Tent Stake Basics


 Photo by William Gillette

Photo by William Gillette

If you are buying a tent or have bought a tent in the past here is some information that might come in handy.  

Pictured here you see three different style tent stakes. And if you have camped in your lifetime I am sure you have seen at least one of these before. When you buy a tent it will always come with enough stakes to stake it down, and now a days the most common supplied factory stake is the small aluminum J or L style one pictured in the middle. What you may not know is that these stakes are all intended for different soil conditions, so depending on the part of the world you are living in or going to be camping in you may need to purchase different stakes to keep you tent held tight to the ground. 

Being an avid camper I have camped in almost every soil situation and have learned (sometimes the hard way) that things like stakes will always be overlooked when planing your next adventure. So preparing now for all future trips is easy and relatively inexpensive.  

First off, let's learn what each of the stakes above are used for. We will start with the top one, the yellow one. You may also see this in green plastic or even made out of aluminum. But the basics of this one are wide flat splines that run the length of the stake. This feature makes this stake work great in sandy or loose soil, but I do warn you that one hard root, shell or rock can easily crack or break this style stake. 

Next the common factory style stake, the middle one. This stake works best in firm or clay type soil. Small surface roots like grass are fine but since this stake is usually aluminum it will bend easily if you hit larger roots or stones. In sandy or loose soil this stake will pull out in the smallest wind. Making this stake unusable.   

The last stake pictured here the long steel nail with the high visibility orange top. This stakes rugged design makes it work perfect for hard packed stoney or rootie soil. It's length also gives you more strength in high winds. This stake also works great on canopies which act like sails in the wind. 

I recommend you alway carry two styles in your tent gear. I always carry the sand style stake and the steel nail style stake in my gear at all time. The nail style stake will work anywhere the factory aluminum stake will so keeping all three is overkill. Also if you have ever used the factory aluminum stakes you most likely have bent them more often then not.  

Useing the right stake in the right situation is very important, cutting corners can and will be costly or dangerous. I hope this helps you on your next adventure. Now get out there!