Types of tent stakes: Best time to use each

Table of Contents

Types of tent stakes? Seriously? There are different types of tent stakes?

Yes, tent stakes come in a bunch of different shapes, sizes, and materials.

You do not necessarily need a different type for each type of camping trip, but having the wrong tent stake can make a bad situation worse.

Imagine relying on plastic to hold up to 40 mph wind gusts. Or hauling around over 1 pound of tent stakes on a week long backpacking trip through the mountains.

tent stakes/tent pegs

Different styles of tent stakes

Tent stakes (or tent pegs) are often overlooked when it comes to camping. I mean you just hammer them down into the ground at each corner of the tent, right?

Technically, that is true. That is what you do with tent stakes.

The part that is missing from that (and is the more important part) is that there are range of tent stakes. And each is best suited for certain conditions. Some are more heavy duty tent stakes while others are made for ultralight backpacking trips.

Shepherd’s hook stake

hook stakes

One of the most common tent stake types that you will see. Sometimes the hook makes nearly a full loop, while other times it is more of a 90-degree angle.

Using this style of tent stake is super simple. You hammer it down into the ground and place the tent corner or guy line around the hook, securing it to the stake.

The pointed tip (the part that goes into the ground) is usually straight and thinner, making it easy to hammer into most ground types. Additionally, since hook stakes are common, you can find them in most places that sell outdoor gear. (and at a reasonable price)

Hook tent stakes have two main drawbacks. The first is that they do not hold securely in all conditions. If the ground is softer and you are dealing with inclement weather, there are better options than this type of tent stake.

The other drawback of hook stakes is that they can bend easily when you hammer them into the ground. Since you are generally hammering the looped “hook” portion of the stake, it can bend easier than other types.

V-shaped stake

v-shaped stakes

Another commonly seen type of tent stake is the V-shaped stake.

This type of tent stake is commonly made from lightweight metal and sometimes has holes down the length of the stake. The holes increase holding strength by allowing the ground to sit on top of the stake, not just around it.

The design has an increased surface area compared to a standard tent peg ; giving you a better hold in a wide range of surfaces.

While not the strongest holding tent stake type, nor the most flexible, V-shaped stakes will hold down your tent in most conditions. This makes them one of the best tent stakes for backpacking.

Unlike hook stakes, V-shaped tent pegs are flat across the top, meaning you do not have to worry about bending them while you are hammering them into the ground.

Y-shaped stake

y-shaped stakes

Perhaps the best all-around tent stakes are Y-shaped stakes. You will see these referred to as Y-beam or tri-beam stakes as well.

With more surface area than V-shaped stakes, Y-shaped ones will give you an even more secure hold. The shape makes them harder to twist once in the ground, making them a great choice for windy conditions.

This style of tent peg also does well in any type of ground conditions, firm or soft ground. Additionally, like the V-shaped stake, these typically have a flat top, making it hard for you to permanently bend them while hammering them in.

One drawback of this style of stake is that they are not too maneuverable while being staked. By this, I mean that if there is a rock buried in the ground, you will have to move your stake a couple of inches. (or dig the rock up out of the ground)

Pin stake

pin stake

Probably the simplest stake on this list, think of a large, long needle. That is essentially how pin stakes function.

They consist of a sharp, pointy end that is driven into the ground. While the other end tends to be flat and has a notch near the end for the guyline to sit in.

If you are in the market for an ultralight tent stake, pin stakes are as light and simple as it gets. You can easily hammer them into the ground with a flat rock, or even your shoe if the ground is soft enough.

One downside of pin stakes is their lack of holding strength. Unlike V and Y-shaped stakes, pin stakes do not have multi-directional grip while in the ground. Think about pulling a large needle out of the ground versus something like a rake.

I would only recommend using pin stakes if you are expecting perfect weather. (and ideally in soft soil)

Screw stake

screw stake

If you need heavy-duty tent pegs, you have found them in screw stakes. Providing the best hold of all tent stakes, these will keep your tent held down securely whether you are experiencing rain or high winds.

Typically, you need a special tool to insert a screw peg into the ground. This makes them great for long-term camping, and pretty lousy for backpacking.

As you can imagine, screw stakes work well in pretty much any ground type. From hard ground to sandy, loose soil screw stakes handle the job. If you are using them in loose soil, get a longer set of stakes; having extra depth helps a bunch in loose ground.

The major drawback of screw stakes is needing a special tool to place them into the ground. Most sets come with a tool that turns the top of the stake into a T-bar that is twisted to “screw” the stake into the ground.

Different materials used for tent stakes

Aluminum

aluminum stake

A lot of tents come with aluminum tent stakes. They serve as a great balance of durability, weight, and price. Not going to blow your socks off in any one category, but a very sensible choice for its all-around versatility.

If you were looking for a do-it-all tent stake that worked in a wide range of conditions, aluminum would be a good place to start.

While they are sturdy enough to hold up in a lot of conditions, they are not ideal for all situations. If you anticipate setting up on rocky ground (or even frozen ground) you will want something more durable.

Titanium

titanium stake

If aluminum stakes aren’t going to cut it for you, titanium stakes are the next logical material to explore. More durable and lighter than aluminum, titanium can hold up in high winds while being light enough for a lightweight backpacking load. They also hold up better in rocky soil and hard ground conditions.

Lightweight? Super durable and stable in bad weather? Sounds perfect!

Titanium pegs are the proverbial bee’s knees, but they also will cost a pretty penny. To cover all of your tent’s guy lines, you could be looking upwards of $30.

Plastic

plastic stake

Definitely the “budget” option for tent stake materials. Plastic tent pegs offer the least durability and stability of any material on the list.

If you are camping in ideal conditions (think beautiful fields of grass with sunny skies and no breeze) then plastic tent pegs can work out. But, if windy conditions are possible or you’re setting up on firm ground, reach for a different tent stake.

While it sounds like I enjoy bashing plastic tent stakes, there are some benefits to them.

Plastic tent stakes are cheaper than metal alternatives. You could gift your entire family a set for the same price as a single set of titanium ones. They also come in a variety of colors, making them highly visible around your tent, reducing the chance of leaving one or tripping over it.

Carbon fiber

carbon fiber stake

Ultralight and not easy to find. If those describe you, you may have a match with carbon fiber tent stakes.

Generally, you only find it used for pin stakes. And not many manufacturers make them.

They are super light, have good holding strength, and cost the most of any other material. They are primarily for ultralight backpackers or campers who emphasize having premium products.

The drawback is quite obviously the price. You could easily spend $40-$50+ on a set of carbon fiber stakes.

Stainless steel

stainless steel stake

Stainless steel tent stakes are known for being heavy-duty and bringing a lot of stability to your tent. If you end up using steel stakes, you will not have to worry about them being too flimsy in tough weather.

The trade-off of their durable nature is that they are heavier. This makes them ideal for a car camping trip, but less than perfect for backpacking.

FAQ

Yes, tent stakes and tent pegs are just different names for the same thing.

Usually, tents will come with stakes, but they do not come with high-quality stakes. Unless you are always camping on the ideal surface in perfect weather, you will want to upgrade your tent stakes.

You want longer stakes in loose sand conditions, screw stakes and snow stakes work the best!

Conclusion

There are more types of tent stakes than you would ever imagine. Different shapes and materials; some better in softer ground, others better suited for hard terrian.

Most campers can suffice with something common like an aluminum hook stake. If you do more backpacking, something like a titanium V-shaped tent stake would work great.

Plastic stakes can work well with budget tents on perfect, idyllic grass fields. While stainless steel stakes can hold your tent down well in high winds.

No matter your style of adventure, don’t let something as simple as your tent stakes ruin your next big trip!

snowy, forest hill

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