All good structures start with a good foundation and it’s no different when you’re setting up a tent. The structural integrity of your tent depends on having the best tent stakes to hold your guy lines nice and tight.
Tent pegs have come a long way from the old wire shepherd’s hook pegs you remember from your childhood camping days. Developments in material science, as well as some clever design features, give you some great options to choose from.
We’ve reviewed the best tent stakes available, as well as why and where you’d use the different options.
At a Glance: Our Top Tent Peg Recommendations:
- Best Overall: MSR Groundhog
- MSR Carbon Core
- SE 9NRC10 Heavy Duty Tent Stakes
- Best for Budget: All One Tech Aluminum Tent Stakes
- MSR Cyclone Stake
Note: Clicking the above links will take you to further information, current prices and customer reviews on Amazon
What You'll Learn
- MSR Groundhog
- MSR Carbon Core
- SE 9NRC10 Heavy Duty Tent Stakes
- All One Tech Aluminum Tent Stakes
- MSR Cyclone Stake
- Our Favorite
- Best For Budget
- How to Choose the Best Tent Stakes
- Different Stakes for Different Ground
- How to stake a tent on rocky ground
- How to stake a tent in the snow
- Y-beam design offers excellent anchoring
- Lightweight – 0.6 ounces
- 7000-series aluminum – tough and durable
- Tapered end cuts through rough ground with ease
- Holds in wide variety of terrain – from soft, to hard and rocky
Once they’re in, the Y-beam design has them gripping the ground like superglue. MSR put a little loop of rope at the end to help you pull them out. These are a top choice for tarp camping, if you are keeping things lightweight but need durability.
Despite the high durability, these stakes are lightweight and packable. If you want to go a little lighter and smaller then get the MSR Mini Groundhog. They’re an inch shorter (6.5”) and weigh 0.35 oz.
We never advise hammering tent stakes but, let’s face it, sometimes you have to. These stakes will take a pounding without any problem.
- Super lightweight – 0.19 oz each
- Large diameter nail offers good holding power
- Very strong and durable
- High visibility red top makes these easy to see
When we say “strong” we mean for their weight. Bearing in mind that these are ultralight, you can’t go hammering away at them and expect them to survive. The stake head has a big enough surface allowing you to exert decent pressure with your hand to drive these in, it holds the guy line nicely too.
See also: Best Lightweight Tent for Backpacking
The high-viz red color of the top makes them easy to spot once you’ve got them set. If weight is a big deal for you, then these are hard to beat.
- Galvanised steel offers good rust and corrosion resistance
- Milled points – great for hard soil
- Extra long (10.5”) – plenty of holding power
- Heavy duty steel – tough to bend
- Large head offers good striking surface
- Plastic on head gets brittle in cold weather and will break
- They’re heavy
The large head gives you plenty to aim your blows at, but the plastic bits will eventually end up breaking. The 10.5” length and decent diameter means you get plenty of anchorage for windy conditions.
All that extra steel makes them pretty heavy. If you want a tent stake that’s going to survive some rough treatment, these are a great option.
- 7-inch Y-beam design offers pretty good holding power
- Reflective cord loop – easy to see and pull out
- Bend and break if you’re not careful with them
These are no good for harder ground and will break if you hammer them. Saying that, they’re still a better budget option than a regular hook. If you’re careful putting them in and pulling them out they’ll serve you well.
They grip the ground well, and the Y-beam design keeps them from spinning like a regular hook will. We love how reflective the loop on the top is. There’s no ways you’re tripping over these at night.
- Excellent holding power in soft soil
- Made from 7000-series aluminum – lightweight and durable
- Spiral design makes them very grippy
- A bit heavy
The spiral shaft grips the soft soil well, and the 10” length means they stay in place even in high wind. The red anodized finish is attractive and makes them easy to spot and easy to clean.
They’re heavier than a regular Y-stake, and pretty pricey too but in soft soil they can’t be beat.
Our top pick is an easy one to make. The MSR Groundhog are the best in the business. The high-quality aluminum and superior manufacturing makes these tough and durable. They penetrate the hardest ground with ease, and once they’re in, they grip like crazy. We’re happy to pay a little more for tent stakes that are this reliable.
Best For Budget
If you’re prepared to treat them with some care, and only use them in softer soil, the All One Tech are a great choice. The Y-beam design offers good grip and prevents the stake from turning in the ground. If you’re careful when inserting or pulling it out you’ll get decent performance.
How to Choose the Best Tent Stakes
Where Will You Use Them?
Before choosing a tent stake you need to think about where you’ll be using them. Both your style of hiking or camping as well as the conditions you expect will help inform your choice. If you’re backpacking, you’ll be carrying all your gear. You want your tent stakes to be as light as possible.
If you’re only covering a short distance before setting up camp, then go for a heavier-duty stake with more holding power and durability.
Consider soil and weather conditions too. We discuss these factors in greater detail lower down.
What material is the tent stake made from?
The material it’s made from will determine the strength, durability, and weight. There’s always going to be a tradeoff between strength and weight. On one end of the spectrum, you have steel stakes which are very strong but heavy.
On the other, you have carbon fiber stakes that aren’t very strong or durable but are super light.
Aluminum and titanium are somewhere in the middle, with titanium being the stronger, but more expensive, of the two.
Length and Surface Area
The holding power is directly proportional to the length and surface area. The surface area has a big impact on how likely your stakes are to stay in the ground. A shorter stake with large surface area will often perform better than a longer, thinner one.
The design, or profile, of the stake, can maximize surface area while reducing length. More surface area and length means more weight.
Will you be setting your tent up in windy conditions or is keeping your pack weight down your main priority?
The stake needs to be easy to drive into the ground, even if it’s hard or rocky. A tapered tip will reduce the amount of pressure you need to apply.
You don’t want the tip to be too tapered though. The narrower the tip, the more likely it is to bend or break.
You’ll need to apply some pressure to the head, or top, of the stake. A flat top will give you a more comfortable spot to press down on with your hand.
If you’re dealing with very hard ground and you have to hammer them in a little, then a flat top will give you more surface area to aim your blows.
You’re going to need to find them when you’re packing up. Tent stakes have a sneaky way of disappearing once you detach the guy lines. A high visibility tent stake ensures you don’t leave them behind when you break camp.
You’re also less likely to trip over them when you’re walking around your campsite. Bright or dayglo colored heads are great and we’ve even seen some glow in the dark tent stakes like the SE910NRC10 pegs from SE.
Types of Tent Stake:
Tent pegs come in a variety of designs with each being tailored for use in specific ground conditions. It’s worth knowing the difference if you want optimal results when you pitch your tent. Here are a few of the more common types to consider instead of your basic hook stake:
- Utility stakes – These plastic stakes are inexpensive and offer a fair amount of durability. The Y-shaped shaft keeps them from twisting in the ground while the longer length and bigger surface area gives them decent holding power. Utility stakes are a bit bulky for backpacking and, being plastic, aren’t great for driving into hard ground.
- V-stakes – If you want lightweight and inexpensive, aluminum is a good choice. But if you take a look at your old aluminum hook stakes you’ll see the problem. Aluminum bends easily. The V-shape of these stakes stops them from bending and makes them more durable. The added rigidity makes them suitable for use in a range of soil types including sandy, hard or rocky soil.
- Nail stakes / T-Stakes – These stakes look like large nails. The pointed end drives easily into the ground with the flat, or plastic T-shape head offering a good surface to apply pressure to. These are often made from steel or titanium and are lightweight, durable and work on a wide variety of soil types. They’re expensive and their limited holding power makes them more suited to use with smaller tents. The lightweight nature and good packability makes them ideal for backpacking.
- Y-stakes – The 3 sided Y-beam design of these stakes provides extra holding power in a wide variety of terrains. The extra strength of the shaft means they can handle being hammered into rocky soil. The extra surface area also means they’ll stay anchored in high winds.
- Snow stakes – The have a wider, u-shaped shaft to offer maximum surface area in slippery snow. They’ll often have holes cut in them to reduce weight. Often made from titanium or steel as aluminum gets brittle and prone to breaking when it gets cold.
Different Stakes for Different Ground
Which you should choose all comes down to the ground on which you’ll be pitching your tent/tarp.
Tent Stakes for sandy soil
These will have a long spiral design to give you holding power in loose ground. The MSR Cyclone Stake is one of the best tent stakes for sand. If the soil is too soft and sandy, nothing’s going to be much use.
You could fill some bags with sand to use as weight to keep your pegs in. You could also bury something with a wide surface area and use it as an anchor to secure your guy line.
This is often referred to as a “dead man” and a small log or even your stuff sack filled with sand will work fine.
Tent Pegs for hard ground
If the ground is hard but not too rocky, then a good nail stake could work if you can get it in. Take care when hammering if you want to avoid bending them. A narrow profile Y-stake like the MSR Mini Groundhog would be a good option. Hard ground offers more friction so you can get away with a shorter length.
Tent Stakes for rocky ground
V-stakes or, even better, Y-stakes are the best for rocky ground. They’ll survive a little light pounding and the angled surface helps it glance off underground rocks as it’s going in. The MSR Groundhog stakes are ideal for rocky soil.
Tent Stakes for wind
In windy conditions, your tent shakes and the force transfers via your guy lines to pull out your pegs. The thicker, or wider, the anchor is the more surface area and friction you get between the stake and the soil.
For windy conditions, you’ll need plenty of surface area and a longer length. A Y-stake, like the MSR Groundhog, works well in the wind.
When pitching with these, aim the top of the “Y” away from the tent with the bottom of the “Y” following the line of the guy back to your tent. When the wind causes the line to pull in you’ll have the biggest area of the stake pivoting against the soil to prevent any give.
How to stake a tent on rocky ground
If the ground has a lot of smaller stones in it, a thick diameter nail-stake could work well, but it’ll need to be quite long.
More rocks means you’ll have less densely-packed ground in direct contact with the anchor. For soil with bigger rocks, you’re better off with an angled shape that’ll glance off the rocks.
Whether you decide on a nail stake or something like a Y-stake, you’ll need something heavy duty because it’ll need some pounding to get it buried. If the ground is mostly rock, you can tie your guy ropes on a fixed point, or use loose, but heavy, rocks to secure your guy lines.
How to stake a tent in the snow
Slippery and fluffy snow presents a real challenge when pitching your winter tent. For the best results, you’ll need a pair of snow stakes. Push them down vertically into the snow as far as they’ll go and pack some snow down on top.
If the snow is too loose and doesn’t provide enough hold, dig a hole and use the deadman anchor technique. Loop the line guide through the top and bottom holes of the snow stake and bury it sideways in the hole before packing snow on top.
Your guy line may need some protection from friction against ice. A well-placed stick between where the ice meets the guy line will do the trick.
- Before pitching your tent, clear the area of any debris. You want to drive your stakes directly into solid ground and not through a pile of leaves.
- Only set your stakes into firm ground. Sure, softer soil makes it easy to get the pegs in but it’ll also be easier for them to lose their grip.
- Drive them all the way in. The more of the peg under the ground, the more holding power it’ll offer. And you won’t trip over it.
- Drive in vertically – some people bury them at an angle, thinking this will give a stronger hold. At most, use a 10 to 15-degree angle. There are some dissenting voices about this in the camping community, but field tests confirm that vertical is best.
- Make sure your guy line is long enough so it tensions against the stake at an angle, rather than straight up.
- Don’t press pegs in with your boots. This seems like a convenient way, but you’ll bend or break them.
- If you can avoid it, don’t hammer them in. If you have to, be gentle! Make sure you hit the head of the peg square-on every time to avoid bending. A nice trick is to make a pilot hole and then you’ll need less hammering to get the thicker stake in.
- Cross them over – In windy conditions you might need more strength at each pegging point. Drive two pegs in next to each other, so they cross just below the surface and secure the line to the one on the side away from the tent.
- Reinforce weak stakes – In windy conditions placing a rock or something heavy on top will give extra anchorage. This will also prevent the guy line from slipping off.
What’s the Difference between tent pegs and stakes?
The words “peg” and “stake” are often used interchangeably in the camping community. Some people refer to the old-school shepherd’s hook type as a “tent peg” while referring to the more advanced V and Y-shaped types as “tent stakes”.
My Tent Came Supplied With Stakes. Do I need to buy different ones?
If you’re pitching your tent in soft to somewhat-firm soil and pleasant conditions – probably not. The steel shepherd hooks your tent came with should be fine. If you’re pitching in hard, rocky soil or windy conditions then you’re going to need something better quality.
Buying a decent tent is a good start but it doesn’t help if it ends up flapping around in the wind. If you’re dealing with tough soil, high winds or snow then it’s worth getting the best tent stakes for the conditions you’ll be camping in.
Product Image credit ©Amazon.com