tent/tarp stakes

Ok, for tripping in the BWCA, any suggestions on what type of stake to use for the minimal soil, rocky conditions? I have some mosquito netting and a tarp. What do need to be successful?

Big nails
When I go to rocky areas, I bring a handful of big nails. They are about 8"-10" long and 3/8 inch thick and are galvanized. If I can’t use the little wire stakes I put one of the big nails in. You can’t quite pound them through rock, but they are definately an upgrade on the performance of the little wire stakes.

But for BWCA, I dunno. I’ve never been but hear they got something called portages there. Them nails are heavy. Ten 60d nails weigh a pound, and these are bigger than 60d. Not quite railroad spikes, but they’ll add a pound or two to your kit.

~~Chip Walsh, Gambrills, MD

For the BW
For rocky areas WITHOUT portage I use the stakes bought at Wally-world for cheap. As Chip described they are BIG DAMN nails with a plastic clip.

For the BW I use the MSR “groundhog stake” these are aluminum and a tri-angle config. They will not work in rock but is fairly craggy ground they are good. A dead blow hammer is handy but not something to carry on portage. A Nice rock will serve the purpose.

Hope this helps


MSR Needles
I’ve loved these MSR needle stakes and had good luck with them in some tough locations such as BWCAW and the Guadalupe Mtns.


They are higher than a cat’s back on Halloween, but they are strong, easy to drive in tight spots and light weight. Plus they take minimal toll on soil disturbance.

I second the motion on using rocks where you can. Some of the best spots really don’t have much soil or none at all.

I don’t know if the needle stakes will hold a tarp that is going to flap a great deal. The groundhogs might work better there. Be prepared. The more you can camp on the bare rocky spots the less wear and tear on the vegetation.

Forget stakes…
loop lines around a branch and weight down with rocks (deadman style), or simply tie into large rocks or trees IF available. I usually keep loops tied into line ends for this purpose.

Aluminum Gutter Nails
Aluminum gutter spikes are cheap, light, and work fairly well. They are available at most hardware stores. Most are about 7" long and you can use 2 at opposing angles at critical corners for a really good hold in most soils. If the ground is too rocky to get a spike in, the suggestion by others to simply tie to a rock sounds like good advice.

no stakes
My freestanding backpacking tent is the perfect solution. For a tarp over community area, tying to conveninet trees works best for me. Bring plenty of light line.

For a equivalent type area in the arctic
we didn’t bother with stakes and just used big rocks that we attached the ropes to.

For those using the large nails, please count the amount that you use, and take the same amount out with you.

Everywhere I go I see the large nails left in the ground. _ “Leave no trace”



JackL, Easy Pal…
that is how I’ve gotten so many of my stakes is picking up other people’s stragglers. You’re going to mess things up for us scavengers :-)!

I used to be snobbish about those big cheap plastic stakes, until I scavanged a few and realized how much better they were on sand and gravel bars, plus they’re easy to see and harder to leave behind. So now I’ve got bunch of those. When you’ve got several tents it is nice to have stakes for each and a few extras so you don’t get caught without stakes. Some of us slightly disorganized and absent minded types can do that.

Yep, I agree actually that it is a great idea to double check the stakes when leaving camp to make sure you’ve got them all. And we’ve got the leave it cleaner than you found it ethic wired in now – mostly from all our scouting days.

Stakes are old school
I like the security of concrete and stone anchors.