Tent Pegs & Stakes – Types and Uses

Square tent pegs resist twisting in the ground
MSR Needle Stakes for good all round performance.
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of arriving back at the camping site after full day of hiking up big mountains, only to find that your tent has been blow across the campsite by strong winds and that it has landed in a patch of brambles that have torn it to shreds. Or so I’m told. Fortunately its never happened to me! 😉 Securing your tent with suitable pegs, stakes and guy ropes is essential if you don’t want your tent to get blown away. There are different types of tent peg that are available for use with different types of ground, different types of tent and with differing weights.

Often dedicated campsites, which may also be farmers fields, have a layer of grass covered mud and, provided that there has not been too much sun or too much rain, normal steel or aluminium tent pegs will be fine. The Vango steel hook and pin pegs fall into this category. They are often also useful for pegging down football nets, groundsheets or windbreaks.

If you are going backpacking, you are likely to conscious of the weight of your tent pegs. Steel is too heavy, so you will be looking at alloys of aluminium or titanium. Plastic pegs are also available, but they are not necessarily lighter than the lightweight metal alloy pegs. There are different specialist pegs and stakes available from brands such as MSR and Vango, but which are the best?

Aluminium encased carbon fibre tent pegs
MSR Carbon Core Stakes are strong and ultralightweight.

Best performance for lightweight pegs

For all round performance and light weight, square alloy pegs are probably the best bet. These would include MSR Needle Stakes or Lightwave Lightning Pegs. Since they are square, these types of pegs resist bending and twisting in the ground, while providing a good anchor even in loose ground.

For a stronger, ultralight peg, which resists bending in hard ground, MSR Carbon Core pegs would be advantageous. They contain a strong carbon fibre core encased in aluminium, and at less than 6g each they are extremely lightweight.

Tent Pegs for Soft and Hard Ground

There are several types of poor quality ground that present difficulties for placing and securing pegs. If the ground is boggy or loose then pegs will not stay in position. They will simply get pulled out with the minimum of force. Through the use of larger surface area and particular shapes, pegs can be designed with better adhesion to soft soil of mud.

At the other extreme, if the ground is hard the pegs are likely to bend when you are putting them in.

Y -Shaped tent pegs prevent twisting and bending
MSR Groundhog Stakes are ideal for pegging down
your tent in soggy or loose ground.

To cope with these extremes of ground, MSR Ground Hog Stakes utilise a Y-shaped design that holds the ground whilst resisting twisting and bending. At only 10 g each they are also lightweight. Alternatively The North Face Stakes are also a good choice, although they are slightly heavier at about 13 g each.

Camping in High Winds

Long tent pegs for use in high winds.
MSR Cyclone Stakes are designed for camping in strong winds.

For backpackers wild camping in high winds, the MSR Cyclone Stakes have to best the best choice. Made from 7000 series aluminium, each stake weighs 35 g, but they are 25 cm long and there can be no doubt about their staying power!

Camping on Stony Ground

If you are going camping on stony ground and weight is not an issue, then you need a tough stake. The 18cm long Vango Rock Pegs are ideal for cutting through tough, dry soil filled with stones. We especially recommend them if you are camping at the National Trust Great Langdale campsite! They are also ideal for larger tents where the guy ropes take a heavy load, or for awnings and gazebos that can easily catch the wind. Don’t forget to bring a mallet!

Camping in the Snow or on Sand

To secure your tent in very loose ground, such as sand or snow, large U-shaped stakes have the best design, since they provide a large surface area to keep them in the ground. If your pegs do not hold when inserted into the ground in the conventional manner, the deadman technique can be employed. This is done by digging a hole into the sand or snow, coiling the guyline around the peg, lying the peg down flat in the hole before filling the hole back in and finally compacting the sand or snow.

Advice on Anchoring your Tent

It is important to secure your tent, bivi or tarp to ensure that it will not blow away in the wind. In addition to pegging down the tent itself, guylines will provide vital extra stability. If you have a limited number of larger or more suitably designed pegs, then these should be used for the guylines.

When inserting pegs into the ground, they will be more secure if angled away from the tent. If you are driving to the campsite you can make life easier by taking a mallet with you. If the ground is too hard to push the stake straight in and you do not have a mallet, you can use a rock or stone to hammer it in. Alternatively apply a constant pressure by pressing down with your foot. To avoid injuring your feet do this whilst wearing your walking boots.

In order to provide additional anchorage, if your stakes come out of the ground or if the ground is too rocky to peg your tent down, you can place rocks on top of the pegs and around the base of tent. Additionally you can coil the guylines around a rock or log. Place another rock on top of the guyline to keep it closer to the ground, stopping it from moving around so much and making it less easy to trip over. MSR Reflective guyline markers will also help prevent you from tripping over your guylines at night.

And finally…

Don’t ask your dog which stakes are best, since he will inevitably tell you that it is beef steaks.


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