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Tent Stakes- Let’s See What You’re Working With!

881922C9-132D-4BE4-857E-FEB6A109A312.jpgNot all stakes are created equal! What stake/combo are you using, and why? 

369B803E-F192-48CF-8E67-7B098BC3CE74.jpgI’m finding that the stock MSR pegs for the Front Range Shelter bug insert aren’t cutting it... The central Appalachians really put tent stakes to the test!

For almost all of the conditions we come across in the southwest MSR Groundhogs offer the highest and most secure performance. The new model at the bottom has curved blades. The standard straight crossed blades of the original are right above the new model. I’ve never been able to destroy a single Groundhog. One was lost in high wind when a vestibule flap flung one to who knows where. Love thenGroundhogs. In loose sand we put a rock over them.

Above those is the titanium nail stake. They are light but bend too easily so they don’t see much use. We like Kelty Triptease for the lines with its super strong Spectra core and fine woven nylon sheath that holds knots exceptionally well. A sliding adjustable grip hitch at one end and a figure 8 loop at the other, both pre-tied make for a fast pitch that can be adjusted easily and hold very securely.


My go-to pegs are two variations of the MSR Ground Hog stake, similar to the example that appears center-right in your pic.  Both have cord loops, like the example appearing left-center in the pic. One has fins that form the Mercedes tristar, when viewed end-on, while the other has fins curve as they emanate from the center axis.  These are tempered aluminum.  I also have silver knock-off of the Ground Hog; it is not tempered and will bend.  I have no problem with these stakes.  And I have some silver color knock-offs similar to the one you broke.  I don't like these because they uproot too easy.

The fact your peg broke is a good thing, it could have been your tent that failed!  If you pound hard on your stakes to drive or remove them, the tempered aluminum models eventually form stress cracks and or work harden, and become too brittle for the task.  As for the theory that the wind did all the damage, I have used all the examples shown, except the spiral fluted model, longer than I can recall with no breakage. 

My problem, if anything, is stakes uprooting.  So I place a heavy rock on top of the guy line, resting it snug against the peg.  Never had a peg braced thusly pull out.  But this moves the failure point from the peg to the tent, so you want to make sure the wind isn't strong enough to damage the tent.  I also may build a wind break, but that is not always possible or sufficient. 

Some tents may endure a high wind, but they make for lousy sheltering, with all the noise and tent walls smacking you in the face.  Even the best of tents (short of arctic exped models) will wear out much quicker if regularly exposed to high winds.  Several times the wind flattened my dome tents.  I've retired a couple of tents that have been tugged by the wind so hard you can see beams of light through the needle holes of the seams. Nowadays I collapse my tent if the wind is strong enough to make habitation a kinetic experience. (>45 mph).


My camping spots tend to vary from rocky to loose loam to occasional sandy alluvial soils and everything in between. Therefore I bring a variety of stakes with different pros and cons. Sometimes a site needs several approaches as each corner seems to be different. My current standard baseline...
20200531_115107.jpgA couple of Easton aluminum long stakes, a couple of groundhogs, a couple of ti ascent stakes, and 4 ti nails...not the ultralight ones as I prefer sturdy for a couple extra grams. Some of these get switched out for specific trips like Scotland where I took half Easton and half ti nails. About the only stakes I no longer use are any sheperd hooks...I find them the least useful.

I'm with Phil, but mostly use the Easton long stakes with a few classic shepherd hooks. If I know it's going to be sandy I'll switch our some Easton's for MSR groundhogs.

Part of my overall stake collection is from random finds. I once did a 3-day trip in Shining Rock/ Middle Prong North Carolina where I forgot to bring any stakes. I was able to accumulate a near full set just from scanning empty campsites I passed along my route. 

I'll carry stakes but actually prefer rocks to anchor each stake-out point. Seems there is almost always a root or underground large rock right where at least one stake needs to be, so anchoring to a rock on the surface is easier. And, if I need to adjust the stake-out point it's a lot easier to just drag the rock where it needs to be than to try moving a stake a few inches (and start the fight with underground obstacles all over again). 

Rocks work and at times are the only way. I don’t like wrapping rocks with Triptease for the way rocks in wind will damage line. So I have learned to take some less expensive nylon line loops just to wrap the rocks at the very end of the line.

Slickrock tent setup;


JR...Rocks and trees work really well and are easy to adjust (well at least the rocks), but what stakes do you carry when you need to use them? 

My love of MSR groundhogs has waned over the years *used to carry a full set now down to a couple) as I find the Easton and ti nails go in and come out cleaner, and when on a pristine site don't pull as much soil back up so closer to LNT. Easton 6 and 8 inch hold well while the nails go in rocky ground a lot easier. Its a rare day when I do more than push either in by hand, but occassionally hammer one w9th a rock like in frozen ground. Speaking of the latter...frozen sites are where i lost my most groundhogs. Pouring water on a stake laying on the ground works well in deep winter...holds just fine.

FlipNC said:

JR...Rocks and trees work really well and are easy to adjust (well at least the rocks), but what stakes do you carry when you need to use them? 

 Ti shepherd's hooks.

The various comments illustrate the diversity in the terrain we all encounter. Ti nails and shepherd hooks bend too easy and simply won’t hold in windy conditions. They do come out more easily but that is not always what you want. To remove an MSR Groundhog you take another Groundhog and slip it through the cord loop of the planted stake, use it as a T handle and pull straight up and out. They don’t break or bend and they hold in difficult soil and weather conditions. 

Thanks JR...always interested in what neighbors are using.

Ghostdog...I agree in principle that ti nails can bend easily, but heavier duty ones can withstand 40 mph winds at least, still are very light, and are sometimes the only stake that will go in the ground where groundhogs and others wont work. Especially in areas with a lot of subsurface rocks they seem to slide between while groundhogs and other stakes are more difficult to set.

On removal I have snapped the head off a groundhog using another as leverage as you describe...not just due to my superhuman strength but during a deeper than expected freeze. Still carry them, just not exclusively.

I should probably rephrase "snapped the head off a groundhog" but oh well...hope PETA isnt on trailspace.

Some metals do become brittle in cold weather. They certainly take that into account when ship building. Interesting. I’ve beaten them silly with rocks to set them. Usually the days are well above freezing but some nights have dropped down as low as 17F/-8C. That is as cold as I will camp in this era. Usually I look for nights no colder than 35° to 40° which makes the days perfect.

One of issues here is more sand in the dirt and less clay. But even that depends on exact location.

I don't see too much of the 'ole DAC J-Stake. I've broken a few. C'est la vie!

I heard once, long ago, that The Wolverine had a father... :)

Ti nails are useless in sand. Ill leave them at home for a southwest trip we have planned jn the future.

Yeah, if Im on the road again it wont be with the old DAC j stake!

For number of the place I enjoy going on trips too I end up using rocks as they are readily available in most of the sites along the more popular trails. I do carry stakes and it is usually a mix of classic shepherds hooks and ground hogs.

Okay, excuse the pun, but I love the reviews and feel I have a “ stake” in this discussion. Living in SoCal, spend my Backpacking in the Sierras and Yosemite. I know it’s overkill, but ever since the JMT and 45 mile an hour winds at the base of Donahue Pass , I bring the MSR 10” Cyclone stakes. Also love the grip of Evernew’s V stakes (9”). And, wouldn’t call myself a weight weenie without my MSR carbon stakes!!

MSR Ground Hog stakes, short and regular, period. 

Eric B.

UPDATE: When I saw Doc Ryels' MSR Cyclone stakes I included them in an order of regular and short Ground Hog stakes from REI. Picking 'em up mañana.

Eric B.

May 28, 2022
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