How to Use Tent Stakes (The Best Way)

Tent stakes provide support for your tent in adverse weather conditions.

In other words, they can play an important part in any camping trip!

But how do you use them?

We put together this complete breakdown of how to use tent stakes in various conditions like soft soil, snow, sand, and rocky ground.

How to Use Tent Stakes

To use tent stakes the best way possible, you need to account for the type of ground you’ll be staking your tent on, the orientation of the stake, and ensuring the proper angle. In other words, following the proper method for staking in soil, sand, snow, etc., ensuring the hook of the stake is pointed away from the tent, and driving the stake straight down at a 90° angle.

Tent stake angle guide

With that said, the type of soil or ground plays a huge role in how to properly stake a tent. In an ideal world, the ground would be just hard enough that you can’t easily push the stake into the ground but soft enough that you can tap it in with a mallet.

Unfortunately, that’s not usually the case.

So, let’s learn how to use tent stakes in the different types of ground you’ll encounter when camping.

How to Stake a Tent in Soft Soil

Soft soil and sand (which we’ll get into below) are the easiest types of ground to drive your stake into. However, that means they offer the least amount of holding power.

To stake a tent in soft soil:

  1. Firmly press the stake into the ground using your hand. I’m not a big fan of stepping on stakes as they will sometimes bend or break (especially cheap stakes that typically come with a tent).
  2. Be sure to drive the stake into the ground at a 90° angle. In other words, straight down into the ground.
  3. If your stake only has one hook coming off the top, be sure it points away from the tent.
  4. Repeat on the opposite corner for each stake loop on the tent.

Now, depending on how soft the soil is, you may need to use some or all of the following tips to properly secure your tent.

  • Use more stakes: It’s always a good idea to pack extra stakes with you, especially if you know you’ll be camping on soft ground or sand. By doubling the number of stakes you would typically use, you will increase their holding power and have a more secure tent.
  • Place heavy objects on the stakes: Look around the campsite and find heavy flat objects to place on top of the stakes. Large rocks, logs, firewood, etc., can help hold the stakes in the ground.
  • Upgrade your stakes: Using heavy-duty aluminum stakes that are longer will help firmly hold your tent to the ground. A stake that is 10″ or longer will provide much more holding power than one that’s half its length.

How to Stake a Tent in Sand

Staking your tent firmly into sand is even harder than soft soil. While the stakes go in the ground easily, sand offers little to no holding power.

So, if you find yourself on sandy terrain or the beach, you have two main options – one involving regular tent stakes and the other using sand stakes.

If you only have regular tent stakes, your best bet is to dig down in the sand until you reach firm ground, insert the stake through your tent’s stake loop, and drive it into the ground. This is another good situation where it pays to have extra stakes on hand and ones that are long, at least 10″.

Better yet, use sand stakes, which screw into the sand, providing one of the best grips you can get in this type of ground.

Beach Tent Stakes Heavy Duty

Beach Tent Stakes Heavy Duty

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How to Use Sand Stakes

  1. Once the tent is set up, insert the sand stake through the stake loop and screw it into the sand using your hand.
  2. Be sure to screw the stake into the ground at a 90° angle. In other words, straight down into the ground.
  3. If your stake only has one hook coming off the top, be sure to rotate it, so it points away from the tent.
  4. Repeat on the opposite corner for each stake loop on the tent.

How to Stake a Tent in Snow

Staking your tent in the snow has its own set of unique challenges. And like staking your tent in sand, you have a few different options depending on whether you can reach the firm ground below or not.

First, once you’ve set up your tent, if you can dig down in the snow deep enough to reach the firm ground below, you can use galvanized steel tent pegs designed to pierce the solid ground.

Eurmax Galvanized Steel Tent Stakes

Eurmax Galvanized Steel Tent Stakes

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Keep in mind, you likely won’t be able to manually push these into the ground with your hands, so you’ll want to bring along a tent stake hammer or mallet to drive these heavy-duty tent stakes into the ground. The hammer should have a stake removal tool on it to help get the stakes back out of the frozen ground.

Hikemax Lightweight Outdoor Camping Hammer with Tent Stake Remover

Hikemax Lightweight Outdoor Camping Hammer with Tent Stake Remover

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If the snow is too deep to reach the ground below, you’ll need to use snow stakes. You can use these stakes in firm snow just as you would on soft soil (outlined above).

MSR Blizzard Stake Kit

MSR Blizzard Stake Kit

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However, to use snow stakes on soft snow or fine powder, you’ll want to:

  1. Dig a hole in the snow where each stake will go.
  2. Tie a short guy line between the tent stake loop and the snow stake.
  3. Place the stake in the hole in a dead man’s position (horizontally to the ground).
  4. Fill in the hole with snow and pack it down as tight as you can.
  5. Repeat for each tent stake.

This is one of the best methods I’ve found for staking a tent in soft snow.

Tip: When backpacking, plan ahead, so you know which type of stakes you need to bring to secure your tent. By only carrying the stakes you need, you’ll save on weight, which is important when every ounce counts.

How to Stake a Tent on Rocky Ground

Staking a tent on rocky ground can require a little ingenuity, especially if you just can’t get your stakes into the ground.

I don’t like to risk damaging my stakes, so I prefer to use the “Big rock, little rock” system whenever camping on this type of surface.

Here’s a quick video breaking down how to use this system.

How To Easily Stake Your Tent Out On Rocky Ground
  1. Find one little rock and one big flat rock for each tent stake loophole.
  2. Tie one end of a guy line to the tent stake loophole and the other end to the little rock.
  3. Place the little rock on the ground as far away as possible, so the guy line is taut.
  4. Finally, take the big rock and set it on the guy line in front of the little rock.

Tent Staking FAQs

Believe it or not, there’s so much information when it comes to the simple act of staking a tent that it’s hard to cover it all in one post.

So, let’ answer a few of the most commonly asked questions. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions not covered here.

Related: Do Tents Come With Stakes?

Which Way Do Tent Stakes Go?

Tent stakes should be driven straight into the ground at a 90° angle with the “J” hook of the stake pointed away from the tent. This will create maximum holding power and ensure the stake loop or guy line doesn’t slip off.

Do You Need a Hammer for Tent Stakes?

If you can’t manually push the tent stake into the ground, you will need a hammer to drive it in (do not use your foot). Use a quality tent stake hammer or mallet to firmly tap the stake into the hard ground at a 90° angle.

What Angle Should Tent Pegs Be?

Tent pegs should be driven into the ground at a 90° angle. In other words, straight up and down. If applicable, the “J” hook of the stake should be pointed away from the tent.

How Do You Use Aluminum Tent Stakes?

You use aluminum tent stakes just as you would galvanized steel, titanium, or ABS plastic. In other words:

  1. Drive the stake into the ground using a tent stake hammer or, if the ground is soft enough, your hand.
  2. Most importantly, drive the stake into the ground at a 90° angle (straight down into the ground).
  3. If your stake only has one hook coming off the top (sometimes referred to as a “J” hook), be sure it points away from the tent.
  4. Repeat on the opposite corner for each stake loop on the camping tent.

Remember, on snow or sand, the method will be slightly different.

MSR Groundhog stakes and Big Agnes Dirt Dagger tent stakes are two of the best tent stakes made from heavy-duty aluminum on the market today.

How Do You Secure a Tent Without Stakes?

You can weigh a tent down with rocks or logs, tie it to a tree or a large object, or make your own tent stakes out of sticks you find around the campsite to keep it from blowing away in the wind.

Check out our guide on how to secure a tent without stakes for a complete breakdown of these three methods.

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