How to Set Up a Tent

How to Set Up a TentCamping out under the stars can be a thrilling adventure--but if you can't get your tent set up safely, you may be in for more adventure than you expected. Practice putting your tent together in your front yard before taking it into the backcountry. This will help ensure that you know what you're doing, should you have to erect the tent in a rain, snow or windstorm, and is also the best way to make sure all the parts you need are present in the tent bag.


Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Step 1
Locate a flat, dry area that's large enough to spread your tent out. The ground should be free of branches and rocks.
Step 2
Separate the rain fly from your tent, if it has one, and set it off to the side for now. Spread the footprint, for your tent out on the ground where you're going to pitch the tent, if you have one. If you don't have the footprint made specially for your tent, you can also spread a small tarp on the ground. This helps protect the floor of your tent.
Step 3
Spread the main tent body out on top of the tarp or footprint. Make sure the tent is pointing in the right direction. This is a purely subjective choice that can be made based on which way the wind is blowing or what sort of view you'd like to see out the tent door in the morning.
Step 4
Remove the tent poles from their separate bag and assemble them. Usually this means lining the sections of the tent pole up so that the elastic cords inside can snap them into place and hold each pole together in one piece.
Step 5
Slide the poles into the appropriate fabric sleeves on the top of the tent body. Which pole goes where should be readily apparent because shorter poles will be inserted into shorter sleeves.
Step 6
Place both ends of each tent pole inside the appropriate anchor on the tent body. These will be located at the bottom edge of the tent, in line with the poles once they've been inserted into the fabric sleeves. In most cases you will just snap the bottom edge of the pole into a small grommet, but in some cases the anchor will be a small metal peg that you insert into the end of the hollow tent pole. Completing this step will pull the poles into tensioned loops, giving the tent its shape.
Step 7
Locate plastic or metal clips spaced along the body of the tent, in line with where the poles emerge from their fabric sleeves. While not every tent has these clips, if they're present you should clip each one of them over the exposed tent pole. This helps hold the fabric of the tent in line with the poles, creating more space inside.
Step 8
Locate the webbing or fabric loops found around the bottom edge of the tent or tent fly, especially around the front and back of small tents. Press a stake into the ground through the loops on one side of the tent, then stake through any loops on the opposite side of the tent, pulling them as taut as possible. Adjust the other stakes, if necessary, to keep the tent fabric evenly taut.
Step 9
Place the rain fly over the tent, if the tent has a rain fly--not all of them do. Some tents will have plastic buckles at each corner of the main tent and the rain fly, which you attach and then tighten down to pull the fly taut. With other tents, there may be a small grommet on each corner of the fly that should be slid around the end of each tent pole, underneath the tent fabric. You may wish to skip this step if the weather is very hot, but if there's any chance of rain the fly should be in place.
Step 10
Adjust the buckles on the rain fly, tie guy lines through loops provided and attach to trees or rocks, or stake it out as necessary to ensure it's smoothly taut. This makes it shed rain smoothly; if the rain fly isn't taut, water may puddle in it causing it to sag or even collapse.

Tips & Warnings

While some tents are freestanding, meaning they don't need to be staked out to stand upright, in which case you can skip Step 8, many tents will need to be staked out to stay upright.
All the material you need to erect your tent, including poles and stakes, should be included when you purchase the tent. The only item you might need to provide for yourself is cordage--thin nylon or parachute cord usually works fine--to use as guy lines in Step 10.

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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