Stakes are an important part of a backpacking or camping shelter. They are used to secure a tent or tarp against strong wind, rain, and the occupant’s movements. In simple words, they are pegs that are driven into the ground (soil, snow or sand) to provide an anchor for guy lines. Originally stakes were made out of sharpened wood. Today, stakes are made out of ultralight metals, like aluminum or titanium. They also come in different shapes and sizes that are better suited for different situations.
When picking out which stake to bring, you will want to consider these factors:
- Length: Generally speaking, the deeper a stake is in the ground, the better it will hold.
- Surface Area: Just as with length, a greater surface area provides greater traction and holding power.
- Weight: The lighter the stake, the easier to carry.
- Soil Conditions: The type of soil (or snow) you will experience will highly influence the type of stake that you will need.
Here are the common types of stakes based on their shape:
- Needles or Pegs: The most basic type of stake, made up of a cylinder or square shaft that is sharp on one end and has a head or a notch on the other. Although they are easier to pound into the soil, they are prone to bending and provide the least surface area. Look for a thicker, square-shaped body shaft when choosing a needle stake.
- Shepherd’s Hook: Similar to needle stakes, but have a hook on one end resembling a shepherd’s staff. Many tents come with these types of stakes. They are also prone to bending and have a tendency of turning if not secured correctly, thus releasing the guy-line. To minimize this, be sure to pound them in far enough to anchor the end of the hook into the ground.
- V-Stakes: These are stakes that are shaped like a “V”, giving them more surface area. Due to their shape, they will not rotate in the soil and they usually have a notch near the top for you to secure the guy-lines. They are more resistant to bending than needles or shepherd's hooks.
- Y-Stakes: Y-stakes are shaped like a “Y”, giving them even more surface area than V-stakes. Similar to V-stakes, they will not rotate in the soil and are even more resistant to bending.
- Snow/Sand Stakes: These stakes are larger and curved, making them ideal for use in snow or sand. Some are twisted to give you even better holding power. Although they weigh more, they are indispensible on the beach, sandy desert, or winter camping.
Another factor when choosing a stake is the material it is made out of. This will dictate the stake’s strength, weight and cost. Many camping tents often come with steel takes which are heavier than other choices. For backpackers, aluminum stakes are a great option since they are lighter and stronger, but are also fairly inexpensive. The lightest metal option is titanium, but they will cost more than aluminum. On the top end of the spectrum would be carbon fiber stakes which are the strongest and lightest but are also the most expensive type.
There is always wood, which you could easily find at a wooded campground; provided that you have the necessary tools and skill to carve it into a suitable stake.
Once you've chosen the type of stake that you need, here are some additional tips and tricks to get the most out of them.
- If possible, tie a loop of cord to your stakes, which will make removing them from the ground a lot easier. If you use a brightly colored and/or reflective cord, you will be able to find the stakes easily when pulling them out or if you accidentally drop them.
- Use a guy line tensioner (or a suitable knot) on each guy line to make tightening the line around the stake a lot easier.
- Clear the area of leaves and debris before driving your stakes in so you can be sure that you are planting them securely into the ground.
- It is common to lose stakes accidentally on the trail so bring a couple more then what you need.
- Drive the stakes at an angle pointing away from the tent or tarp. You want around a 90-degree angle between the line and the stake to provide the strongest anchor.
- To provide even more holding power, place a large rock on top of the stake. This will prevent it from being pulled out during strong wind gusts.
- When using V-stakes or Y-stakes, have the bottom of the “Y” or "V" pointing towards the tent or tarp.
Hopefully, this guide has provided some valuable information about how to choose the right stake for the job. If you have any other tips to share, be sure to leave a comment below.
Also, check out the rest of our blog for more backpacking and camping articles.