If you’ve been shopping for a higher-end thru-hiking tent, then the chances are good that it may come with either no stakes or a set of generic stakes.
While this may seem like a big deal at first glance, the stakes you need may vary significantly with the terrain, so do tents come with stakes?
Many high-end tents will require the purchase of tent stakes due to stakes needing to match your area of use. Stakes in the sand are different from stakes in the dirt, which means you may pay for stakes if they are included with the tent that is of little to no use; instead, they allow choice.
Many seem to take this as a slight and that their $600 tent should come with stakes, but as you will come to find out, this is more to allow you choice.
This will enable you to pay for the correct ones for your trek and not just a generic set that will not suit your needs for use.
What Are Tent Stakes For?
Tent stakes are used to keep your tent in place while you are sleeping, in addition, they help to provide safety during high winds to hold your tent steady and prevent collapse.
Tent stakes are the primary way to anchor your tent and rainfly to the ground and to maintain the tension across the fabric which provides rigidity to the tent.
These may need to be swapped out depending on the ground type and conditions for better anchoring into the ground.
There is little worse than having a bad night’s sleep due to the noise of flapping fabric and being constantly awoken by it, this can be alleviated with some good proper staking!
Now you may wonder, do you need to actually carry tent stakes if your tent is free-standing, meaning no stakes are required to hold their shape, let’s take a deeper look.
Do You Need Tent Stakes?
For many tents a thru-hiker will take with them, this becomes a vital question, especially when people are working hard to try and minimize all the ounces they possibly could, while others will carry extra stakes to give themselves options.
Tent stakes for most thru-hiker tents will be required, as we use trekking pole tents and semi-free standing tents, which both require the use of stakes to hold the tent shape and anchor it to the ground.
There are a few free-standing tent options available that thru-hikers may decide to bring, but these are heavier tents which means you end up with more weight on your back to get rid of the minor amount of stake weight.
How to Tell if a Tent Comes With Stakes
If you are trying to find out if your tent has stakes that come with it you have a few ways to look and see.
The best way is to always start with the tent description on the manufacturer’s website, like Zpacks, followed by the packaging if in a store like REI.
Using the product description online can be a simple way to see do tents come with stakes, do make sure to read the description carefully as this may not be listed.
This would instead list how your tent is set up and what you need for it which can include stakes or poles etc.
Read the Packaging
If shopping at a store like REI, then do take the time to check out the packaging, do make sure to do this in the aisle with your specific tent as not all tents are out on display.
This usually has a small list of items required for set up which can be used to determine if stakes come with it or what you need to buy separately.
Reading others who have bought and used the tent and wrote reviews can give you some insight do tents come with stakes, do be sure to read through many before making your purchase.
There is no way of knowing if the tent you are looking at comes with stakes without reading about it first, do make sure that you do not end up purchasing a tent that does not have what you need for set-up.
Contact the Manufacturer
The last is to reach out to the manufacturer if nothing is listed online or in the packaging, do make sure to have your tent’s product number handy.
This is an excellent way to get an answer if stakes do come with it and also find out any other information that you may need about the setup and use of the tent.
Types of Tent Stakes
There are a vast array and types of stakes, or tent peg as some call them, that are available and each can serve specific needs or functions.
We will go over some of the more popular types available and what they can do for you, but do make sure to do your research on what is best for the specific conditions in which you will be camping.
Groundhog Stakes (Y-Beam)
These are made by many companies, but the most well-known is the original MSR groundhogs, as they are a thru-hiker favorite.
The Groundhog stake is an all-purpose aluminum stake with a distinctive shape that helps it grip nearly any type of loose soil, sand, or dirt.
The stakes feature a Y shape profile, which makes them ideal for retaining power while staying small in size.
For an ultra-light stake, the three-sided form offers excellent bend resistance. Aluminum stakes are also much less expensive than similar titanium or carbon stakes.
One of the more standard stakes that come with mid to high-end tents, like their name states they have a V-shape which helps it to grip in hard-packed earth or soil.
They are made of aluminum and available in multiple lengths, making them a good option for rocky or desert terrain.
The V-Stakes are a fantastic choice when you need a bit more stability, whether it’s from soft sand to snow. These V-shaped titanium stakes are extraordinarily light and sturdy.
This significant stake is more suited to grasping loose soil and holding steady in the wind than smaller stakes. If the ground is too hard, turn them upside down and use a rock to secure them.
Though it needs to be noted the shape works, these may be bent in half if you put too much body weight on them, but otherwise, they’re pretty sturdy.
Shepard hook stakes do not have a V-shape but do offer an open hook that can be used to secure your guy lines for stability, check out quality titanium Shepherd stakes here on Zpacks.
These are the lightest stakes available, with reasonable holding power and durability. Titanium is extremely lightweight and durable for its weight, but care should be taken to avoid bending.
Thinner stakes are much simpler to insert in the somewhat stiff ground than thicker ones. In loose dirt or in high winds, you may wish to weigh them down with rocks in the campsite to hold them in the earth.
Used to create some of the lightest weight straight peg stakes, these don’t take well to very solid ground, and they have a tendency to break over time or in rougher uses so they should be bought when you know the ground will be mostly softer.
These Carbon Fiber Stakes are a fantastic alternative for soft soil since they hold a larger surface area in the soft ground better.
These types of stakes, which feature a Carbon Fiber shaft with a metal tip and metal end cap, have the best holding power-to-weight ratio.
Because of their thicker diameter, they can better grip the ground than thin titanium rods.
They’re fantastic in loose soil and have also shown to be quite helpful in ordinary dirt. On packed dirt or rock, lay them sideways and hold them with rocks.
Type of Tent
There are many types of backpacking tents on the market, from the trekking poles tents that many YouTubers and thru-hikers will use made from Dyneema to the semi-freestanding tents with poles and a structure.
You will have a different amount and need for stakes depending on which type of tent you purchase as a trekking pole tent will be supported mostly by these stakes making them a core part of your tent setup and how it performs.
A free-standing tent is one that has poles, but it can be set up without anything else being needed, the fly and structure all being held together through the pole set up, and little to no tent stakes needed in most cases.
These tents will have the main body held by poles and be adjustable but typically getting the fly set up and in place will require using stakes to pull out and make them taught.
Trekking Pole Tents
These tents are fully built on 4-12 stakes on average along with your hiking trekking poles, without the right stakes you will have a hard time getting these tents up and stable throughout the night.
Additional Common Questions from Thru-Hikers on Tent Stakes
There are a few questions about tent stakes thru-hikers worry about or think about and I wanted to answer the most common ones below:
What is the Purpose of a Tent Platform
On some trails or parts of trails, you will find a wooden platform similar to a deck with the goal being to keep you from damaging the natural wildlife through hundreds of hikers placing tents and crushing plant life.
When you encounter these areas, you will need to use rocks and cordage to help attach your tent as the stakes won’t have any ground to dig into, most will set up cords with stakes sideways to help anchor onto the wooden platform.
Can You Set Up a Tent Without Stakes?
Depending on camping conditions, you may find places where you will not be able to push stakes into the ground, like the rocky tops of some mountains on the Appalachian Trail, there is no penetrable ground, so rocks and alternate setups will be required.
What Can I Use Instead of Tent Stakes?
As an alternative to tent stakes, you may need to use big rocks, or if on a wooden platform, you may need to tie them down instead, or platform anchors would work if you wanted to carry them or ship them prior to the area of need.
How Many Stakes Do You Need for a Tent?
This varies a tremendous amount as a tent like the Zpacks Duplex requires many more stakes than a semi-free standing tent will, in general at a minimum for a tent you will need at least four, but some tents can require ten or more to fully be set up in the wind or driving rain/snow.
Can I Set up a Tent Without Stakes?
With the appropriate skills, securing a tent without using stakes is possible. To prevent your tent from blowing away, you can use rocks, logs, tree trunks, or basically anything heavy to help anchor your tent to the spot.
Final Thoughts on Tent Stakes
Most high-quality tents, like the Duplex, will have the purchase of stakes separately, as these need to be tailored to the specific terrain in which they will be used.
Tent stakes are used to keep a tent in place and anchored to the ground and are a vital part of ensuring a good night’s sleep while out on the trail camping.
Your tent may flap in the wind without proper stakes or collapse during bad weather.
If you are looking to find the best tents for thru-hiking, check out my guide here, if you are looking for gear in general, I have a perfect page here allowing you to focus on any specific gear item.