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Do I Need Tent Stakes? Are Tent Stakes Necessary?

Every backpacker starts to question the contents of their pack. Gear that seemed important when you bought it all of a sudden becomes unnecessary. Tent stakes are one of those items that’s hard to justify. Are they really necessary or can you secure a tent without them?

Do I Need Tent Stakes or Pegs? No, you don’t need to use tent stakes in most situations. Tent stakes aren’t necessary for mild weather. Are you willing to take the risk of a sudden gust of wind? If so then leave your stakes at home and use alternative methods to weigh down your tent.

You need to ask yourself an important question before leaving your tent stakes at home. Are you willing to risk damaging your gear for the slight decrease in pack weight?

Think about that for a second and continue reading below for tips on securing your tent without stakes. You might be surprised at some of the

Do I Need to Secure My Tent With Stakes or Pegs?

You definitely don’t need tent stakes, but I highly recommend them. They don’t serve much of a purpose in perfect weather. They’re really only necessary on windy/stormy days.

The only problem is it’s nearly impossible to predict the weather. Weathermen get their predictions wrong 20% of the time, even with fancy radars. That’s just predicting whether or not it’s going to rain. Trying to figure out wind gusts is even more complicated.

There’s a reason why all tents come with stakes straight from the factory. Manufacturers know that your tent will eventually break if you don’t use your stakes. Whether or not you’re willing to take the risk is up to you.

How Expensive Was Your Tent?

Think about the age of your tent and how much it cost when you bought it. Losing a $20 Walmart tent to a wind gust wouldn’t be that big of a deal. It would probably get a few rips, the poles might break, but it might be salvageable on a short trip.

It just wouldn’t make sense to risk one of my tents that cost a few hundred dollars. Even if I decided to use some of my heavier stakes I would only be saving a few oz.

The MSR Groundhog Stakes which are by far the best tent stakes on the market(by a wide margin) only weighs .46oz each. If you carry 4 stakes for a 3-Person tent they would weigh a total of 1.84oz. The groundhog mini’s which are 1.5″ shorter would only weigh 1.4oz.

Think about how light those stakes are for a second. I know it’s hard to visualize, but the average pack of gum only weighs 1.6oz. Do you really want to risk damaging an expensive tent for the weight of 1 pack of chewing gum?

Consider Using Lightweight Tent Stakes

Personally, I think it’s foolish not to use tent stakes. I’m not talking about using the heavy steel stakes that come with your tent. Just buy a nice set of lightweight stakes like MSR’s Carbon Core Stakes.

MSR’s Carbon Core Stakes weigh .19oz each and they’re surprisingly strong. That’s a huge weight savings compared to the 3oz steel stakes that came with my tent.

They’re less than half the weight of my MSR Groundhog stakes which are by far the most popular lightweight tent stakes on the market. Even if you need to carry 6 Carbon Core stakes that’s only a total of 1.14oz. That’s less than a pack of gum. Is it really worth the risk?

Some Styles Are Lighter Than Others

Don’t even think about using the cheap metal stakes that come with most tents. It doesn’t matter how expensive your tent was the stakes that came with them are junk.

Even the most expensive stakes on the market only cost like $20. So you really don’t have to save that much money to shave about 1lb from your total pack weight. Here are some of my favorite stakes in a few different styles.

  • Nail or Spike(Lightest Option): These are hit or miss depending on the stakes you purchase. They are by far the lightest option on the market, but most brands have quality control issues. The tips end up bending with even a small amount of pressure. I really like the MSR Carbon Core Nail Stakes (weigh .19oz) which have sturdy reinforced tips that won’t bend.
  • Groundhog Stakes (Best All-Around): Groundhog stakes aren’t the lightest, but they hold better than everything else. Definitely go with the MSR Groundhog (.46oz) or Groundhog Mini (.35oz). These are by far the best and most popular tent stakes on the market.
  • Shephard Hooks (Cheapest): Price is the only thing going for Shephard Hooks. The cheap aluminum MSR Hooks are light, but they bend easily. It doesn’t make sense to go with expensive titanium hooks when groundhog and nail stakes are the same price and way better.
  • V-Stakes (Mixed Opinion): Honestly, I have a love/hate relationship with my Toaks V-Shaped Stakes. They stack nice and work well, but they’re just a pain in the butt to use. You have to constantly pick dirt out of the holes and they’re no lighter than my groundhog stakes which offer more security.

Leave Your Hammer at Home to Save Extra Weight

There are lots of lightweight hammers on the market designed specifically for pounding in tent stakes. Even though they’re designed to be lightweight, do you really need a hammer to pound in a tent stake?

I rarely use my Coleman Rubber Mallet for backpacking. It’s one of the lightest hammers around, but it’s usually not necessary. Who knows when it was last used?

Pounding in tent stakes really isn’t that hard without a hammer. Most of the time you can just push the stake in with your foot. After that you switch to standing on it and if that doesn’t work use a rock.

Is a hammer really that much better than a rock? Other than smashing my fingers a few times, I can’t tell the difference. If it doesn’t go in easy you’re probably trying to jam the tent into a stump or rock. Just move the stake a few inches and you should be good to go.

What if The Wind Picks Up? Is There Any Other Way to Secure My Tent Without Stakes?

Leaving your stakes at home isn’t the end of the world. You can usually find a makeshift way to get you through some wind. Of course stakes would be the optimal solution, but you take what you can get.

There are two main ways to secure a tent without stakes. You can anchor down the corner of your tent with sticks as long as you have guylines. If you don’t have guylines you need to weigh down the corners of your tent.

Weighing down the corners of your tent isn’t that simple. You would be amazed at how strong the wind actually is. It’s gonna take serious weight on a windy day. I’m talking 25 lb rocks in every corner(maybe more). Logs will also work if you can’t find stones.