Though there are some essentials, like a compass or food, that no one really ever forgets to bring along, we can’t exactly say the same for camping tent stakes. Even as a piece of gear that is incredibly helpful, tent stakes are often overlooked and even misunderstood from time-to-time. Not only do you need to know how to use these instruments properly, you should know that some tent stakes are better than others.
Types of Tent Stakes for Camping
Before we get into the best tent stakes available, you should be aware that there are different styles that have various uses. Depending on the time you go hiking throughout the year and where, the tent stakes you use may change.
Tent Stake Types:
- Utility Stakes – Longer and heavier than hook tent stakes, utility stakes have a great amount of power. These are best for camping in places where space isn’t an issue.
- Nail Stakes – T-shaped tent stakes that allow for easier securing of the guy line. Nail stakes come in high-grade materials and usually have a piece of plastic as the head.
- V-Stakes – V-shaped stakes that are highly durable and less prone to breakage. Ideal for rocky or hard ground.
- Y-Stakes – The durable, all-around stake for various kinds of terrain. Though pricey, Y-stakes are the best option for hikers who aren’t limited to a specific place or time.
- Snow Stakes – Although most suited for snowy terrain, snow tent stakes are large, curved, and are rather long and heavy to ensure you are getting a decent hold. Mountain-climbers should use snow stakes.
Though many hikers want to keep their gear as light as possible, tent stakes will likely weigh you down slightly—so keep this in mind! Carbon fiber stakes might be tempting, but these stakes lack durability. Be sure to purchase carbon fiber stakes that have cores of aluminum or other strong metals, like steel. Another lightweight yet strong option would be titanium. However, these stakes are often more thin and will bent easily if hit with blunt force.
Best Tent Stakes for Camping
1. MSR Groundhog Stake (6-pack)
- Excellent quality
- 0.4 oz per stake
- 7.5” long
- Reflective loop cords for visibility
- Incredible holding power in various weather conditions
- Aluminum, Y-beam design
- Will bend if pounded with a striking tool (never hit a stake this way. See below for more info.)
- Does not come with carry sack
If you are looking for a tent stake that can it all, then you choose the MSR Groundhog Stake. MSR has a great reputation for making tent stakes that last for years, and the Groundhog is no exception.
At 0.4 oz per stake, they are not exactly “lightweight,” but what you get in return is exceptional durability and holding power. The simple design is slightly triangular and curved, allowing for the stakes to sink easily into the soil.
2. Coleman 10-inch Steel Nail Tent Pegs (4-pack)
- Made from heavy steel and iron
- Excellent for stony, hard-packed earth
- Versatile tops that hook both guy lines and stakeout points
- Made for all weather conditions
- Not meant for loose sand
- Bulky, heavy, and not meant for minimalist packing (but ideal for car camping)
- Reviewers have reported the plastic tops breaking
First, the main advantage of these Coleman 10-inch stakes is that they are cheap. Second, these stakes are withstand almost anything. They are virtually indestructible. You can actually pound them with a sledgehammer and they won’t budge—but try to avoid doing that.
These aren’t fancy, and they certainly aren’t lightweight, but if you want something that is going to penetrate unforgiving earth and keep your tent from flying in high winds, you use these 10-inch Steel Nail Tent Pegs.
3. MSR Carbon Core Stake Kit (4-pack)
- ¼ inches in diameter, 6 inches in length
- 0.2 ounces – very lightweight
- Great for backpackers and minimalist campers
- Quite durable in normal conditions
- Also have been noted to hold tents down in up to 40-50 mph (64-80 kwh) winds
- Pull out of hard earth easily if not secured properly
- Aluminum casing scratches easily
Looking for a tent stake that combines the lightweight efficiency of the MSR Groundhog and the beefiness of the Coleman Steel Nail? Then you opt for the MSR Carbon Core Stake. Though these are the priciest stakes on the list, they are also a worthwhile investment if you want extra security. The carbon core is encased by aluminum; and each stake weighs around 0.2 ounces. The shafts, however, are quite thick.
4. UCO ML-SL-P Tent Stake (4-pack)
- Illuminated tent set-up. Now you can build at night without a problem.Emergency signal backup
- Made of durable aluminum
- Y-shape design
- Battery operated, bright LED light with on/off switch
- LED light is water-resistant
- Sturdy in various terrain when properly set
- Easy to drive in, set, and tie lines to
- Sometimes the battery drains quickly, depending on the temperature
- Batteries can be tricky to reload
- Some users (after pounding the stakes) complained of them bending or breaking. Again, don’t strike your stakes.
Now, suppose you are in a remote area in the middle of poor weather conditions and need to simultaneously signal for aid while keeping a shelter standing? You break out the UCO ML-SL-P StakeLight with emergency strobe lights attached. Each light emits 17 lumens for up to 10 hours or strobe flashing for up to 24 hours.
As for the stakes, they are made of 6000 series aluminum. Each stake is 9 inches long and weights around 1.3 ounces without a battery. Though these are not exactly lightweight, they do double up as a safety measure, so for more careful travelers, this is a great idea.
5. Aluminum Tri-Beam Tent Stakes (10-pack)
- Budget-friendly option (especially for 10 stakes)
- Tri-beam design
- Reflective paracord for easy removal
- Easy to spot day or night
- Comes with a carry pouch
- Each stake weighs around 4.2 ounces
- 7” long
- Stakes will bend if you are not careful
- Less holding power than some other stakes
- Not designed for hard earth or rocky terrain
Though TNH Aluminum Tri-beam Tent Stakes stakes are an incredible choice, they fall short of the MSR Groundhog stakes in a couple of ways (despite being almost identical). The differences are that the heads of these stakes only have a hooked attachment for lashing down guy lines. Also, the cross-section is straight instead of curved.
Though this means slightly less holding power than a curved stake, you get 6 more stakes. Plus, these stakes have a highly visible red color and reflective pull loops. So if you want to save money, this is a good starter option.
How to Properly Set Your Stakes
Now that you have decided you need tent stakes and maybe even decided which type is best for you, let’s quickly review how to properly set tent stakes to make sure you can use them immediately! Unless you are using extremely rigid, high-grade stakes, never hit the stakes with a heavy object (hammer, rock, log). Anything will bend, regardless of rigidity, when hit with a hammer. Instead, use this method instead:
1) Place the stake tilted away from the tent or tarp at a 45-degree angle.
2) Grip the stake. Meanwhile, gently apply even pressure to the top of the stake so it gradually sinks into the ground.
3) Make sure it has sunken up to the head.
If the stake doesn’t go into the ground, search for someplace where you meet no resistance and try again. Otherwise, you may need beefier (thicker) stakes.
Now that you know a little bit more about tent stakes, the various styles, and how to use them properly, which ones are you going to buy? Remember, tent stakes might not always be necessary, but they are never a piece of equipment that you want to forget—so stock up and be prepared, wherever you go in the world.