Tent stakes often come with any store-bought tent package. Even though it can be tempting to just set up your tent and throw your gear inside, hoping that the weight will be enough; staking your tent is important. Tent stakes help to keep your tent safe and secure during high winds and even general entry and exit.
However, the stakes provided with your tent may not always be suitable depending on your campsite. Sandy soil requires broader stakes while rocky soil may require more robust aluminum stakes. If you are camping on particularly hard ground, you will need to be strategic about staking your tent.
Getting tent stakes into hard grounds involves the following:
- Pretreating the soil
- Using the right tools
- Taking your time
- Creating a starter hole
- Being willing to compromise
If you take your time and do it properly, your tent will remain staked during inclement weather no matter the type of soil beneath it.
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Types of Tent Stakes
Tent stakes come in a variety of lengths, shapes, and materials. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages as well as being conducive to a particular type of ground.
First are aluminum stakes. These tent stakes are usually the most popular and are typically included when you purchase a tent. They are lightweight and bend more easily than other types of stakes.
Though their weight makes them great for backpacking, they are not the most sturdy. Aluminum stakes are suited to soft to medium soil and are not recommended for hard rocky or frozen ground.
Next up are titanium stakes. These tent stakes are some of the most durable without being heavy. Usually, these stakes will not be broad but smaller in diameter; this is because titanium can be quite costly.
As these hardy stakes can bend instead of break when pressure is applied, they are suitable for hard, rocky, and even frozen ground.
Steel stakes are another tough option. They are more durable than aluminum but they are also heavier. Still, they are common and come in a variety of shapes, from broad to thin and long. Steel stakes are recommended for medium to hard soil types.
Finally, we have plastic tent stakes. Sometimes you will find these sold with tent packages, especially more budget-friendly tents. Plastic stakes are cheap because they have to be replaced often because once they break they should be thrown away.
Plastic stakes are considered to be light, but they are also large and broad. These bulky stakes can be used in soft to medium ground.
In addition to the material they are composed of, tent stakes can also come in different shapes. Different shapes and lengths work best with specific soil types.
Broad stakes are best for almost any type of ground, whether it be sandy or rocky. A large amount of surface area may make it difficult to pound in, but it means the stake will also resist tugging and being pulled out of the ground. Broad stakes are also referred to as v-shaped stakes due to their arrowhead appearance.
On the other end of the spectrum are narrow hook wire or round wire stakes. These can also be referred to as pegs. They are long and thin, with a hook on one end to attach the tent loop or guy wire to.
Hook wire stakes are common but are not the most useful. This is especially true when it comes to loose or sandy soil. Their lack of surface area allows them to easily dislodge and slip out.
The final type is screw-style tent stakes. These stakes have a corkscrew shape that can be twisted into the ground. This design is often seen on the bottom of beach umbrellas and for good reason. Screw tent stakes work best in sandy or loose soil.
If possible, you will want to research the location and soil type of your camping destination before embarking on your trip. This way you can select the best tent stake material and style to keep your tent firmly grounded.
How to Pound in Tent Stakes
Pounding in tent stakes might seem simple enough, you just bang the stake into the ground. However, there is actually a strategy to staking your tent.
The proper way to put in a tent stake is perpendicular to the ground. This means the tent stake should be pounded in vertically instead of on an angle. The ninety-degree angle between the stake and the ground will give the most resistance and will make it difficult for your stake to pull out of the soil.
Additionally, make sure the hook isn’t facing your tent. The hook should face away from your tent so that when you attach the wire or loop you will have a strong amount of holding power.
Finally, have your tent stakes positioned directly off of the corner of your tent. They should be at an angle, forming an “X” across your tent base instead of running in line with your tent sides in the form of a square. This will give you the optimum amount of hold.
When you have properly positioned your stakes and are ready to pound them in, there are a few ways you can go about it.
You can either use a hammer, mallet, or a large rock. Hammers and mallets mean that you must carry tools with you, a rock can do in a pinch or if you are backpacking and don’t want to carry extra weight.
Soft mallets work best for loose or sandy soil, hammers are a bit of an all-purpose tool and large rocks can be particularly useful for hard ground.
Using your foot to pound in a stake is not recommended. You are more likely to bend the stake or have it force up the surrounding dirt like a lever instead of driving it into the ground.
Instead, use your selected tool to firmly pound your stake all the way into the ground. Do not leave it halfway out as this will not give you a secure hold. If you are worried about the stake being too weak, use a large rock set overtop of the stake to reinforce it.
If the stake went in very easily, then it is likely to come out easily. If you don’t have rocks to reinforce the stake, you can use more than one stake for extra holding power. Carrying different lengths of tent stakes can be helpful as well.
Staking in Particularly Hard Ground
The instructions above make it sound easy enough, but what if the ground is really tough?
One trick is to pretreat the soil. If the ground is very dense and compacted, use a little water to loosen it up.
First, pour a small amount of water on the dirt where you want to place your stake. Wait a few minutes for it to seep in and loosen up the area. Then use a large rock to pound in your stake. The water should make the stake go in easier.
When using a rock, or even a tool to pound your stake into hard and rocky ground listen for changes in sound. If you hit a rock or impossible object, the banging of the stake will make a different noise.
It would be wise to reposition your tent stake and try again. Oftentimes, trying to hammer a stake into the rocky ground too quickly or forcefully will result in a bent or broken stake.
If the ground is hard due to being frozen, you can use a stronger titanium or steel stake to create a starter hole. Simply pound it in halfway or a little more and then pull it out. The starter hole should make it easier for a broad tent stake to go in.
Titanium Shepard hooks, in varying lengths, often work best for rocky soil. Steel or titanium nail style tent stakes, with a flattened head and thin diameter, are best for frozen ground.
Finally, if your tent stakes just won’t go in, be willing to compromise. Look for trees, logs, bushes or anything that you can tie your tent lines or guy wires to instead of staking them down.
Large rocks can also be useful to hold or tie your tent lines to when stakes won’t go in. This is also known as raising a tent.
What if I have the opposite problem?
Just as hard ground can pose a problem, so can soft ground. If the soil is loose and sandy your stake will likely slip right in, and then slip out again.
One trick is to try and dig down a little deeper until you hit the dense impacted ground; then pound in your stake. Large rocks over the stakes or used as tie-downs can also help.
Always Stake Your Tent
Though there is a specific strategy for staking your tent, whether, in soft ground or hard ground, the most important thing is to always stake it down. You don’t want it becoming a kite while you are inside.