Improperly staked tents are one of the most common issues that beginner campers have, and it can quickly ruin your trip if you encounter windy conditions. Fortunately, staking a tent properly is a relatively easy task that you should have no trouble doing after reading this article and a bit of practice.
In this article, we give you a step-by-step guide to staking a tent correctly, as well as some additional tips that will have you prepared for any situation.
Materials You’ll Need
Everything you need to stake a camping tent should already be included with your gear bag, but here is a short list of things you’ll need in case you’re missing something.
A rubber mallet or hammer
Tent stakes (sometimes called tent pegs)
Guy lines or rope
How to Stake a Tent – Step-by-Step Guide
While it’s not too hard to stake a tent, it can be tough to figure out if you’re still a beginner camper or haven’t done it in a while. Below is a step-by-step guide that will have you staking like an experienced camper right away.
1. Choose a Flat and Clear Location
Choosing the right campsite goes far beyond just staking your tent, and can make or break your trip. It’s the ground you sleep on and where you’ll be spending most of your time.
When you arrive where you’re camping, take the time to scout out a clear, flat spot to pitch your tent. It will ideally have dense soil, which makes it easier for stakes to hold themselves in, and minimal rocks or roots that might get in the way of your tent stakes.
Additionally, make sure you clear away any sticks or rocks under your tent before you pitch it. They can make sleeping uncomfortable and damage your tent floor.
2. Lay Out Your Tent and Tie Guy Lines
Once you pick a perfect spot, you should lay out the base of the tent over where you intend to camp. Once it has been spread out, find the anchor points. There will at least be one on each corner of the tent, but others have extra loops in areas like the rain fly.
Next, tie your guy lines to each one of the corner loops using a tight knot. Even if the wind might only be coming from one side, you never know when it might change and this will keep your tent stable no matter what.
3. Set Up Stakes at 45-Degree Angle From the Tent
Once your guy ropes are ready, it’s time to set up your stakes. In terms of their actual location, you’ll want to place tent stakes at approximately a 45-degree angle from your tent walls.
Put more simply, you should extend each guy line out directly from the tip of your tent corners, and place the stakes around where they end. This will ensure they’re out of the way of your tent door and you won’t trip on them at night.
3. Drive Stakes Vertically
Once you’ve chosen good locations for each tent stake, you can drive them into the ground. While some advice online suggests staking at a slight angle away from your tent, hammering them straight into the ground will give them better wind resistance and holding power.
Here are a couple of tips for inserting your stakes properly:
Use your hammer or mallet rather than your foot. The tent stakes will go in straighter this way and be less likely to break. If you don’t have a mallet, then a large rock will do.
Hammer each tent stake in all the way. The deeper they go, the more stable they will be.
4. Face Hooks Away From Your Tent
Standard tent stakes are designed with a hook on the top. When you drive them into the ground, this hook should face away from your tent.
This gives your guy rope some extra stability on the hook and makes sure that it won’t slip off if it gets windy. It will also increase tension on the rope itself, which will help maximize the stability of the tent, improve waterproofing, and increase the space inside.
5. Secure Stakes With Guy Lines and Tighten
With your stakes placed in the proper position, you can slip your guy lines over each tent peg. Depending on the distance you placed your stakes away, the guy lines might not be long enough or could be a bit too loose.
To fix this problem, you should use the guy line runners (the small plastic piece) to adjust the tension. A well-secured rope will be very tight but shouldn’t pull the stake out of the ground.
6. Check Tent Stability and Adjust if Necessary
If you followed the steps above, everything should be fine, but it’s never a bad idea to make a final check of your tent stakes afterward.
Walk around the tent and make sure all of the stakes are hammered in completely for maximum holding power. See if there are any loose ropes on uneven pressure being applied, and make adjustments if so.
Other Tent Staking Tips
The guide above will set you up to stake a tent well in almost any situation, but here are some tips that will get you more prepared than even the most experienced campers.
Pick The Right Tent Stakes
The average camping tent today comes with shepherd’s hook stakes. These are versatile stakes designed to work in most conditions, but they aren’t always the best choice.
If you’re camping on soft soil, specially-made sand or snow stakes will hold better on the weaker ground. These are typically designed to be much wider than a typical tent stake and have other design additions for increased stability.
On the other hand, a narrower stake is a good choice for extra hard or frozen ground. They’ll be much easier to nail in compared to a normal tent peg.
Know Your Environment
Knowing the type of ground you’re going to camp on is critical for choosing the right stake, but there are also a few other important things to remember if you’re not on standard dirt and grass.
Extra Soft Ground
As mentioned, if you’re camping on soft ground, such as sandy soil at the beach or deep snow, then bring tent stakes designed for that environment.
When you’re nailing in the stakes, it can help to use your hand or foot to pack in the soil around the stakes. This will make it denser and help it stay in the ground.
Extra Hard Ground
For hard soil, beyond bringing narrow tent stakes you should be especially careful of rocky ground.
Narrower tent stakes are much more vulnerable to breaking, and they might do just that if they hit a rock on the ground. Be a bit more cautious when nailing the stakes in, and take extra care to clear the area before you do.
Pack Extra Stakes Just in Case
Even high-quality stakes break occasionally, so it’s always a good idea to have an extra or two in your bag. They take up next to no space and most tents even come with extras included.
The last thing you want is for a strong wind to blow down your tent since you didn’t even bring enough stakes to secure your corners.
Pack a Stake Puller or Pliers
While hammering every tent stake in all the way is great for wind resistance and stability, it can make it hard to remove them once your trip ends.
A stake puller is a great piece of camping gear that makes it easy to take out even the most deeply wedged stakes.
Practice Before Camping
Lastly, a little practice before you go camping, especially if you’ve never staked a tent before, goes a long way.
Take your tent out to your backyard or a nearby park and set it up completely. You’ll feel much more confident doing it on your next trip once you have a little experience.
Why a Properly Staked Tent is Important
While everyone knows that a poorly staked tent can result in it blowing down from a gust of wind, there are more benefits than just that to properly staking your tent.
Here are a few other reasons to learn how to stake a tent well:
More interior space. Proper staking will stretch out the walls and body of your tent to their natural levels instead of being saggy and wrinkled. This creates more space inside for you.
Better wind resistance. In addition to holding your tent up against gusts of wind, staking will stop the fabric on the body from flapping all over, which can be a huge annoyance.
Improved waterproofing. Your tent walls and rain fly will be tauter when you stake your tent correctly. This will allow the water to roll off like it’s meant to instead of collecting and soaking into the body.
Staking a tent might look difficult at first, but if you give it a little practice and follow the written directions, then it’s a breeze. Even better, staking your tent properly will greatly increase its stability and give you a better experience on your next camping trip.
If you have any other tent staking tips, make sure to let us know in the comments below. Happy camping!
Tents generally do need stakes to remain stable and upright. While freestanding tents do exist, they’re more made for situations where staking is difficult or impossible.
To make basic homemade stakes, you’ll need wood (from tree branches or a hardware store) and a saw. You’ll want to cut each stake down to size, make sharp points, and a divot to tie your ropes too.
Another option is to use heavy rocks as a substitute for stakes. While not as effective, they can hold down the corners of your tent.
Carl is a content writer for The Camping Buddy, specializing in informational camping articles and product reviews. Carl has been a freelance writer for outdoor news sites while spending his time backpacking across the world. His favorite camping spot is Malaekahana Beach in Hawaii.