Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Lightweight, Effective and Highly Visible Tent Stakes

For one reason or another, I’ve unintentionally become a collector of a variety of tent stakes.  Some came with tents I purchased and others just seemed like a good option.  One style was to do double-duty as a potty trowel and others were purchased either for they shape or color.

In the end, I have three requirements for tent stakes:  (1) effectiveness, (2) lightweight, and (3) visibility. had a great article a few years ago about Tent Stake Holding Power.  It was entirely relevant to all backpackers, but I would argue more relevant to lightweight backpackers because ounce counters scrutinize their gear far more thoughtfully.  Many equate “lightweight” to mean “compromise”.  I would argue that compromising isn’t the goal at all, and in fact, completely the opposite.  The goal of lightweight backpacking is to simply carry lighter gear, and in some cases less gear, to have a trip less inclined to back and knee troubles and more enabled to go further more comfortably.  My point as it relates to tent stakes; simply picking the lightest tent stake doesn’t make much sense if it doesn’t work.

The BPL study revealed what is likely already assumed – that longer stakes with a “Y” or “V” design hold better than short or simple peg-style stakes.  So the next question is – what is actually necessary to get the job done?  This decision should depend wholly on situational factors. 

For me, my experience, and the areas for which I hike, I’ve found a hybrid approach works best.  I use two “V” stakes for the main stress points (usually the entry points or main guylines) and peg stakes (Sheppard-style hooks) for the remainder.  This model has served me well for all tarp and tents in my collection.  My intent is to ensure the attachment points with the most stress, whether weather or material, receives the “V” stake as the holding power is significantly better.  Other attachment points generally need merely to be staked snuggly to the ground.  This method has not failed me yet, although arguably conditions drive gear choices and I would likely switch to “V” stakes if I were in severely windy or exposed conditions.

After deciding I wanted another kind of “V” stake recently, I headed over to my local gear shop.  The words “titanium” and “tent stake” were unexpectedly met with laughter and smug chastisement.  The response I got was “we don’t carry titanium tent stakes as they don’t work – aluminum is better” and I was handed an enormous scoop stake that I could probably use to shovel my driveway in winter.  It’s moments like this that I wish cottage shops were more mainstream and that more mainstream gear shops were actually hikers and backpackers instead of fashion designers.

After looking around a bit and again reflecting on my requirements (1)  effectiveness, (2) lightweight, and (3) visibility), I decided to purchase a couple different styles from Gossamer Gear who offered a very competent selection for a small cottage shop.

The two options which jumped out at me were a peg and a “V” –style which were offered in different lengths and also with the option for a wonderful hardened yellow ceramic treatment which offered significant visibility.  After some fondling and quick testing, these easily became my favorite stakes.  I also liked the fact that there is an option for a 6.5” length instead of 6” or 7”.  It’s a nice middle-ground.

The Titanium Tite-Lite Tent V-Stakes in Hi-Viz yellow are 11g, 6.5” long and run $4 each.

The Titanium Tite-Lite (Peg) Stakes short in Hi-Viz yellow are 6 g, 6.5” long, and run $3.50 each.

If you’re in the market for new stakes or simply want to try something different or more effective, give these a shot.