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Helpful Hints for Quick and Easy Tent Setup

Your new tent most likely came packaged with instructions for setup, which should give you a good idea of how to actually pitch it. No matter who made your tent or how complete the manufacturer’s instructions are, there are several steps you can take to make pitching easier time after time. Follow along as Backcountry Edge Gear Specialist Becky discusses some great tips for how to set up your tent.

How to pitch your tent:

1. Pick a good spot

Find a flat area that’s free of rocks, pointy sticks and twigs or other debris that will be potentially damaging under the base of your tent. (You also don’t want to have to sleep on top of these types of things)!

2. Stake it out

Staking out a corner of the tent
Finding a good spot to stake out your tent is an important first step

One of the first things to do after picking your setup spot is to stake the tent into the ground. Though it may seem counterintuitive, loosely staking the corners of your tent before raising poles will provide the most stability and a better overall pitch. (With freestanding tents, you don’t need to stake in order to create structure, but not staking will leave the tent susceptible to blowing around in even slight wind, and simple movements by occupants can shift the unstaked tent’s position).

  • Loosely stake the tent first, and then when it’s all set up, you can go around and tighten it up.
  • If your tent has a footprint, stake the tent body and footprint together with the same stakes; start by spreading out the footprint and then spreading out the tent itself on top of the footprint before staking.

3. Raise the poles

Proper tent pole raising procedure
Once the tent poles are properly centered, they may be raised

Assemble all poles before placing them in in sleeves and/or clips and raising your tent. The main thing to keep in mind when putting tent poles together is that all sections need to be completely connected before placement in the tent’s pole sleeves and/or clips. Sometimes a pole section can appear to be situated in its connector, but it’s actually not slotted all the way in, which can be damaging to the pole; double check all connection points before placing poles.

  • Does your tent have pole sleeves?
    • Center the poles inside their sleeves before you do anything else. Be sure that all sleeves are utilized with their corresponding poles BEFORE attempting to erect the tent! Trying to pitch the tent one pole at a time puts undue stress on individual sleeves and can lead to the tearing of sleeves or the breaking or bending of poles.
  • Does your tent have pole clips?
    • Place the ends of the tent poles into the grommets or connection points at the corners of the tent’s body before attaching any of the clips
    • Most tents with clips (or both clips and sleeves) have varying sizes of those clips; the rule of thumb is to connect larger clips to poles before smaller clips.
    • If you feel that any of your tent’s poles or any points in the fabric are under too much pressure or tension during setup, don’t continue; back up a step or two in the setup process and double check your work to avoid damaging your tent.

4. Deploy the rainfly

Rainfly set up on tent
The tent's rain fly will provide additional protection from the elements once properly set up

Some tents have color coded attachments to help correctly orient the rainfly with little trial and error required. If your tent doesn’t have this feature, the easiest thing to do is find the part of the fly meant to be the door of the vestibule (if your tent has an integrated vestibule or vestibules) and match it up with the door of the tent.

  • Does your tent’s fly have small ties or Velcro tabs on the underside? These are meant to attach to the poles.
    • Attach these ties or tabs around poles before clipping the corners of the fly in place or before staking out the rainfly.
    • When clipping corners of the fly in place, it’s good to leave the connection points relatively loose at first and then tightening them in a second pass around the tent.
    • Your final step in deploying the rainfly will be to stake out your vestibule in front of the door or doors of your tent. (Remember that you can roll back the vestibule opening(s) in nice weather for added ventilation).
      • Tip: if your tent’s door has a two-sided zipper, you can unzip from the top under the vestibule for quick venting while still being protected from rain.

5. Consider your guylines

Your tent’s rainfly will have several guyout points that will likely have guylines already attached. There are several advantages to utilizing the guylines, which can be staked or sometimes tied to trees/branches at your campsite:

  • Guylines create tension in the rainfly’s fabric that allows water to run off more effectively and better secures the tent from wind.
  • Ventilation is increased as the fly is slightly pulled away from any mesh or openings in the tent’s body. This can help combat condensation as you live and breathe inside your tent.
    • Tip: if you’re planning to utilize all guyout points on your tent, be sure that you have enough stakes with you. Tents often have just enough stakes for pitching the tent but not enough to utilize all built-in guyout points, and you may have to purchase extras.