18 Tips When Pitching a Tent
These days, the staycation is becoming an increasingly popular form of vacation, and camping is right at the top of the list.
(If it’s your first time camping, be sure to also check out my 19 Tips for First-Time Campers.)
There’s something very appealing about the flexibility and free-flowing form of vacation that camping offers, and sitting outside your tent sipping your beverage of choice in front of a campfire is a magical experience that’s hard to beat.
But setting up camp is always more fun if it goes without a hitch, so with that in mind, here are some top tips that you need to know when pitching your tent.
Tip #1 – Practice at home first
Once you’ve bought your tent, the first thing that you should do is have at least one trial run at setting up at home before you head off on your vacation.
The last thing you want to do is arrive at the campsite to find that you have some vital piece of equipment missing or you can’t figure out how to get the darned tent up! That’s especially annoying if it’s pouring with rain or even worse, dark. Or both!
It also helps you get a good idea of the size and dimensions of the tent so that you can place it in the best spot and position for your allocated pitch.
All tents come with a set of detailed manufacturer’s instructions (usually sewn into the bag) that explain how to go about setting up the tent and how to take it down and pack it away. Before you do anything else, spend time reading and understanding the instructions fully.
Tip #2 – Pack the tent last
When packing your car to go on a camping trip, always pack the tent last. That makes it super-easy to lay your hands on the tent as soon as you arrive so that you can get set up quickly.
As a general rule, pack the least essential items first and everything that you’ll need right away, last.
Tip #3 – Pack spares
Always pack essential spares, including tent pegs, guy lines, etc.
If a tent peg breaks, you’ll be stuck if you don’t have a spare one.
Tip #4 – Arrive in daylight
Even the most experienced campers don’t like setting up in a rush or in the dark, especially at an unfamiliar campsite without lighting.
So, be sure to leave early for your destination so that you get there in plenty of time and in daylight.
Tip #5 – Choose your pitch wisely
If you’re able to choose where you pitch your tent, or if you are wild camping, never choose a site that’s at the bottom of a hill. If you’re unlucky and the weather turns nasty, your tent could flood.
Also, ideally, you want to pitch your tent so that your feet are facing downhill when you’re sleeping. No-one wants to wake up in the middle of the night with a pounding headache and pins-and-needles in your toes, which is what could happen if you sleep with your head lower than your feet.
Tip #6 – Respect other campers’ privacy
Don’t pitch your tent too close to others.
Privacy is important to most people, and no-one wants a neighbour who can hear their every word and deed 24/7!
Tip #7 – Don’t pitch under trees
Although pitching your tent under a tree might seem like a good way to find valuable shade in hot weather, that’s actually not such a good idea.
If the weather turns windy or stormy, you could be in danger from falling branches. Flies and midges tend to gravitate to shady areas beneath trees, and birds sitting in the branches above will make an unholy mess of your tent!
Tip #8 – Watch out for wildlife and livestock!
Now, it may seem like a romantic notion to get back to nature and pitch your tent close to four-legged countryside residents. However, cattle, horses, sheep, and the like are extremely curious creatures who won’t hesitate to check out your tent. Animals are also no respecters of guy lines, tent pegs, outside food stores, and lines of washing!
So, if you don’t want to wake up in the early hours to find that you’re minus your tent, or a fox has run off with your breakfast, don’t pitch too close to the local livestock and wildlife.
Tip #9 – Use hedges and cliffs as shelter
If possible, pitch your tent close to thick hedges, drystone walls, or cliffs that will provide you with a windbreak and protection from the elements.
Just remember to take a good look at the rock wall behind you before you pitch your tent to make sure that the stonework appears solid and safe. If there are signs of previous rockfalls in the area, choose another pitch!
Tip #10 – Check the ground
There’s nothing more infuriating (and uncomfortable) than pitching your tent and settling down for the night only to discover that you set up on a patch of stony ground! So, take time out to thoroughly inspect the ground for stones, rocks, and sticks, and remove them. Not only is lying on a rock extremely uncomfortable, but you could also damage your groundsheet or even your tent.
Tip #11 – Lay everything out first
Before you begin pitching your tent, lay out everything that you’ll need. That way, you can be sure that you have every component you want, and you won’t need to waste time rummaging through your car to find something later when you’re half-way through pitching your tent.
Tip #12 – Don’t force it!
If you are using a tent that requires poles, these are usually threaded through fabric sleeves to create the tent’s structure. Take your time. If you try to force the poles into the sleeves, you risk breaking a pole or tearing the tent.
Treat everything, including door and vent zippers and clips with respect. It’s always better to take a few extra minutes setting up than rushing the job and finishing up unable to fasten the tent door because you broke the zipper.
Tip #13 – Handle poles with care
Tent poles are generally made from fiberglass or aluminum sections threaded with lengths of elastic that clip the poles together. When handling the poles, be very careful not to swing them around and always lay them flat on the ground. That way, you won’t bend or break a pole, stretch the elastic, or hit anyone!
Tip #14 – Zip doors before pegging corners
Before you peg the tent corners, zip the doors.
When pegging your tent corners, you’ll need a fair amount of tension, and if you peg them with the doors open, you’ll probably find that you won’t be able to zip them up again!
Tip #15 – Treat tent pegs properly
When it comes to hammering tent pegs, always use a rubber mallet. Never try to push the tent pegs into the ground using your foot; that’s asking for a trip to A&E or a badly bruised sole at best.
Tent pegs should be driven into the ground at an angle of 45 degrees inward toward your tent. That will help to stop the tent from being ripped out of the ground if the wind gets up or if extra tension is applied to the tent.
Tip #16 – How much tension?
You want enough tension to keep the tent secure but not so much that the guy lines are pulling on the tent pegs.
Guy lines that hang from the side of the tent can be pegged down last to give you extra security if the wind gets up.
Tip #17 – Take the time to do it properly
When undertaking any outdoor activity, including camping, the last thing that you can rely on is the weather.
So, as you’re pitching your tent take the extra time to make sure that it’s pitched correctly and that everything is tight and secure. The last thing you want to be doing is struggling with a flapping tent at 3 am in a force ten gale!
Tip #18 – Don’t pack your tent away wet
The worst thing that you can do is to pack your tent up when it’s wet or damp.
Not only is handling the tent awkward because of the additional weight of the material, but the fabric will quickly go moldy, especially in warm weather. Mold stains and odors are extremely difficult to remove, and you could end up ruining your tent.
If you have no choice but to pack up in the wet, always unpack your tent and dry it thoroughly as soon as possible when you get home.
…and you’re ready to go!
These are some of my practical steps that you can take to make sure your camping trip is a hassle-free, fun experience.
Practice setting up the tent at home, choose a nearby campsite for your first venture out under canvas, pick your pitch site with care, and ensure that you put your tent up securely.
If you have any other tips that you’d like to add, please share them in the comments box below.