How to stake a tent on hard ground

by | Nov 28, 2022 | Backcountry camping

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The best thing about camping is you get to camp in all sorts of different environments.

New environments often mean new terrain, including a more solid ground that isn’t as easy to stake a tent into compared to a softer ground like grass, sand, or dirt.

Your standard stakes may not be strong enough or have the right design to hold your tent in place on a hard surface, and you’ll need to take some extra steps to ensure that your tent stays secure.

But first, consider the type of tent you have.

Ideally, you want a freestanding tent to camp on hard ground

A freestanding tent is a type of tent with an integrated frame and poles that supports the canopy without needing stakes or guyouts.

In other words, you can set the tent up completely and move it around without having to stake it into the ground.

A freestanding tent on a backcountry campsite.

The poles basically stretch the tent material out and create tension so that it stays upright.

Why is this important?

A freestanding tent holds up its shape all on its own, meaning that it’s less likely to collapse in on you even when you do stake it onto hard ground.

A non-freestanding tent, on the other hand, relies on stakes to keep it held up into its shape, meaning that if the hard ground prevents you from being able to tension the stakes enough, your tent walls may collapse in on you.

A non-freestanding tent at a campsite.

It may also be flimsy and difficult to keep in place in bad weather, such as rain and high winds.

The main benefit of using non-freestanding tents is that they’re lighter, making them great for backpacking or ultralight camping.

How to take a tent on hard soil or gravel

In a scenario where you’re camping on hard soil or gravel, it’s not impenetrable, but it’s also not easy to drive in stakes.

First of all, you can probably forget about trying to use the stakes that came with your tent.

They’re best used for camping on softer ground.

Instead, get yourself some screw-in stakes or heavy-duty peg stakes.

Screw-in stakes

Screw-in stakes are designed with a pointed tip and helical threads, allowing you to twist them into the ground for extra security.

A close-up of a screw-in tent stake.

For instance, these stakes from Hex Pegs are 10 inches long and come with a drill bit, making it easy to drill your stakes into the ground.

The one downside to using these, of course, is that you’ll need to bring a cordless drill with you to the drill them into the ground.

These screw-in stakes from Orange Screw are a little more camp-friendly since they can be twisted into the ground by hand without the need for a drill.

Heavy-duty peg stakes

Another good option for camping on hard ground is to use heavy-duty peg stakes, which are typically designed with larger and sharper nail-heads.

Ideally, you want galvanized steel stakes, which are rust-resistant and built to last.

A man using a mallet to secure heavy-duty tent stakes into the ground.

These heavy-duty tent peg stakes are extra long, have hooks at the top for securing your tent, and come with a handy wooden mallet for you to pound them into the ground.

If the ground is just too hard or rock solid to drive even the most heavy-duty stakes into, consider trying the methods in the next section.

How to stake a tent on solid rock or concrete

When it comes to camping on solid rock or concrete, you have a couple of options.

First things first: You’re not going to be driving anything into the ground.

It’s just too hard.

So instead, you’ll need to use a kind of anchor that will hold onto the rock or concrete without needing to penetrate it.

T-bone rock anchor

A T-bone rock anchor involves using your tent stakes and several rocks to create an anchor system.

In this kind of system, each stake will be positioned perpendicular to their respective guylines, forming a “T” shape to hold them in place when tension is applied.

T-bone rock anchor

Tie your guyline around the middle of the stake using a clove hitch knot, assume the T-position, and then pile rocks around the guyline and stake to create a secure anchor system.

Once all the rocks are in place, you can apply tension to the guyline and your tent will be held securely into place.

Wrap-around rock anchor

An alternative to the T-bone rock anchor is the wrap-around rock anchor, which may be appropriate as long as you can find a big, heavy rock that isn’t round or smooth.

The idea is simple: You’re going to just wrap your guyline around the rock three or four times and secure the end either with a simple knot or by placing in under the load of the rock.

Wrap-around rock anchor

Ideally, you want your rock to have several flat edges or corners for the tent guyline to wrap around.

The edges will prevent the guyline from slippping off the rock and will provide enough friction to hold the tent securely into place.

How to stake a tent on wooden platforms

Some campgrounds and backcountry campsites provide wooden platforms for campers, which are great as a flat surface—but maybe not so great for staking a tent.

A tent set up on a wooden platform.

While you can certainly use the rock anchor techniques discussed above, you may want to consider using another type of stake to make things easier.

Notice how most wood platforms have gaps in them?

Well, you can use those to your advantage.

Find the gaps and fill them up with a spring-equipped “fisbhone” stake, like these ones from TOBWOLF.

All you need to do is insert the end of the stake into the gap between the wood panels and rotate it about 90 degrees to fix it into place.

The spring buckle will make sure the stake is held firmly into place, and you can then tie your tent’s guyline around the hook at the top of the stake.

How to stake a tent on ice

Finally, if you’re winter camping in an area with frozen ground, you’ll need to find a way to secure your tent into the ice and snow.

Tent stakes lying in the snow.

We use heavy-duty forged iron winter tent stakes to hold up our 12×12 canvas hot tent in the winter, which are 14 inches long each and have metal rings at the top to make removing them easier.

They’re extremely heavy, and you need to use the backside of your axe or hatchet to drive them into the ice, so they’re not exactly for ultralight campers.

Your other option is to opt for the screw-in stakes (mentioned above) and screw them into the ice using a cordless drill.

Tips for removing stakes from hard ground

Whatever type of ground you’re camping on, chances are it won’t be super easy to remove your tent stakes when it comes time to take down camp.

If you can’t pull the stake out using your hands, try these tips:

  • Use the backside of your axe/hatchet or use your mallet or hammer to tap around the stake, which may help loosen it from the ground.
  • Pour some water around the stake and wait a few minutes for it to moisten the ground, which may make it easier to pull out.
  • Use the pliers on your multitool to twist the stake, then pull upward on it.
  • Consider getting a tool like the Hikemax Camping Hammer, which comes with a built-in tent stake extractor.

Next up: Find out what the difference is between a three-season and four-season tent

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Elise & Ross

We’re Elise and Ross, avid backcountry campers and outdoor adventurers! We started Gone Camping Again as a way to share our knowledge and experience about wilderness living and travel. Our hope is that we inspire you to get outside and enjoy all that nature has to offer!

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