Raising the Stakes: How to Stake a Tent or Shelter (And Bring All Your Stakes Home, Too)

An aluminum stake from the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultralight Stake Kits.
An aluminum stake from the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultralight Stake Kits.

Having trouble keeping track of your super ultralight weight stakes in the wilderness? They’re easy to lose. Here are some tips & tricks to keep track of your stakes.

By Steve Graepel

Last summer I spent a chunk of time grinding my way from southern Idaho northbound to Canada. The rhythm of traveling through across varied ecosystems–rivers, deserts, mountains–was cathartic. It was also exhausting! We were going so light, that forgetting even the smallest item could yield punishment 10-fold. Simple tasks became burdensome and we chewed precious time double, triple checking our preflight list.

To cut weight, we chose to bring titanium shepherd hook stakes–nearly 1/2 the weight (and much stronger) than their aluminum counterparts. But we lost one breaking camp after the first night, leaving us to improvise every night thereafter. I’ve since found several options that help me keep track of my stakes.

How to Stake a Tent Without Losing All the Stakes

Paint

Dull grey titanium looks like every other small twig in Idaho–great for low profile, but useless when trying to find them. To help contrast, I’ve started painting my stakes. I’ll start with a primer and then spray two coats of fluorescent orange or pink (both colors that are unnatural hues). Because the stake portion will be scraping in and out of the soil twice a day, I only paint the hook. Sure, they will eventually scrape and you may need to repaint after a few trips, but in general it works well.

Tape

As a climber, I’ll often carry wands on remote routes, helping me navigate off weather-soaked slopes. A wand is usually a 2-3 foot bamboo shoot with a section of fluorescent flagging tied to it…a total God-send during alpine fright-shows. The same idea can be used with stakes (sans fright-show). Tying a 3-inch strip of tape to the hook costs little weight but will exponentially increase their visibility. Take care when pulling the stakes, as the tie can pull off.

Another option (which can avoid the pull-off scenario) is to tape strips of bright orange duck tape to the stake directly. To save weight, cut the tape into thin strips and double them over the hook.

A couple different options.

How to Stake a Tent Without Stakes

In the end, we were fine without the stake. Every evening I improvised with a stick, rock, titanium spoon…whatever widget I could find to pin the odd corner down. For me, this experience raised the question about whether or not I really needed stakes.

If traveling for a night or two, I can usually find a spot between trees to off-load the lions-share of the tarp’s tensile stress, using rocks or sticks as secondary tie-outs. A set of four stakes might be a good policy of insurance mixed with ‘found’ tie-outs.

When winter camping, I’ll purposely leave the stakes at home and tie-out my shelter with skis, poles, shovel, snow-filled stuff sacks or pickets. They are much stronger in a true gale and accommodate for variable snow/ice/crud.

Either way, having options provides one less worry when your focus is on moving.

Need some tent stakes? The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultralight Stake Kit II includes six 8” aluminum stakes for the tarp ridgeline and corner tie-outs plus six 6” carbon core stakes for the tent insert and middle tie-outs of the tarp. 

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