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Best Tent Stakes and How to Use Them
Before we got our roof top tent, we loved camping in this amazing 6 person tent from The Northface. Whether we were trying to find the best tent stakes for our ground tent or for our iKamper Annex, we have found these simple tricks help us ensure our tents stay secure.
The Basics: How to Use Tent Stakes
Before we get to our top picks for the best tent stakes, let’s start with how to use them. Whatever tent you use probably came with included tent stakes. Those tent pegs work, most likely, but there are better stakes. When it comes to how to stake a tent correctly, better equipment does a better job. We’ll address tent pegs a little more in-depth later.
Pick Out the Right Ground
Most people get this, but novice campers sometimes fail to consider what the ground they’re setting up on might feel like when laying on it. Take a few minutes to decide where, exactly, you want your tent. Look at the ground, consider the windbreak possibilities, and think about shade options if there are trees around.
Having trees nearby means roots, and being outside on pretty much any unpaved surface means rocks.
You don’t want to sleep on your in-laws’ pull-out couch because that bar digs into your back. A tree root will do the same thing, but you’ll have only yourself to blame because you’re the one who put the tent on top of it.
The same goes for rocks. Particularly rocky ground can have large, buried rocks that stick up just above the surface. These rocks don’t provide back support, and they do not contribute to you getting a good night’s sleep. Pay attention to the place you pitch!
“Sweep” the Area Where Your Tent Will Sit
Nobody expects you to pack a broom, but you should take the time to pick up any debris on the ground where you’re going to camp. The “Princess and the Pea” featured a girl unable to sleep because something was under her stack of mattresses.
You probably aren’t as delicate as she was, but you also are unlikely to be camping on a pile of mattresses, so gravel, a pinecone, or the errant acorn or two can make you miserable overnight. Take a few minutes before unrolling your tent to clean that stuff up. You’re not looking to sweep dirt away, just the bigger debris.
Stake at an Angle
Staking at an angle really only applies to tents with guylines. On your more basic tents with no rainfly or extra flaps and are freestanding, you usually find loops around the base through which you drive the tent stakes.
But if your tent is not freestanding, has ventilation flaps, or comes with any number of other features, it will have guylines — cords that tie off to anchor the flap or tent to the ground.
These provide tension, and the more tension you apply to your tent, the more stable it is.
Guylines should come off your tent at a 45-degree angle, so the angles of your guylines make an “X” through the planes of your tent.
Staking at this angle allows you to apply the most tension possible across the entire structure. Again, more tension equals more stability, and if those lines support your roof, more tension means more room inside, so that’s a bonus.
Use a Tool to Hammer the Tent Stakes into the Ground
Do not use your foot. Do not use the heel of your palm. Use a rubber mallet, a hammer, a hatchet, even a heavy rock you found when you were sweeping up the area before you unrolled your tent.
First of all, if you try to stomp the tent pegs into the ground, you apply uneven pressure and run the risk of bending them. Tent pegs that are bent are worthless because they won’t hold as well in the ground.
Second, trying to force a tent stake into the ground with your hand will be painful. Plus, it applies the same uneven force as your foot, so you might end up with a bruised palm and bent stakes.
Third, if your stakes go into the ground quickly and easily, they’re going to come out just as quickly. Before you think, “That makes taking the tent down easier,” take a moment and think about the wind that will kick up overnight, pull those stakes up, and focus your family’s ire on you.
Take a rubber mallet with you, for heaven’s sake. There are even tent peg hammers with a tool on them to help you get more leverage when it’s time to take those stakes out of the ground. Be prepared.
Stake Vertically, Not at an Angle.
“But you just said –.” I know what I said, but I’m not talking about the angles of guylines. I’m talking about the tent stakes themselves. Many people swear you should drive your tent stakes into the ground at a 45-degree angle away from the tent. Doing so, they say, allows for more tension and keeps the stake in the ground better.
There’s a bunch of physics and math at play here, so if you want to see for yourself, check this analysis from Indiana’s Department of Homeland Security (why tent peg physics falls under that department’s jurisdiction is a mystery). It boils down to this:
Your tent pegs are held in the ground by friction.
The further down into the soil your tent stake goes, the more friction is applied.
Staking at an angle means the peg does not go as deeply into the ground as when it’s driven in straight.
An angled peg has less soil on top of it, holding it in the ground.
Your dad and your Boy Scout / Girl Guide leader were wrong. I’m sorry to break it to you. There is no arguing with physics.
Use the Guyline Hooks Correctly
If you’re not using guylines, the hooks at the top of your pegs still serve a purpose. As you drive your tent stakes into the ground, be sure the guyline hooks face away from the tent. Doing so prevents the guylines from slipping off the pegs.
Even if you drive the pegs into the ground with the guylines on the hooks, you’re still better off having those hooks facing away from the tent. The same goes for tents with no guylines. You still need to anchor your tent, so use those hooks as intended.
The Best Tent Stakes for the Job
As mentioned above, it’s possible “all-purpose” tent stakes came with your tent, but these are probably not the best pegs you can find, and “jack of all trades, master of none” is a cliche because it’s true. A tent stake that works in any ground will not work in, say, sandy soil as well as a peg intended for just that kind of soil.
You probably want to have a few kinds of pegs with you so you have the right tools for the ground where you’re about to sleep. Here are some of the best tent stakes out there:
You’ll have a hard time finding a better tent peg, and many people agree. The MSR has become something of the gold standard. The Y-beam design provides more surface area for the ground to apply friction to, meaning the stakes stay in the dirt better, even if incorrectly placed at an angle. They’re light, they’re rugged aluminum, and they’re very sturdy.
If you’re on the beach, tent stakes for hard ground won’t help a whole lot. But even if you’re just on sandy soil, you might want something designed for looser ground than your average stakes.
These aluminum pegs are wider than most stakes, and their U-shape helps them hold better in the sand than a long, straight, round pin. The holes that run the length of the pegs allow for better grip on softer ground, and as a bonus, they allow for more rigging options.
These tent stakes are long and thin and great for harder ground if for no other reason than their relatively sharp point. Hard, rocky soil (especially if it’s too dry) makes driving tent pegs difficult, so having a point really helps.
With harder ground, treat these like a nail. You want to make what amounts to a pilot hole in the ground so the point can start just slightly below the surface. Then whack away at it to drive it in. These galvanized stakes also won’t rust, and their big heads are there to make hammering easier.
Another option for hard ground is the screw-in tent stake. Fstop Labs makes these from heavy-duty plastic for durability. They have a sharp point for breaking the ground, allowing the wide threads to screw down. The threads make for a good hold, but the hold isn’t always the issue with hard ground.
It’s hard to drive stakes into tough soil, so being able to screw these in makes the job much more manageable. Guyline hooks are on opposite sides of the stake, so you have an easier time angling the hook you’re using away from your tent.
This tent peg combines MSR’s Y-beam design with an undulating spiral reminiscent of the screw-type pegs for a kind of best-of-both-worlds tent stake. This one isn’t for sand or snow, but it’s a durable, lightweight stake that will serve you well in situations where your campground is rugged, rocky, or both.
It’s essential to choose the right spot for your tent, make sure the area is clear of debris such as large rocks, and install your tent stakes at the correct angle to be sure you get an uninterrupted night of sleep while on your outdoor adventures.
While many tents come with included stakes, they aren’t always the best option. Some tent pegs work in multiple types of soil, but the five brands of pegs we picked as some of the best out there can make your camping experience even better.
Best Ever Lifestyle Guide Inc. is an independent lifestyle guide for British Columbia based in Kelowna, BC.
We recognize and acknowledge that we live, learn, play and work on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Syilx Okanagan people.