When you’re planning your next big trip, it’s unlikely that tent stakes will be near the top of your list of things to buy. But, even though they’re small, tent stakes, or tent pegs, are an essential item. Using the wrong type can lead to many uncomfortable nights worrying that your tent might fly away!
In this guide, we’ll take a look at the various different tent stakes, how to use them, and what features to look out for. So, if you didn’t get round to replacing your bent and warped tent stakes yet, here’s what you need to know.
Why trust this guide?
We’ve spent the last few years on the road, seeking out adventure in every nook and cranny on earth! From the blustery Arctic to the heat of Australia, and countless plateaus, valleys, mountain ranges, and beaches in between, our trusty tent has provided us with safety and shelter.
Having camped in a vast array of ever-changing landscapes, we’ve relied on a whole load of tent pegs along the way. Over the years, and after many bent and broken stakes, we’ve figured out which work best for every situation we’ve faced.
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What is a tent stake?
Whenever you buy a tent, it’ll come with tent stakes. Put simply, they pin your tent to the ground and prevent it from blowing away. Most standard tent pegs are made from metal, and are shaped like long hooks. The hook keeps the guy lines securely in place, while the long stem sinks into the ground.
However, tent stakes are actually far more varied, and come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, weights, and designs. Knowing how they each differ, and which is the best for a particular task, is extremely important for adventurers who rely on their tent night after night.
Why you need tent stakes
Without tent stakes, there’s nothing fixing your tent to the ground. But, as well preventing the tent from flying away, tent pegs also hold the material taut. This prevents flapping, ensures the tent holds its shape, while increasing the interior space. It also takes some of the stress off the support poles during windy weather.
If you don’t use tent stakes, you risk causing serious damage, including tears in the fabric and broken support poles. Standard tent pegs aren’t always the best quality, and it doesn’t take much to bend them out of shape. Instead, it’s good to pack a variety of high quality spares that are suitable for different types of ground.
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Different kinds of tent stakes
There are a number of different types of tent stakes, and these mostly differ depending on the kind of ground you wish to stake your tent to.
Standard tent stakes
Standard tent stakes, sometimes called skewer pegs, are typically provided with your tent when you first buy it. They’re best suited to regular soil that isn’t too hard and rocky, or soft and powdery. In general, they’ll work fairly well across a broad range of surfaces and conditions.
Despite their universal usage, they come in various shapes, materials, and designs. Mostly they’re stainless steel, but you can also find nylon and plastic versions. The most common design is shaped like a shepherd’s crook, with a long vertical section, and a small hook on the top. However, Y-shaped versions tend to be stronger.
Sand and snow tent stakes
Sand and snow pegs normally look a little different to standard stakes. They’re often shorter and made of thinner material, with a wider profile and numerous holes running down their length. Snow or sand fills up the holes and compacts, offering additional support. These are generally made out of lightweight metal, making them easy to carry around.
Alternatively, you can try screw-style tent stakes. Larger and typically made from plastic, they twist into the ground and offer incredible strength.
Camping in winter? Also check out our hacks on how to stay warm while camping in cold weather.
Heavy-duty tent stakes
Heavy-duty tent pegs are normally made from hardened metal, such as titanium, which is flexible and durable, and less prone to bending. The design often features a Y-shaped cross-section that prevents twisting in the ground, offering additional support in high winds.
Available in various lengths, it’s useful to carry a mix. Some models have a number of notches, allowing you to attach one or more guy lines, even if you’re unable to drive it into the ground completely. It’s worth bearing in mind that some of the strongest tent pegs are extremely lightweight — heavier doesn’t always mean stronger.
If you know you’re going to be camping in hard, rocky soil it’s well worth getting rock pegs. Made from hardened metal and shaped like a nail with a small cross-bar on the top, they can break through surfaces that few other pegs can handle.
How to use tent stakes
For such a small piece of equipment, there’s a lot of debate about the ‘right way’ to use a tent stake! For us, the following tips haven’t let us down yet:
- Check if the ground you want to pitch your tent on is suitable. If the soil is too loose, and you can simply push the stake in by hand, it won’t offer a lot of strength.
- Tent stakes should be driven in almost vertically, with perhaps a very slight (10 degree) angle towards the tent. This provides maximum strength and reduces the risk of the stake bending and failing.
- Hooks should face away from the tent to prevent guy lines from slipping off in high winds. With Y-shaped pegs, be sure the top of the Y faces away from the tent.
- It’s best to use a rubber mallet or light hammer to drive tent stakes into the ground. Using your foot exerts uneven pressure, and can lead to the stakes bending. If you don’t have a mallet, a flat rock should do the trick.