Tent Pegs

Tent Pegs original
In the quest for the lightest possible weight, backpacking tent manufacturers often supply extremely minimalist pegs. They’re fine on a still, beautifully manicured campsite, but in a wild camping situation they can often be found lacking. And certain terrain such as snow requires more specialist techniques. Here are some generic alternatives:

1. Snow Stakes – eg. MSR Blizzard Stake

Camping on snow or loose ground requires a different approach. Snow stakes such as the red MSR Blizzard (right) or the larger unbranded model are long, with a large surface area and concave shape to hold firm in sand or snow. As well as saving weight, snow freezes ‘through’ the holes drilled in the stake, and can also be used to thread guylines with the stake buried horizontally. They also make excellent lightweight toilet trowels! The silver model pictured is 310mm long and weighs 55g, and the MSR Blizzard stake is 240mm and 21g.

Alternative snow camping solutions include burying objects such as found branches (which can stay buried if necessary) or bags filled with snow. Ideally you’d use the ice axes or skis you’re probably carrying anyway.

2. Long Tubular Pin – eg. Easton Backpacker Stake

I use this style of peg more than any other. They’re available in a choice of lengths – pictured is the 8.9″/226mm Easton Backpacker Stake – and offer excellent security at a relatively low weight. The main shaft is anodised 7075-T9 aluminium tube formed into a point, with a solid, hammerable cap threaded to accept a pull cord. I have managed to pull this cap off when used in frozen ground, so a dab of pre-emptive epoxy is recommended. I tend to use a peg like this for the critical guying points on a shelter. The model pictured weighs 15g with cord.

3. Y-Stake, 4. V-Stake & 5. C-Shape  – eg. Alpkit Y Beams

These are excellent all-round pegs – coping particularly well with soft ground. The Y profile is stronger than the V or C shapes, but is unpleasant on the hands. I’ve managed to break Y-Stakes at the narrowing below the head in the past when using a rock to persuade them into hard ground. The Y-Stake pictured is 150mm long and weighs 10g, the silver V-Stake is 175mm and 13g, the red 160mm and 13g. The C-Stake is 165mm and 11g. All are aluminium or “alloy”.

6. Steel Pin – eg. Vango 18cm Steel Peg

This shape is great for hard ground where it can be pounded into the ground and through gaps in subsurface rocks. The steel construction makes them cheap to buy and easy to bend when you get it wrong, rendering them hard to reuse.  They’re heavy also heavy, and best left to car-camping tents where the extra weight and inconvenience of a bent peg isn’t as much of an issue. Both pegs pictured are 180mm long and weigh 18g.

7. Alloy Pin – eg. Vango 18cm Alloy Pin Peg

As above, but with greater resistance to bending and a lighter weight. The model pictured is 150mm long and weighs 10g.

8. Titanium Pin – eg. Vargo Titanium Ultralight Tent Peg

Titanium doesn’t bend as easily as steel or aluminium, and weighs considerably less. While I’ve no scientific evidence, I reckon it ‘grips’ the ground better too.  These thin pegs are great in hard ground, but will tend  to rip through soft ground when under pressure. I use a bundle of these for non-critical applications in conjunction with something beefier where a pulled-out peg would result in tent collapse. They’re expensive and easily lost when dropped, so a painted end is a wise precaution. The pegs pictured are both 155mm long and weigh 4g.

9. UL Titanium Pin – eg.Terra Nova Titanium 1g Skewer Tent Pegs

As titanium wire is so resistant to bending, it’s possible to produce pegs so tiny that they don’t register on my scales. They work surprisingly well in good ground, but are a waste of time in less-ideal conditions, though some ultralight tents are supplied with them as standard.  Saying that, I do use them for pegging out groundsheets occasionally. Their small size makes them almost impossible to find if dropped, so they’re supplied painted bright orange. They’re 130mm long and weigh 1g.

10. Carbon Peg – eg.Terra Nova Carbon Fibre Peg

Adequately protected, carbon fibre is incredibly strong. The Terra Nova model has a plastic cap to both retain the guyline and protect the shaft, and a small metal point to make it possible to drive into the ground. Unfortunately these are both prone to falling off – either leaving nothing to retain the guyline, or the metal tip embedded in the ground. Without either the peg is extremely difficult to use. Again, these were often supplied with ultralight tents. The model pictured is 135mm long  and weighs 2g.

To conclude – don’t be afraid to tailor your peg collection to the type of camping you do – those that prefer wildcamping on Munro summits are going to have very different needs to those that stay on campsites. Regardless, don’t feel limited by the pegs supplied by the tent manufacturer and perhaps experiment with a combination of lengths and styles to suit the shelter and terrain.

And get some snow stakes, they’re ace.

Ever suffered catastrophic peg failure? Let us know on the forum.

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