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Sometimes you can't help but set up camp in an area where the soil is very rocky / stony or firm, especially when wild camping. This can make it incredibly difficult to drive the tent pegs into the ground.

Are there any good solutions to this? My approach thus far has either been to bring a mallet (generally very heavy, big and thus not suitable for long periods of hiking) or try to find a rock to bash them into the ground (a suitable rock can't always be found though and can damage the pegs over time.)

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Might sound crazy, but I always just use the tough part of the toe of my left boot and step on it with my right. Works 99% of the time. –  Russell Steen Mar 2 '12 at 5:14
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If tent pegs don't hold, use rope tied to rocks and/or trees/bushes. –  xpda Mar 2 '12 at 17:37
    
Depending on your stakes, you can use one stake placed perpendicular on top of the stake you're trying to push into the ground. That gives you a nice big handle where you can provide good force along with dexterity. This works best with stakes like the MSR Mini-Groundhog stake. –  Greg.Ley Mar 2 '12 at 20:35
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6 Answers

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Your best bet may be to take along a set of titanium shepherd-hook-type stakes (Vargo makes a decent set).

Their advantage is that they are very narrow, so less likely to hit underground rocks. Further, the titanium is somewhat bendy in the ground, so you can often work them around rocks when they do hit (but they spring back into shape when you remove them from the ground).

Also, if you do have to resort to bashing, titanium stakes are probably the least likely to get damaged by the rough treatment.

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+1 for the narrow stakes idea. I am not much of a titanium kind of guy, but I usually carry two sets of stakes: regular plastic ones for soft ground, and thin aluminum "wire" ones for hard rocky ground. The aluminum bends pretty easily, but sometimes that is an advantage, they tend to find their way around larger rocks in the ground, and they are not too hard to straighten up when they bend. And if they get really out of shape, they are cheap enough to replace. –  Jan Hlavacek Mar 2 '12 at 17:03
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You will probably need, as you mention, a mallet/hammer or rock, but if you find a particularly resistant spot, you may have hit an underground rock, and you should move the stake around a bit, see if you can avoid it.

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A couple years ago, I ended up on a little island while canoe camping, and the tent pads were literally solid rock. Although this was far from optimal, I did my best to secure the tent by tying the tent cables to rocks, trees, etc. I'd consider this a last resort, but it got us through a fairly windy night. This solution works better if you can manage to get a couple stakes in the ground and supplement that with anchors.

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Drive the pegs in at an angle to avoid deeper rock. Freestanding dome type tents really are great for this but in a high wind I have tied corners to large rocks to keep the tent on the ground.

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Does the angle matter? –  Russell Steen Mar 1 '12 at 20:02
    
@RussellSteen From what I've heard, you should drive the stake in at an angle to make it less likely to be pulled out by the tent, and this shallower argument makes sense too. –  Kevin Mar 1 '12 at 20:11
    
I agree. This method has nearly always worked for us to avoid rocks. –  Sirex Mar 7 '12 at 15:36
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Sometimes, regardless of the pins, it's simply impossible to put pins into the ground no matter the technology. In such a situations, boulders may be your friend:

alternate way ot raising a tent

Raising a tent between Baugevatnet and Sijdasjávrre, near Narvik, Norway, ~68.1°N, 1 October 2012. The ground was frozen solid and it was completely impossible to drive a peg into the ground.

My friend taught me a way to raise a tent under such conditions. It works best with a self erecting tent, which mine isn't, but we managed still. For each rope, find a rock as large as possible where it's possible to tie the rope around. If this rock is still small (depending on the tent design, it very well may be), build a cairn around this rock as to put weight on this connecting point. In the photograph above, we didn't use a single peg, but the tent was very stable.

Although I didn't bring a thermometer, I think it was close to -10°C during the night, and it took a long time for temperatures to rise during the day. Incidentally, it was the last night camping in the wild before winter would put an end to the snow-free season.

photo with context

It was worth it!

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+1 for the nice picture examples. This site needs more pictures –  Russell Steen Nov 6 '12 at 19:35
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Another solution similar to using rocks and trees to tie the tent down. Is depending how light you're traveling you can tether your tent to a waterproof pack and use that.

Month long canoe trip, camping on James bay for the night. Wide open spaces with forest far back from land. We had a tent make an attempt to blow away once already, found tethering it to packs worked well for the night.

Tent tethered to packs to keep it from blowing away.

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