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Pitching Tents - How to Set Up a Camping & Hiking Tent

Pitching Tents - How to Set Up a TentSetting up your perfect camp starts with Finding the Perfect Camp Location. After this, you have to determine where and how to pitch a Tent. In this section, we will give you some guidelines on pitching your Tent and how to set up a Tent during rough conditions. 

  • The way you set up your Tent will of course differ from one Tent type to another so refer to your Tent's manual for exact instructions.
  • As explained in our section on Camp Layout, you should pitch your Tents in a safe and sheltered place.
  • Find out what the prevailing wind direction is and set your Tent up in a way that the doors and/or vents are aligned along the wind direction. 
    This will greatly increase the ventilation in your Tent and help you in your fight against condensation.
  • You will want to pitch your hiking tents evenly and secure them as good as you possibly can. A lot can change overnight so even if the conditions are great as you pitch your Tent, you should always prepare for the worst. Knowing theWeather Conditions
  • is a good first step.

Pitching a Tent in Windy Conditions

Windy conditions can make it very challenging to set up your Tent as the Tent cover is likely to flap and lead a life of its own. Before filling in your backpacks with some stuff, here are some tips on how to pitch a Tent in windy conditions: 

  • If the winds and weather conditions are very rough then you might want to wait for things to settle down a bit before you try pitching your Tent. You could look for a Natural Shelter or Create Makeshift Shelter first if the changes of your Tent being blown away are too great or if you need to seek shelter as quickly as possible.
  • Find the most sheltered location and get as many teammates as possible to help and act as weights.
  • Make sure to have some heavy but smooth objects at hand before you unpack your hiking tent. You can use them to weigh down the Tent sheets and keep them secured.
  • Unfold your Tent sheets as close to the ground as possible and place heavy objects on them as you unfold it. Use your body if no objects are available.
  • Depending on the structure and pitching method of the Tent you can now start driving in the first pegs. Fix the windward side of your Tent first! Keep all sheets flat and weighted down. When the moment arrives that you have to lift up the Tent sheets, do so as fast as possible.
  • Once you are done, make sure to check all pegs. It is likely that some of them are not very securely connected in your hurry to get your Tent upright.
  • Only dig drainage moats if you have a Tent without a high waterproof lower wall or if you expect extreme rains. In most cases, digging drainage moats is not needed, takes extra time, and damages the surface. Pitching your Tent at slightly elevated surfaces can prevent problems.

Pitching a Tent in Snowy Conditions

Snowy Conditions make it harder to find firm and level ground to secure your stakes in. Furthermore, there are risks of getting snowed in. Here are some guidelines: 

  • Choose your location well to decrease the chances of getting snowed in or, even worse, getting caught in an Avalanche. Take your binoculars and stay away from steep barren slopes. Scope out the terrain above you to ensure that if an avalanche were to occur, your camp site would not be in its path. Read our section onAvalanche Awareness for more information on preventing and surviving Avalanches.
  • Take your time in selecting the camp spot and try to find the most leveled and the firmest surface you can find. The time you spend in finding a better site will probably be less than the time to level the surface and work with a soft surface.
  • Level out the surface where you will pitch your Tent and perhaps even dig a site. Make sure the entrance area is dug out well to minimize the chances of the entrance getting blocked by snow.
  • Use special snow pegs or snow anchors to tie down your Tent. In case of very bad surfaces, try tying down using branches, skies, snowshoes, or other things at your disposal.

Pitching a Tent in Difficult Surfaces

If the surface is too soft (sand, snow) or too hard (rock) then you will have a problem staking down your Tent. Be creative and use one or more of the following tips: 

  • Anticipate your Terrain Conditions and bring special pegs and stakes for surfaces such as snow, gravel, and soft sand.
  • In soft surfaces, dig a hole and dig in the stake with guy line and all. For increased resistance, it might be better to tie the guy line to a big branch and dig this in instead of using the pegs.
  • Look for solid bushes or trees that allow you to tie down the Tent without using stakes.
  • Tie the guy lines to the middle of the stake, place them flat on the ground, and use large obstacles like rocks or logs to keep them from sliding. For increased friction, you can tie the guy lines to large branches instead of using the stakes.
  • Be creative and use whatever gear or natural material is at your disposal. Use the techniques mentioned in our Makeshift Tents section.

Obviously, finding a good location comes with knowing how to set up camping tents. However, there may be times when conditions are not favorable for easy setting up of your camp. Thus, it is essential to know how to set up a Tent in different weather and ground (surface) conditions. In this way, rough conditions will not be able to stop your camping plans. 
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