Wednesday, October 2, 2013

BLOG 55. Tent Stakes and Lines Make a Difference

BLOG 55. Tent Stakes and Lines Make a Difference
by Cliff Jacobson
Chasing a dome tent that "blew away". English River, Ontario 
When we canoed the Hood River (Nunavut, Canada) in 1984, an Arctic storm with winds of 60 mph (so said our wind-gauge), kept us confined to our tents for three days.  I remember trying to walk in that wind.  I couldn’t.  There was no way I could fall down if I leaned into the wind.

When, the wind finally subsided we emerged from our tents (Cannondale Aroostooks) and surveyed the damage.  Surprisingly, all three tents were still standing.  Not one had pulled a stake, ripped a stitch or broke a zipper.  Much of the credit of course, goes to the brilliant design of the Aroostook tent, but other factors that saved the day were:

1.   At home, before the trip, we added extra storm lines and stake points to our tents.  My books, “Expedition Canoeing and “Camping’s Top Secrets, 25th Anniversary Ed. provide details.

2.  There's no time to cut storm cords when wind looms large, so I carry a dozen pre-cut 15-20 foot long cords.  Each cord is carefully wound and secured with a quick-release loop. A pull on the quick-release end instantly releases the cord.

3.   Tents were set head-end or quartering into the wind.

4.   Windward storm lines and stake points were double-staked as illustrated below.
See more storm-proofing tips in my book, "Camping's Top Secrets, 25th Anniversary ed.

I carry a variety of tent stakes so I'll have options for different types of ground. L to R: 12-inch long arrow-shaft stake,  10-inch staple, 9-inch skewer,  "rock stake", U-pound 'em stake

Note the "bag of cords"--one pull and they're ready to go. The long 12-inch arrow-shaft stakes are my favorite.  Pound these in and they'll never let go!  Available from Cooke Custom Sewing ( Stakes should be at least 8 inches long to provide ample holding power in storms.
The tent stakes you use DO make a difference.  Those short wire “rock stakes” that are popular in the Boundary Waters, are out-of-place on the tundra, in sand and swamp.  The best stakes for soft ground are 12-inch long, hard-tempered aluminum “arrow-shaft” stakes (available from Cooke Custom
Sewing/  They are expensive and worth it!

Twelve inch aluminum staples (if you can find them) also work well in tundra, sand and soft ground. I bring a variety of stakes on my canoe trips so I’ll have the best one for every type of ground.  My rule is to bring twice as many stakes as my tent needs for routine set-up.  That way, I’ll have extras for storm-proofing, and enough to double-stake windward lines—two stakes per loop, each set at a different angle, doubles the holding power.
A mini-tornado, along the Noatak River, Alaska. The big fly flattened instantly; our storm-proofed tents held securely.
When it comes to camping gear, I have pretty much all I want or need.  But I’m always on the lookout for new and better tent stakes.  The tent stakes you use do make a difference!

Cliff Jacobson  

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