or bending it.
Whenever possible, try to place heavy objects on top of your stakes. Rocks and logs work great here! The reason you want to do this step is that you will help ensure that no matter how hard the wind blows, your stakes will not come out. Be sure to put all of the rocks back where you found them when you’re done so that it doesn’t look like you moved anything at all!
- How do you secure a tent? You secure the tent by hammering in tent stakes to all four corners of a tent using a rock or a mallet. Combined with a good ground sheet, sand anchors, guylines to keep walls separated, you will have a robust tent covering any surface area
- What can I use instead of tent stakes? You can use any combination metal that is heavy and can be drilled/hammered into the tent site instead of tent stakes. Aluminum stakes are widely popular! Believe it or not even snow stakes are strong enough in cold weather.
- How many stakes do you need for a tent? Ordinarily, you only need one tent stake per corner of your tent. If you have 6 corners, you only need 6 pegs. However, you may want to carry twice that number in case of high winds or if one of your other stakes break.
- How do you stake a tent on hard ground? You may want to loosen the soil with some water and wait for a minute or two before hammering in your pegs in
- What other essentials or supplements are required for staking? Not for the staking itself but ensure you carry small pieces of tarps for carving out ventilation or any patchwork required, some tie down cord for use on pole, pine cones etc.
Now you have the knowledge of what to do to properly stake out a tent. This critical step in setting up camp can be the difference between you getting a good night’s sleep while staying dry and your tent getting blown off into the next county by a strong wind.
Remember to gather all of your supplies and practice staking out your tent at home before you decide to go camping. It is a skill to be practised often! Not only should you practice staking out your tent, but also practice all of the knots mentioned in this guide. Watch videos about how to tie them or get a friend to help show you how to tie each one efficiently. This will ensure that you have mastered this skill and will be able to use it no matter where you are!