Second, only to forgetting the toilet paper, the most frustrating experience that can befall the backpacker is setting up camp with inadequate tent pegs. Dozens of miles into the wilderness is no place to discover that you brought the wrong pegs for the ground in which you are trying to set up on. Worse than inadequate, is when the cheap stakes that came with your tent bend or break upon hitting a buried rock, becoming completely useless in the process. Hiking off to the nearest camping supply outlet is not an option in the deep woods or high desert, so you make do with what you have and hope the tent doesn’t fall over on you in the middle of the night.
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Material makes a difference
If your tent came with orange plastic tent pegs, do yourself a favor and throw them in the trash before your first outing. True, plastic is cheap, lightweight and will not corrode, but it also has an extremely low strength to weight ration and can become brittle in cold weather, tending to break at the first blow of the mallet. Higher end nylon anchors have addressed this concern to a certain extent, but still nothing holds better, inch for inch, than metal.
Among metal tent pegs, there are several materials to choose from. Steel tent pegs are quite sturdy and inexpensive. Unfortunately, they also tend to rust when not fastidiously cleaned and cared for after each use. They are also the heaviest option available. While this will not be a significant concern for smaller tents, if you plan to pitch a larger tent, or just want to carry a spare set, the extra pound or two will surely make itself felt at the end of a day’s hike. While stainless steel addresses the corrosion issue nicely, it can be quite pricey and is no lighter in weight. Aluminum is both lightweight and will not rust. It is also fairly soft and can deform easily when striking rock or being aggressively pounded. Titanium tent pegs offer the best of all possible worlds, except of course for price, which can be quite high. Which material you choose is a matter of personal preference and budget.
Whatever the material, it is vitally important that your stakes be properly sized for your tent, the soil of your campsite, and the overall environmental conditions. Small wire stakes are almost always inappropriate unless the ground is extremely firm and you expect no wind or rain during the night. Sandy or damp soil will require significantly longer and broader stakes than firm or grassy ground. The weight of your tent’s fabric is one consideration when calculating the total load your stakes must bear, but wind can significantly increase the strain, especially if wind-blown rain is added to the mix.
Replacing your original tent pegs with something custom tailored to your particular camping style is one of the best and smartest investments you can make in the overall enjoyment of your next outing. Moreover, by all means, do not forget the toilet paper!