Securing Your Tent Without Stakes

by Jamie Cantarovici 

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One of the biggest issues with winter camping is securing your tent without traditional stakes. Ironically, the more snow there is, the easier it may be to hold your tent securely. Without snow traditional stakes simply will not penetrate frozen ground. You need stakes make of hardened steel, and a hammer, heavy items you are not likely to carry in your pack. However, with lots of snow and the right ingredients you can easily hold your tent down securely with a "deadman."

Deadman Materials

This is the most common, and generally most effective method of securing a tent on snow.  A deadman anchor is an object that is buried beneath the snow.  The key is to use surface area of the deadman and the strength and/or weight of packed snow to hold the tent and guylines down .

To use one to secure your tent, you’ll first need to find suitable anchors.  In general, the bigger the anchor, the better it will hold.  Common deadman anchor materials include sticks and tree branches. Stuff sacks can work too, if the cord is strong. You’ll need to upgrade the cord yourself, but four good sized stuff sacks are relatively light weight and useful in other ways.  Tent stakes can also be used but they should be large, with ample surface area, such as RedFox team pegs


Arctic Fox

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Light Cycle Fox

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Explorer Fox

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Red Fox makes several tents with features designed for camping in the snow, like: Snow skirts around the perimeter, reinforced guy points, and stake points with webbing loops.


Once you have found your anchors, you’ll want to bury them with a T-trench.  To do this, you’ll dig a slot long and wide enough to fully encompass the anchor.  Dig the slot so that the anchor will lay flat (not stuck downwards, like a normal stake) parallel to your tent, in cooperation with the guy line points.  The depth of the slot will change according to how much weight the anchor is bearing and the density of the snow.  You may have to experiment a bit to find the right depth for your conditions.  Next, dig another slot perpendicular to the original, towards the tent, so that the guy line is able to reach the anchor.  Before burying the anchor, run the guy line around it.  If using stakes with holes, run the line through the hole, as opposed to around the entire stake. 

Secure and tighten each line with a Trucker’s Hitch (https://www.netknots.com/rope_knots/truckers-hitch).   A Tautline Hitch can also be used (https://www.netknots.com/rope_knots/tautline-hitch).

Check out this video from IFMGA guide Mark Smiley for more advice on how to set up tents on glaciers and skip to 3:07 for a demonstration of the Trucker’s Hitch (https://vimeo.com/215432165).

Other staking tips

Deadman anchors can also be used in sand. 

If you don’t have sand or snow and staking is not an option, finding several large rocks and securing them via Barrel hitches is an excellent idea (https://www.netknots.com/rope_knots/barrel-hitch).