How to Properly Set up a Camping Tent

How to Properly Set up a Camping TentPitching a tent properly ensures you not just a comfortable night's sleep but also safety and security from potential adverse weather. Practice setting your tent up and taking it down at home -- either in your yard or, in a pinch, inside the house -- before using it in the field. This gives you a chance to identify and resolve any potential problems before your comfort and safety are at stake. No matter what sort of conditions you're camping in, following the same basic procedure will ensure you get your tent set up quickly, safely and securely.


Difficulty: Moderate

How to:

Things You’ll Need:
  • Tent poles
  • Stakes
  • Rain fly
  • Light cordage
Step 1
Select a level, flat area large enough for your tent. Remove any sharp stones or sticks, if present, both to protect the floor of the tent from abrasion or puncture and make your stay more comfortable. Ideally your selected site should be free of green grass and growing plants -- literally camping on top of them would harm the vegetation -- but sometimes this cannot be avoided.
Step 2
Lay out your tent's footprint or a protective tarp, if you're using one, over the place you'd like to set up the tent. If it's windy you may need to weight the corners of the footprint or tarp down with rocks, branches or gear.
Step 3
Take the tent body, rain fly, tent poles and stakes out of the tent sack. Set the rain fly aside for the moment, placing a rock or other heavy object on top of the fly to keep it from blowing away. Lay the tent out, floor down, over the footprint, if present, or the bare ground.
Step 4
Assemble the tent poles by lining each segment up with the other segments; the elastic cord inside the poles should automatically snap the segments together for you. Slide each pole through the corresponding sleeve on the tent and secure the pole ends to the bottom of the tent. This is usually done by sliding each pole end into a small metal grommet or sliding a pin into the end of each pole.
Step 5
Press the stakes down through the loops at each corner of the tent and into the ground below the tent. The walls of the tent may not be perfectly taut, but the floor should be. The stakes should be oriented at a 45-degree angle to the direction the tent would pull when under tension, either from the tension of other stakes, the weight of rain and snow, or the pressure of the wind.
Step 6
Lay the rain fly out over the tent body. Make sure the door on the rain fly lines up with the door of the tent body. Buckle the rain fly to the attachment points on the tent body; usually, these are near the staking points. Cinch down the buckles to make the rain fly as taut as possible.
Step 7
Guy the tent out -- that is, secure it to solid, heavy objects by lines tied to attachment points partway up the walls of the tent -- if you're camping in windy conditions or think the wind might pick up before you break camp. Just connect cordage to each guy point, either via a small carabiner, a buckle or a knot, and tie the line taut against a tree, rock, fence or snow/sand stake to help keep the walls taut.

Tips & Warnings

Always double-check that you have all components of your tent -- body, poles, rain fly, stakes and cordage for guying the tent out -- before leaving on a camping trip.
Think about how you're going to orient the tent before you actually set it up. The tent should be lined up with prevailing wind conditions; if you're in a hot region, you will want the door of the tent facing in to the wind for better ventilation. If you're in a cold region, face the back of the tent into the wind to minimize the wind entering through the tent's door.

Article Written By Marie Mulrooney

Marie Mulrooney has written professionally since 2001. Her diverse background includes numerous outdoor pursuits, personal training and linguistics. She studied mathematics and contributes regularly to various online publications. Mulrooney's print publication credits include national magazines, poetry awards and long-lived columns about local outdoor adventures.

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