How To Setup A Camping Tent On A Concrete Slab

How to setup a tent on concrete slab

Setting up a tent on a concrete slab doesn’t seem like a great idea, but sometimes there’s no other choice. You won’t be able to drive in tent stakes, but setting up a tent on concrete is easy. It doesn’t matter if your tents freestanding or non-freestanding. You should always be able put up your tent.

How do set up a tent on concrete? You can set up your tent on concrete just like you would anywhere else. The only difference is you won’t be able to drive in tent stakes. This isn’t an issue with freestanding tents (unless it’s windy), but some tents need stakes for structural support. With a non-freestanding tent you will need to use heavy rocks or another type of weight to stake down your guylines.

That sounds easy enough, but how do you actually stake down your tent in concrete? Don’t worry! Securing a tent without stakes isn’t hard. All you need is something heavy to secure your guylines on a non-freestanding tent or secure the corners on a freestanding model. In the rest of this post I’ll explain everything you need to know about securing your tent on a concrete slab.

How Do You Set Up A Tent On Concrete?

RV Campground With Concrete Pads

When you start picturing the perfect camp site, I doubt you’re picturing a tent setup on a large concrete slab. Unfortunately, that’s what you may run into at popular campgrounds with RV setups. I’ve been completely shocked a few times, when I’ve been expecting a primitive campsite and been assigned an RV site. It sucks, but sometimes you have to deal with what you’re given in popular campgrounds.

Setting up your tent on grass is easy, but people seem to get confused when they have to set up camp on a concrete slab. There’s no way to drive in stakes at the corners so you will need to get creative. Just bring medium sized rocks from home or weights to secure the corners. That sounds easy enough, but let’s go over the setup process.

  1. Clear The Area: Clear the area of any debris. You don’t want to setup your tent on sticks or pebbles that could puncture/rip the bottom of your tent.
  2. Use A Tarp of Footprint (optional): Using a tarp or tent footprint under your tent is optional, but it will help reduce damage to the tent floor. Setting up a tent on concrete is like placing it on sand paper. It will scratch up and wear down the thin tent floor.
  3. Unfold Your Tent: Unfold your tent and set it up near the pitch position. Try to shake off any debris that may have fallen in your tent from last time and stretch out all the corners.
  4. Freestanding vs Non-Freestanding: I’ll go into detail on this below, but freestanding tents can be setup like you would anywhere else. Install the tent poles, secure the corners with weights and you’re good to go. The tent poles support the structure and don’t need guylines to hold it up. With a non-freestanding tent, you will need to use a pair of rocks or tied off weights on each guyline to hold up the poles.
  5. Straighten Out The Corners: Pull on each of the corners to straighten out the sidewalls before securing them with rocks. With non-freestanding tents, you will need to use your guylines tied off to rocks to bring your tent poles into position.
  6. Use Rocks To Secure The Corners/Guylines: With freestanding tents all you need is a 10-15lb weight on the inside of each corner to secure the tent. Place cloth under the rocks to protect the tent floor from dirt/debris and tears in strong winds. I recommend bringing rocks from home if you’ll be parking near the campsite since it will be hard to find them in popular campgrounds. You can always use your cooler and random gear to secure each corner. With a non-freestanding tent, you’ll need to use a heavy rock as an anchor and small rock/stick to tie off on. The heavy rock sits on the guyline and the smaller rock goes outside as a wedge. I’ll go over this step below.

Freestanding vs Non-Freestanding Tents

The vast majority of tents that are purchased are freestanding, but what does that mean? A freestanding tent is structurally sound without needing stakes and guy lines. The tent poles work as a structural frame for the fabric to drape around. Stakes aren’t entirely necessary for a freestanding tents structure, but you should still use them to protect your tent when the wind picks up.

Setting up a tent on concrete is easy. Just set your tent up like you normally would and use heavy rocks or any other weight to anchor the corners. The rocks aren’t structurally necessary, but they will hold down your tent in strong wind. Kites are basically just giant kites so it doesn’t take a strong wind gust to pick up your tent.

Setting up a non-freestanding tent on concrete can be tricky. Non-Freestanding tents use tentpoles, guy lines, and stakes to support the structure. Your tent will flop over down if you can’t find a way to support the guy lines.

You will have to use 2 rocks on each corner of your tent to secure the guylines. One of the rocks is used as the anchor to hold down the tent and the other is tied off to a guyline behind the rock. I’ll explain this step in detail in the following section. It’s easier to understand once you see the picture.

Anchoring Your Tent With Rocks

Anchoring your tent with rocks is fairly straightforward. With a freestanding tent all you need is one large rock for each corner of the tent where you would normally drive in your tent stakes. Non-freestanding tents will need a fair bit of Macgyvering, but it’s still easy.

With a non-freestanding tent you will need to find one heavy 10-15 lb rock and a smaller rock or stick to tie off each guyline. Tie off onto the small rock or stick and wedge the large rock on the guyline between the tent and tie off point. The picture above shows what I’m talking about.

It shouldn’t be all that difficult to pick up a medium sized rock. More weight is always better than less, but don’t go crazy lugging in a small boulder. Tent stakes only have 10-20lbs of holding pressure so you don’t need to go overboard.

How Heavy Do The Rocks Need To Be?

The rocks don’t need to be all that heavy to support your guy lines. Tent stakes only have about 10-20 lbs of holding power so that’s all you need to support your tent. You need one large rock 10lb rock on each guy line as the anchor and a smaller rock/stick to tie the guy line off. The smaller rock can be any size, but long and skinny is easier to tie off.

Exercise weights will also work to hold down your tent. A pair of 10 and 15 pound dumbells or olympic weights on each guyline/corner will be more than enough weight. Weights will be easier to use since you can tie them down directly instead of using a set of rocks wedged together.

Will Concrete Damage My Tent Bottom?

Concrete has a rough texture so it will eventually wear through the bottom of your tent. It’s just like setting it up on a piece of sandpaper. As you walk across the tent floor the concrete finish will slowly dig through the fabric. You can protect the tent floor by laying down a tarp or tent footprint down before setting up the tent. Just make sure the footprint is slightly smaller than the sides of the tent to prevent pooling water.

How Much Weight Do You Need To Hold Down A Tent On Concrete?

You shouldn’t need all that much weight to hold down your tent. Just find a find a 10lb rock for each of your guy lines and that should be plenty of weight. About 40-50lbs of anchor weight should be more than enough to hold down a tent.

Can I Do Anything About The Hard Ground?

I never recommend sleeping directly on the ground. Most campers sleep on a foam/inflatable sleeping pad, air mattress, or a camping cot to get up off the cold hard ground. Be careful using an air mattress in cool weather since they’re not insulated. The cold air underneath your body will quickly sap away body heat.