When it comes to buying camping gear, tent stakes are unlikely to be at the top of your list. You may even wonder if you need them at all, or if you can make do with a pair of bent forks and some twigs you found on the forest floor.
Most of the time, the answer to that question is no. Why?
Well, let me put it this way. A tent is basically a big piece of fabric, rather like a kite. Like a kite, if the wind catches it, it wants to fly.
And, speaking from personal experience, your tent can fly faster than you can run …
Tent stakes are what lie between you and a cold uncomfortable night in the back of your car. Take it from me, it’s worth picking the right ones.
What About Factory Stakes?
Fact is, the tent stakes you get with most tents are pretty insubstantial. They may work fine for a couple of trips but hit a patch of hard earth and they’ll end up as bent as Uri Geller’s spoons.
If you’re a regular camper and you want your tent and your pegs to last more than a season, it’s worth investing in some better-quality tent stakes.
What to Consider When Buying Tent Stakes
Before you pop down to the hardware store or dig out your credit card, get your priorities straight:
6 Stakes That’ll Keep Your Tent on the Ground
Unless you’re a camping gear super geek, you may not be aware of just how many types of tent stake there are. Let me enlighten you …
Most low-budget tents come with aluminum or galvanized steel hook stakes. If the ground is at optimum stake-plunging softness, then they’ll do the job, but they’re useless in sandy soil and surprisingly easy to bend when trying to push them into hard stony ground. Still, at least they’re cheap to replace.
Next up are V stakes. The V-shaped design makes them easy to get into the ground and improves their holding power, though if you’re pushing them in by hand or foot they can be a bit sharp. If you fancy splashing out, titanium tent stakes will be lighter and stronger than aluminum stakes.
Three-sided Y stakes are sturdy, strong and a good all-rounder for most ground conditions. Unfortunately, one of the delightful ironies of camping is that the more effective a stake is at keeping your tent down, the tougher it is to get out of the ground.
If your tent is larger than a penthouse apartment, then you’ll need some big stakes to keep it down in the wind. Nail stakes are long heavy-duty steel pegs that you can push or hammer into the ground. They’re big and heavy, but if you’re not having to carry them far, that won’t matter.
For most people, the camping season ends once snow starts to fall. But if you do want to try your hand at camping in winter, you’ll want to invest in some snow stakes. These have a U-shaped design and are longer and wider than standard tent stakes. They’re designed for snow not ice, so don’t try hammering them into frozen ground unless you want to end up with bent metal.
And, if you want something totally different, check out these MSR Cyclone stakes which have a funky spiral design. They’re specifically designed for soft soil and sand and will keep your tent on the ground in high winds — for a price. If you’re camping on the beach, these are the tent stakes to go for.
No Stakes? No Problem
However organized you are, everyone forgets their tent stakes at least once. Or you may find yourself camping on rock (or earth that feels like rock) which not even Thor himself could hammer a nail into.
In these situations, large rocks and logs are your friends. Tie a piece of cord through the peg loops on your tent and wrap the other end around something heavy.
Nearby trees are also handy for securing your fly or tarp, and if you get really desperate, you could even try whittling your own stakes.
If you’re a forgetful soul (or just like to be prepared), then it may be worth keeping some bits of cord permanently attached to your tent for this situation.
As you’ve probably gathered, when it comes to pegging your tent down, there’s a lot at stake.
(Sorry, couldn’t resist …)
If you’re after a general-purpose tent stake that can cope with most conditions, I’d recommend going for either a Y-shaped design, such as the MSR Groundhog stakes, or, for larger tents, nail stakes.
Don’t forget to always, ALWAYS carry some spares. If you don’t end up using them to replace broken or bent pegs, they’ll come in handy for tying up the dog or taking on the local vampire population.
Alison spends her days writing and dreaming of adventures, and her weekends living them. Both are helped by copious amounts of Yorkshire Tea. She owns a campervan called Sadie and far too many tents.