How Long Should Tent Stakes Be?


Figuring out the best tent stake length is harder than it needs to be. A few informal tests have been done over the years, but there’s no concrete one size fits all solution. There’s just so many different variables that affect stake length. After extensive research, I came up with a simple approach to figure out how long your tent stakes should be.

How Long Should Tent Stakes Be? Generally, tent stakes should be in the 6″-7.5″ range(Y-Stakes can be 5″). There’s a lot that goes into holding power, but you can expect a 25lb holding power from a quality 6inch stake. It will take a serious storm to pull out a 6″ stake.

Your stakes length plays an important role in the overall holding power, but that’s not the only factor. You also need to take a serious look at the stake design.

Don’t just settle on the cheap steel stakes that came with your tent! Even the best stakes on the market only cost about $20. Continue reading below for more info on the different stake styles and how you can increase holding power while reducing overall stake weight.

My Tent Stake Recommendations

Remember that stake length isn’t everything. You also need to consider the design of the stakes. Some designs just work better than others.

  • 6″ MSR Groundhog Mini (Weight=.35oz): I think the MSR Groundhog mini offers the most bang for your buck. The mini offers the same industry-leading design as the regular groundhog in a lightweight compact design. You can expect about 40lb-50lb of holding power in most conditions. If that isn’t strong enough you really need to rethink your pre-trip planning.
  • 7.5″ MSR Groundhog (Weight=.46oz): The regular 7.5″ MSR Groundhog is by far the most popular tent stake on the market. It’s extremely durable, lightweight and offers more holding power than every other stake on the market. With about 64lb of holding power regardless of soil conditions, the MSR Groundhog is by far the strongest stake on the market.
  • 6″ MSR Carbon Core Stake (Weight=.19oz): MSR’s Carbon Core Nail is the perfect stake for ultralight backpackers. At .19oz it’s the lightest stake currently on the market. The reinforced head sets it apart from other lightweight nail stakes and the 6″ shaft is big enough to offer excellent holding power. You’ll get 30-35lb of holding power in most conditions which is plenty strong.

How Long Should Tent Stakes Be?

When it comes to stake length it’s really hard to give a one size fits all answer. Trying to compare different stake styles is like comparing me and Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime. Both of us weigh about 235lb but I’m a heck of a lot weaker than he is.

Generally speaking longer stakes will almost always have more holding power than shorter ones. There’s one major exception to that rule. The MSR Groundhog Y-Beam Style stakes perform way better than the competition at all lengths.

I decided to run a few makeshift experiments to figure out which stakes offer the most holding power. Of course, these tents aren’t comprehensive since I don’t own every stake and I’m not a scientist. They were done randomly throughout my backyard so your results may vary.

Tent Stake and StyleTent Stake LengthTent Stake WeightHolding Power Range (lb)
MSR Groundhog Mini (Y-Beam)6″.35oz40-50lb
MSR Groundhog (Y-Beam)7.5″.43oz60-70lb
MSR Carbon Core Nail Stake6″.19oz32-40lb
Vargo Titanium V-Stake6.25″.38oz25*-55lb (Bad in Compacted Soil)
MSR Aluminum Shephard Hook6.75″.45oz25-35lb
Toaks Titanium Shephard Hook6.5″.23oz23-35lb
Vargo Titanium Shephard Hook6″.32oz20-30lb
Cheap Plastic Peg6″.40oz0-20lb (Couldn’t get it in Compacted Soil)

Conclusions

  • Long stakes generally have the most holding power.
  • Stakes almost always hold better in wet soil. Shephard hooks are the only stake that holds better in dry compact soil.
  • The MSR Groundhog seems to hold better regardless of soil conditions. Even the shorter groundhog mini offers more holding power than similar length/weight stakes.
  • MSR’s Carbon Core 6″ Nail stakes are the lightest option, but they still perform as well as Shephard Hooks

Different Stake Styles Need Different Lengths

After looking at the table above you can see why it’s hard to give a one size fits all answer. It all boils down to the type of tent stake that you’re using. Here’s a list of the different stake styles sorted from most to least holding power.

  • Groundhog (Aka Y-Beam): There’s a reason why the MSR Groundhog is hands down the most popular tent stake on the market. The Y-Beam design found on the groundhog offers the most holding power regardless of soil type. There are lighter options available, but not beat the shear strength of the Y-Beam Style. You can even go with the groundhog mini if you want to save a little weight.
  • V-Beam: I have a love-hate relationship with my Vargo Titanium V-Beam Stakes. They stack neatly in my pack and they work well most of the time, but they’re terrible in compacted soil. Plus you have to deal with digging dirt out of all the nooks and crannies.
  • Shephard Hook: Shephard hooks are basically the same old stakes that come with your tent. So why would you buy them separately? Honestly, I probably wouldn’t buy expensive shepherd hooks, but MSR’s Aluminum stakes are a cheap way to cut a lot of weight out of your pack. They only weigh .45oz which is way lighter than the 3oz steel stakes that came with my tent.
  • Nail/Spike: Most people don’t switch over to nail stakes for their holding power. They’re trying to cut out as much weight as possible for their ultralight setups. Just make sure your nails have reinforced heads like the MSR Carbon Cores. My Toaks Titanium Nails didn’t last more than a month before the tips started to bend.
  • Plastic Peg: Just don’t use those cheap plastic pegs that come with some tents! You’re better off finding a nice stick and using that instead.

What’s The Lightest Tent Stake Setup?

There are a couple different routes that people like to take when trying to reduce weight. You might be thinking to yourself, “Do I need to use tent stakes?” Only you can answer that, but there are a few ways to save weight without ditching them completely.

Personally, I would just go with the carbon cores if I was trying to shed weight. At 6″ (.19oz) it will be hard to come up with a lighter setup without completely getting rid of your stakes. You can even pair them with 2 Groundhog Mini’s on the main anchor points to boost the hold on, especially windy days.

A lot of people just ditch their tent stakes altogether and use DIY stakes that they find while setting up camp. Placing a 20+lb stone in each corner of your tent is just like using a 6″ Shepherd hook. Further sturdy it up by using sticks like any old tent stake.

Why Do I Keep Recommending MSR Stakes?

Sorry if I sound like a broken record, but MSR makes most of the best tent stakes on the market. I don’t work for MSR and I’m not getting paid to recommend their stakes over the competition. Their products just work regardless of the soil type.

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