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Tent Stakes

tent pegs that usually come with tents

Tent Stakes: Style and Substance

So, you’ve found your perfect tent, you’ve gotten your tarps, you’re sleeping bag is in the mail, and you are ready!

But, wait… how are you going to connect your tent to the ground?

…No….Oh, no…. Not the tent pegs that came with the tent?!? No, please, no.

Don’t throw them out, you will be using them; but not as anchoring stakes.

Spend the money, or visit your local thrift stores since most workers/volunteers don’t know what they are so they just stick them in with the tools, and get real stakes.

First, please read How to Stake Down a Tent.

All set? Good.

Now, there are a several different styles of tent stakes, but I’m going to specifically cover 2:

  1. steel tent stakes
  2. yellow tent stakes

Steel Tent Stakes

My preference, through long use and high winds, are for the steel tent stakes like these. They’re sturdy, don’t easily slip, and can take a lot of beatings before they start to wear out. Also, they’re great with almost any type of soil. Another perk is that they are fairly cheap.

From experience, I can tell you that both ball-peen and regular hammers, as well as rubber mallets, can pound on the sides of these stakes to loosen them from tree roots without ever coming close to bending the stake. Since they are steel, they aren’t going to easily bend, snap or shear. That doesn’t mean that you can’t make one bend. Continuing to try to hammer a tent stake through an old root is most likely going to end with you having a stake that might bend around smaller roots – if you can get it back up out of the ground, that is.

While the green/red/orange/whichever color tops can snap off, use leverage to get them back out of the ground, they are definitely still usable as grounding and support stakes. Also, because the tops slide off the end of the stake, when you start to find yourself with an unequal number of stakes and tops you will have a little supply for when one breaks or becomes a permanent fixture of your camping site.

So, they are my obvious preference… Except…Well…Sand.

Yellow Stakes

Yellow stakes, like these, are plastic. So, some immediate issues come to mind. Many metal tent loops now are not big enough to hold them, but the fabric ones almost always are.

BUT, they are great in really soft or sandy ground. Beach camping isn’t usually my thing (I’m usually worried about bears not sharks), but I know that the longer yellows are the way to go. Also, these are also fairly cheap to buy, and not much of a loss if you can’t get them back out of the ground at the end of your trip.

Yes, I have had these stakes snap, shear, and spring up out of the ground. However, go by the type of ground you’re living on and don’t just try to jam whatever you’ve got into any surface.

Additionally, many people like these stakes simply because they can more easily see them. Bright yellow, and larger, they are distinct against sand, gravel and grass. Overall, they are less likely to be missed when you are pulling your stakes up, so you will lose fewer of them, trip over fewer of them, and be less likely to forget a corner stake and yank on your still-grounded tent while trying to fold it.

Please note, that with enough force these stakes can also come through your tent. Beach camping usually involved higher consistent winds, as well as some incredible storms during the rainy seasons. Since they have a bit of ‘spring’ to them they can also be pulled up easier, meaning that your kids could start yanking on the tent and cause quite a bit of confusion when part of your set up starts blowing sideways.

Tent Pegs

So, I said you would still be using the tent pegs that can with your tent. Most likely, they look like this:

tent pegs that usually come with tents

tent pegs

They bend easily, without tools, they don’t drive into the ground well, and they slip from both metal and fabric loops.

All that doesn’t mean they’re worthless, though.

They make nice support stakes and, in storms, an easy in-case to add to your fly lines and tarp grommets. They slide smoothly between however many stakes you already have through a single loop, and are thin enough to even be staked directly through the eyehole of the steel stake tops. I especially like to add these “baby stakes” in windy conditions by getting the length of the peg down into the ground, and having the head go through an eyehole straight into the ground. Since they are smaller, they are easier to add to fabric loops that have been twisted around (if you’ve ever camped with kids, you know what I mean). Several can be added in various directions to help keep the loop on the ground, stabilizing the tent in wind gusts.

So, why soooo many stakes?

Well, as I discussed in my second-ever post, I care about safety. I’ve never had too many stakes ever become an issue. With violent weather, and rambunctious children, too few is a problem I’ve had more times than I can count.

I don’t care if it’s your first overnight camping trip in a neighbor’s backyard, or if you’ve done it all your life and are ready to start living in your tent. I want you safe, and protected from as many elements as the weather can throw at you.

Okay, seems a little silly, but I get it. What about all those other kinds of stakes? Why aren’t you talking about them?

Actually, it’s mostly because I like being able to get my stakes back out of the ground no matter how stuck they appear. I lose up to 3 a year but, as I’ve said, I usually recover those others’ have left. It’s also an issue of dependability. I haven’t had a steel tent stake fail me yet (knock on wood).

When you take a stake like this, it looks great; it’s even kinda pretty. But there’s no definite leverage available if the loop goes. Even then, a loop isn’t as good as wedging your hammer under the lip of your stake and wiggling until the root lets go. With even the tiniest lip, like a steel stake when the top is broken off, you can use physics to get your stake back from nature – most of the time.

However, as with everything else, your mileage may vary, or you may just be using whatever materials you can get. No harm in that.

So, what stories can you share? Any exciting tales of reclaiming stakes from the dastardly soil? I’m also interested to hear anyone’s beach experiences. It’s rare for me, and a bit of distance time-wise now.

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Mar

I'm (now) an Affiliate, who blogs about the materials, gear and supplies needed for living in a tent and long term camping: http://longtermcamping.siterubix.com I also enjoy reading and sci-fi in all its many forms.

2 Comments

  1. I had to laugh when I read this, I have experienced a lot of frustration with tent stakes. I hate the yellow ones, I always break them! And the pegs that come with it always bend, just like you said. The steel ones are my favorite and it never hurts to have lots of extras. My kids take them to make forts and then forget to put them back. Next thing you know, we are getting ready to go camping and run short.

    • Yes, exactly!
      It sounds like you are also very familiar with the difficulties of camping supplies can present. If you don’t mind me asking, do you store your stakes in with the tents or have a separate bag for them?
      I’ve always used leather/reinforced tool bags for my stakes, but I find it curious that many people just stick their stakes back in with the tent. Seems like an unnecessary risk for damage, really.

      Thanks for the story! I love to hear them!

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