How to Use Tent Stakes for Camping: A Comprehensive Guide

How to Use Tent Stakes for Camping: A Comprehensive Guide

If you’re looking to go camping, you’ll need a tent and the knowledge of how to use tent stakes. Tent stakes are essential for securing your tent and keeping you and your belongings safe while you sleep, as well as keeping your tent in place when you aren’t in it. In this comprehensive guide, we will teach you everything you need to know about using tent stakes! We’ll cover everything from choosing the right stake for the job to installing them properly in soil. So read on and learn how to use tent stakes like a pro!

Pro tip – if you find yourself lacking in stakes, or not able to use them effectively, there are other ways to secure a tent without stakes.

How to Use Tent Stakes

Using a tent stake properly is something that most people don’t about with too much detail. Just simply hammer your tent pegs into the ground and you are good to go, right?

Actually, this can’t be farther from the truth. In most cases, the best way to use tent stakes is to hammer the peg firmly into the ground, straight up and down. Also, make sure the hook on your peg is facing directly away from your tent.

However, this changes based on the terrain you are camping on. Let’s dive into the details of how to use tent stakes in different types of environments.

how to use tent stakes

How to Stake a Tent in Soft Soil

Soft soil is the most straightforward and probably the type of soil you will deal with most of the time. The biggest downfall of this type of soil is that since it’s the softest, it is also the most prone to your stake pulling out.

Staking a Tent in Soft Soil:

  1. Press the stake into the ground using your hand, a rock, or a tent stake hammer. Stomping them into the ground can sometimes bend them, so we wouldn’t recommend doing that.
  2. When driving your tent stake into the ground, make sure it is straight up and down – that is the best way to use a tent stake
  3. Make sure the hook on the tent stake is facing directly away from the tent.
  4. Stake down the other diagonal corner in the same way and continue around the tent.

Helpful hints for staking your tent in soft soil

  • If your stakes are having a hard time staying the ground, you can put a heavy rock or log on top of each stake. This will help your tent stakes stay in the ground, and keep your tent from blowing away
  • Using a longer tent stake, like the Snow Peak Solid Stake 30, has more holding power than something shorter. This will help you tent stakes not pull out too.
  • Using a ground screw, like the Neso Ground Screw Anchor, has immense holding power in soft soils.
  • If you need added stability, you can also use the guy lines that came with your tent and secure your tent to one or more nearby trees.

How to Stake a Tent in Sand

Even though it’s very easy to drive your tent stakes into sand, it is the most difficult terrain to secure your tent if you don’t have the right tent stakes for sand or you don’t know how.

Here are 2 of the best ways to stake your tent down in sand:

Using Regular Tent Stakes in Sand

Using regular tent stakes in sand isn’t optimal, but if you follow the steps below your tent will be secure in most conditions.

  1. Dig down through the soft sand until you reach harder, moist sand.
  2. Drive your tent stake into the harder sand, at about a 45* angle away from the tent.
  3. Bury the stake with the soft sand
  4. You can also tie your tent lines around a rock or log and bury that in the sand if you can’t effectively use your stakes.

Using a Ground Screw Anchor

A ground screw anchor, like the Neso Ground Screw Anchor, has immense holding power in softer soils like sand. Here’s the best way to install Ground Screw Anchor in sand:

  1. Dig down through the soft sand until you reach harder, moist sand.
  2. Screw the anchor straight into the harder sand
  3. Make sure the hook is facing away from the tent
  4. Bury the anchor with the sand you removed

This is by far the best way to secure your tent on sand, even in the windiest conditions.

Helpful hints for staking your tent in Sand

  • A longer stake, like the Snow Peak Solid Stake 30, will hold better. Once you dig down to harder sand, make sure it is hammered all the way in.
  • If there are heavy objects around you, such as your vehicle, large rocks, or a picnic table, use those as a ground anchor by tying a guy line directly from your tent to the object. This will act as some added insurance and distribute some of the working load away from your tent stakes.
  • If you frequently camp in sandy or snowy conditions, we would recommend getting some quality stakes that are designed for those conditions.

How to Stake a Tent in Snow

Just like staying warm in a tent during winter, staking down your tent in the snow can present it’s own challenges compared to camping in other terrain. But the good thing is that if you know how to stake a tent in snow, you won’t have too much of an issue.

Here’s 2 of the best ways to stake your tent down in the snow:

Using Regular Tent Stakes

The bad part about regular stakes is they only work well if you can dig through the snow to hard ground and hammer them in like normal.

  1. Dig down through the snow to reach hard ground
  2. Drive your tent stake in straight down
  3. Bury again with snow and pack the snow down tight

A word of caution: even the softest soils become very hard in the winter if your temperature are below freezing. A tent stake mallet is almost a necessity.

Using Snow Stakes

Snow stakes, like the REI Snow Stakes, are designed with a purpose in mind and they fulfill that purpose fantastically if they are used properly. Remember, these are designed to be used in snow in a very specific way when you can’t dig all the way to hard ground.

Here is the proper way to use use snow stakes to secure your tent in the snow:

  1. Dig down in the snow 12-24 inches
  2. Tie the guy line of your tent to one of the holes on the stake
  3. Lay the stake flat on the snows surface inside the hole
  4. Fill in the hole with snow
  5. Pack down the snow back down as tight as possible, this will ensure your tent is secure and doesn’t move even in the harshest winter conditions.

How to Stake a Tent on Rocky Ground

Staking your tent in rocky ground can be quite easy, or an absolute ordeal depending on whether on not you can get your stakes into the ground

Staking Your Tent In Rocky Ground

  1. Clear the area of any big rocks, both under your tent and surrounding it.
  2. Drive your tent stake straight into the ground.
  3. If you are feeling resistance, do not try to pound through it. You could damage your stakes. Take the stake out, reposition slightly, and try to drive it again.
  4. Make sure the hook on the stoke is pointing away from the tent to ensure your guy line stays secured.

Big Rock, Little Rock

If you can’t drive your stakes securely into the ground, you can always try to ‘Big Rock, Little Rock’ Technique! If you only have plastic stakes, or don’t want to risk damaging your stakes, this is a great option.

  1. Find a smaller rock and tie your guy line around it
  2. Place the smaller rock far away from your tent, enough for the guy line to be held tight.
  3. Find a big rock and place it on the guy line in between your tent and the smaller rock

Here is a video from Sierra Trading Company that will give you a detailed look at the ‘Big Rock, Little Rock’ Technique

Durability is Key

Leave your cheap plastic tent stakes at home if you are camping on rocky ground. If you are going to attempt driving a tent stake into rough, rocky ground, you need to have tent stakes that are durable enough to not bend and break when they are accidently hammered into a subsurface rock. For this we recommend the Snow Peak Solid Stake 30 or the MSR Groundhog Stakes.

You can also get a more in-depth look at staking your tent in our post Best Tent Stakes for Rocky Ground

Conclusion

Overall, staking your tent into the ground should be an easy task and take little to no time. Knowing your options when it comes to different terrain is key, as well as having the proper tent stakes. If you have some alternatives for when the stakes don’t work out, or if you need more stability during windy conditions, then you’ll be better prepared for the obstacles you could encounter while camping.

FAQ

Do You Need a Hammer for Tent Stakes?

In short, no. You could use a rock or log as a hammer, but sometimes those bend your tent stakes. To avoid bending your tent stakes, a good tent stake hammer is definitely recommended.

Which Way Do Tent Stakes Go?

Tent stakes should be driven in completely perpendicular to the ground. This is the strongest and most secure way to put your tent stakes in

How Do You Secure a Tent Without Stakes?

The guy lines for your tent can be tied to any large, immovable object close to your tent such as, a tree, log, or boulder. In rocky environments, you can also you the Big Rock, Little Rock Technique.

About the Author

Derek Vitiello

My goal with my writing and Know Nothing Nomads as a whole is to share my passions of hiking, camping, and a love of the outdoors with our readers. Making the difficult and uncertain feel more approachable to people that might not know enough to feel comfortable taking their first steps into the wilderness is a driving factor for me. When I’m not writing you can find me on a trail, in a forest, or next to a river with hiking shoes on my feet and a fly rod somewhere close by.

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