Your tent collapsed at the lightest wind?
An accident almost every camper experienced as a beginner.
Yet, if you’re camping with friends, they’ll make sure it’s not forgotten.
One time, I didn’t stake one side down well enough, and the guy rope came loose as the wind picked up. I fixed it in a minute, but for years to come I was known as the one that doesn’t know how to stake a tent.
When I said that would never happen again, I meant business.
So I’ve researched all there is to know about staking a tent the right way, to help you get it right the first time.
Let’s dive right in!
Table of Contents
9 Tips For Staking A Tent Like A Pro
Staking a tent is not brain surgery, but there are a few tricks that differentiate experienced campers from beginners.
Here are the nine tips that will help you stake a tent like you’ve done it a million times before.
Choose A Suitable Location
Don’t pitch your tent on the first spot you step onto.
You want to find the perfect spot with the best type of soil around. For instance, you’ll stake a tent in place much easier on hard soil than on sand.
What’s more, you don’t want any hard rocks or tree roots around. Not only can they make it harder to hammer down stakes, they can also make for a pretty uncomfortable surface to sleep on.
When picking the perfect spot to pitch your tent, take natural windbreaks into consideration. They’ll help keep your tent staked in windy weather. If you can’t find a natural windbreak, you can use tree branches to make one.
Bushes, trees, large rocks – all of these can help protect you from the wind.
If you own an old canvas army tent, then you know that guylines are an essential piece of equipment. When tied to stakes, they’re what allows the tent to keep its shape.
In the case of a freestanding tent, guylines are generally optional. But if you’re looking for extra stability during windy conditions, they are your best friend.
And not only that!
If you have a double-walled tent – the kind with the mesh walls and a rain fly – guylines help with providing better airflow.
See those loops on your tent or rain fly?
They’re called guyout points. One end of your guylines goes onto these loops, and the other around your stakes. Usually, tents come with more guyout points than guylines, so you can choose where you want to tie them.
If it’s windy, you should tie the guylines to the upwind side of the tent, at the very least. But ideally, you want to stabilize each side equally. After all, the wind changes direction in an instant.
To attach a guyline to the loop, you need to make a secure knot – one that won’t untie under pressure. For this, I’d recommend a taut line hitch. It’s easy to tie and untie, and it’s adjustable.
Choose The Stakes According To The Surface
Nowadays, most tents come with standard shepherd’s hook stakes.
You can compare them to all-season tires. That means they’re designed to perform well in different conditions and on different types of soil.
But, it goes without saying that winter and summer tires will perform even better during the seasons they’re designed for.
Well, the same goes for stakes. They come in different designs for different seasons.
Stakes designed for soft soil, like snow or sand stakes, are usually wide, V or U-shaped, and feature holes along the length that add more stability.
For hard soil, on the other hand, your best options are nailhead stakes that you can hammer into the ground. Just make sure they’re no less than a ¼ inch in diameter, or else they’ll bend as soon as they encounter a rock.
If storage space is not a problem, pack both types of stakes, just to be sure. You never know what kind of soil you’ll encounter on your camping trip. It’s always best to be prepared for different situations.
Hammer The Stakes All The Way In
To make the best use of your tent stakes, hammer them all the way into the ground.
Leave just enough to be able to take them out at the end of your camping trip. When they’re all the way in, no strong wind can bend them and take them out of the soil.
When I say hammer the stakes down, I mean it literally.
A rubber mallet should be on your camping gear list, but if it isn’t, opt for a flat rock or a thick piece of wood.
I say this because you might be tempted to use your foot to drive the stakes into the ground.
This is a recipe for disaster.
Either you’ll bend your stakes, or they’ll act like a shovel and dig out the soil, thus reducing their holding power.
Drive Them In Vertically
One piece of advice that camping enthusiasts love to pass on to newbie campers is to drive the stakes in at an angle.
To most of us, it made sense and we blindly followed it.
But, it seems we were wrong.
When a tent stake gets hammered straight into the ground, it has a strong holding power regardless of the direction the wind blows. It maximizes the soil wedge that provides resistance against the tent stake.
To be honest, I was quite skeptical about this. But after seeing it in action, I never went back to staking at the good ol’ 45 degree angle.
More Is Better
Not sure the amount of stakes you’ve used is going to be enough to keep your tent secure?
Just add a few more.
They don’t really take up much space around your tent, so packing extra stakes won’t be a nuisance.
Besides, it only takes you a few minutes more to drive them in or take them out of the ground.
Face Stake Hooks Away
Most stakes on the market feature a hook resembling the letter J. While it seems self-explanatory, I’ll address this just in case – the hook should face away from the tent.
As you know, tents move in the wind. And as they move, so do the guylines they’re connected to the stakes with. If a stake hook is pointed towards the tent, the guyline can easily slip off in the slightest breeze. As a result, you’re left with a floppy tent side.
Reinforce Weak Stakes
Depending on the soil, your stakes might not be as sturdy as you’d want.
If there are rocks nearby, these can prove to be quite helpful. If you place a heavy stone over your tent stake, there’s no wind strong enough to move it.
What’s more, you can replace tent stakes with stones altogether.
On really rocky ground, staking is not an option. In that case, you can place heavy stones on all the corners of your tent.
Trust me, a 25 pound rock can hold your tent in place even better than your standard stakes would.
There’s another way you can use stones as an alternative to staking.
For this, you’ll need both a smaller and a larger rock.
Take your guyline and tie a loop around a smaller rock. Position it on the ground in a way that keeps the guyline taut.
Then, take a large rock and place it on the guyline right before the point where it’s tied around the small rock. That will work as an anchor and keep it secure.
Create Equal Tension
When staking out the corners of your tent, you need to make sure all sides are at equal tension, otherwise it won’t be very sturdy.
Here’s what I mean:
Unpack your tent and spread it on the ground. Imagine there’s a letter X connecting opposite corners of the tent. Those imaginary lines basically show you the direction in which you should pull the guylines.
To keep the tension uniform, the order in which you stake the tent corners matters.
Start with staking whichever corner you want. Next, go to the opposite side and pull the tent until it’s taut. Then, stake that corner.
Repeat this with the other 2 corners.
After going through these tent staking tips, there are probably still some things you’re wondering about.
In this section, I’ll answer some of the most common questions that might’ve popped into your head.
How long should tent stakes be?
Standard tent stakes are 6 inches long.
They perform well on different types of soil. But obviously, the longer the stake, the more holding power it has. So if you’re camping on soft ground like sand, consider bringing longer stakes.
Do you need to stake a tent?
In case there’s no wind, you might get away without them. But I would advise against that.
If you leave your tent unattended and it starts blowing, there’s a possibility of your stuff flying away.
Can you secure a tent without stakes?
You can, but it requires a little more work.
You can use heavy things like stones or wood logs to keep your tent in place.
What’s more, you might be able to find trees positioned in such a way that they allow you to tie a few tent corners to them with guy lines.
A poorly staked tent can be a real downer on any camping trip.
But doing it right is as easy as ABC.
So now that you know the science behind tent staking, there’s no way your tent will budge – even in high wind.