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When setting up a tent and staking it out, what is the proper tension for the lines? I generally just make them arbitrarily tight, but have no idea how that would perform in high wind or other conditions.

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IME, this is one of those "weakest link" relationships -- ie, line tension is important right up to the point where the stakes pull out or something else goes wrong -- I'm not sure if there's a more holistic way to approach the "stability" question, though. –  D. Lambert Feb 6 '12 at 22:03
    
This is a great question, I've always made my lines as tight as possible, maybe that's not such a great idea after all. –  furtive Feb 6 '12 at 22:28
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up vote 7 down vote accepted

There's no hard and fast rule for specific tensions that I know of, mainly because that will vary slightly depending on the conditions. As an average rule I tend to make them taught, but not to the point where they're pulling on the pegs.

There's a couple of scenarios where I tend to slacken them off a bit though:

  • When the pegs can't be fully pushed into the ground for whatever reason. In theory they should always go all the way in but sometimes if you don't have gear up to the job of penetrating the ground, they won't be as secure as they could be. If this is the case you generally want them tight enough for them not to fall off the peg, but other than that a bit of give is sometimes good.

  • In high wind conditions I tend to slacken them off a bit just to lessen the chance of the wind pulling them too tight suddenly and snapping them. In these conditions though I make sure I've got some paracord or similar so that any repairs that need to be made can be quickly. Helps to brush up on your knots!

Other guidelines are much more important though - things like having your pegs in at a slight angle away from the tent, making the lines nice and long and spreading them out well. I find those 3 things generally much more important than how tight the lines end up being.

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+1. It's usually my job to set up the tent in camp. Looks like I've got a few more things to consider (angle of pegs being a crucial consideration). –  Clare Steen Feb 6 '12 at 23:29
    
@ClareSteen It's all relative of course - on a sunny day with no wind in a flat campsite then you'll be fine pretty much whatever you do! On the side of a hill in a storm with rocky ground is of course another matter entirely :) –  berry120 Feb 7 '12 at 1:59
    
@berry120 -- Is there any level that you would consider "too taut" even under very mild conditions (sunny, no wind)? How would I measure, (inflection distance, ability to twang like a banjo,...?) –  Russell Steen Feb 10 '12 at 14:45
    
@RussellSteen If it twangs like a banjo then I'd say it was a bit too taught - you could perhaps get it to that point then slacken it off slightly until it doesn't "twang". If the conditions are mild then there's no point putting undue strain on the lines or pegs when it's not required! –  berry120 Feb 10 '12 at 14:50
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@berry120 -- Thanks! I'm not sure why I'm so worried. Twenty years without breaking one is probably a sign that my "gut" feel for it is right, but still.... –  Russell Steen Feb 10 '12 at 15:13
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When I was in the scouts a few years ago we used to use patrol tents with natural fibre guy ropes. We were always taught to slacken the guys off when it started to rain because the ropes shrink. Sure enough one patrol didn't do this and the 2" diameter ridge pole snapped leaving some very unhappy campers.

I realise that most tents these days don't use natural fibre guy ropes but I think it's still worth being aware of.

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