Do you want to risk damaging your tent in the wind? Nobody wants their tent to blow away and collapse in bad weather. You can’t control the weather. So you will have to learn how to properly use tent stakes.
How many tent stakes do I need? You need to have 1 tent stake for every corner of your tent. So if your tent has 4 corners, you need to carry 4 stakes (plus a spare). Just keep in mind that some stakes work better than others.
You might want to buy better tent stakes if you plan on regularly camping or backpacking. Different designs offer more holding power at a fraction of the weight. Refer to the chart below where I compare the holding power of different tent stakes.
Do I Really Need Tent Stakes?
Honestly, I wouldn’t go camping without tent stakes. Stakes are easy to use and even the best stakes on the market aren’t all that expensive. There’s really no excuse not to use stakes.
The MSR Groundhog Stake is widely considered the best tent stake on the market. You can’t beat the weight and holding power for the price.
Of course you can get by without using stakes in mild weather, but you’re screwed if the wind picks up. You might be able to get away with using heavy rocks in the corners or using sticks instead, but it’s not worth it. You will eventually end up damaging the tent in moderate/heavy winds.
With that being said I don’t recommend using the heavy steel stakes that come with your tent(set of 4 weighs over 1lb). If you’re really trying to save pack weight consider purchasing the MSR Carbon Core Nail Stakes (.19oz each). The chart below compares the weight and holding power of the best tent stakes on the market.
You might want to check out my post explaining why you need tent stakes which offers a few alternatives to save weight.
|Tent Stake and Style||Tent Stake Length||Tent Stake Weight||Holding Power Range (lb)|
|MSR Groundhog Mini (Y-Beam)||6″||.35oz||40-50lb|
|MSR Groundhog (Y-Beam)||7.5″||.43oz||60-70lb|
|MSR Carbon Core Nail Stake||6″||.19oz||32-40lb|
|Vargo Titanium V-Stake||6.25″||.38oz||25*-55lb (Bad in Compacted Soil)|
|MSR Aluminum Shephard Hook||6.75″||.45oz||25-35lb|
|Toaks Titanium Shephard Hook||6.5″||.23oz||23-35lb|
|Vargo Titanium Shephard Hook||6″||.32oz||20-30lb|
|Cheap Plastic Peg||6″||.40oz||0-20lb (Couldn’t get it in Compacted Soil)|
How Many Tent Stakes Do I Need?
Even though tent stakes aren’t entirely necessary, they definitely help. So how many stakes do you actually need?
Generally speaking, you need to have at least 1 tent stake for each corner of the tent. Some 4-Season tents will have additional securing points to further stabilize the tent. I like to carry 1-2 extra stakes to cover my butt in rough weather.
How many stakes you carry depends on where/how you’re camping. Car campers can carry a wide selection of stakes designed to work in different soil types. I carry a toolbox in the back of my truck with a bunch of stakes, tools and repair accessories.
For sandy soil with lots of stones, you’ll want a beefy stake like the MSR Groundhog or V-Style Vargo Titanium Ascent Stake. You can usually get away with a cheap shephard’s hook or lightweigh Carbon Core spike in campgrounds.
Backpackers shouldn’t carry more than the bare essentials. I carry 4 MSR carbon core nail stakes and 2 Mini Groundhogs whenever I go backpacking. The Groundhog mini’s are used as lightweight anchors on the front/back and the carbon cores work as general all-purpose stakes. All 6 of these stakes weigh less than a single steel stake that came with my tent.
You Might Want to Carry Extra Stakes and Guylines
I carry a small stuff sack filled with my tent stakes and extra guy lines. You might want to carry a few extra stakes in rough weather. Most of us can tolerate a few extra oz in our pack for additional functionality in a wide variety of conditions.
Backpackers should try to keep their stuff sack of stakes/cord around 6-8 oz. The tent stakes should be light only taking up 1-2oz of the total weight. Most of the weight should come from additional paracord and guy line.
Longer stakes will offer more holding power, but they will be heavier. Go with a 6+ inch stake in most conditions. For more info check out my post describing when you should use different length tent stakes.
Different Stake Types
Not every tent stake is going to offer the same amount of holding power. You can usually get away with cheap stakes in mild weather, but you’ll need more holding power in heavy winds.
- Groundhog Style (60-70 lbs): Groundhog style stakes (shaped like a letter Y) offer by far the most holding power. These are by far the most popular stakes on the market. MSR’s Groundhog and Groundhog mini are the only 2 options currently available.
- V-Style (20-55 lbs): V-Style stakes like the Vargo Titanium Ascent Stakes work really well in loose sandy soil, but they’re terrible in regular compact dirt. The holding power drops considerably and you have to pick dirt out of the holes.
- Shephard Hooks (25-35lbs): Shephard hooks are usually the cheapest options on the market. Go with the MSR Aluminum Shephards if you’re trying to save money. They’re cheap, light and work in a wide variety of conditions, but they don’t have a lot of holding power.
- Nail and Spikes (25-35lbs): Nail and spike style tent stake serve 1 major purpose, they’re lightweight. MSR’s Carbon Core stake is by far the best nail stake on the market. It only weighs .19 oz and it has a reinforced head. You’ll eventually smash down the head on every other nail/spike style stake on the market.
Stake Material Matters
Most tent stakes are made out of titanium, steel, aluminum, or plastic. You’ll generally want to stick to either titanium or aluminum tent stakes. These will generally be stronger and lighter than steel/plastic.
- Aluminum: I would say that 99% of campers should go with aluminum tent stakes. Aluminum stakes are cheap, lightweight, and strong enough for most applications. The MSR Groundhog stake (made out of aluminum) is by far the best stake on the market.
- Titanium: Titanium stakes are by far the most durable stakes on the market, but boy are they expensive. Titanium Shephard hooks are close to $25(aluminum $5-$10). It’s only worth spending the extra money if you’re camping in unusually rocky soil.
- Steel: Most tents come with cheap steel shephard hook stakes. They’re strong and work well, but they’re very heavy. I highly recommend switching over to aluminum if you plan on hiking and backpacking.
- Plastic: Don’t use plastic! They’re cheap, but you’re better off finding a sharp stick. These will break easily and you’ll never get them into hard soil.