10 Best Tent Stakes for Camping & Backpacking
|Tent Stake||Score||Weight Per Stake||Length||Material|
|Top Pick: MSR Groundhog||
|Best for Car Camping: Coleman 10-in Steel Tent Stake||
|REI Co-op Steel Stake||
|Best Snow Tent Stake: REI Co-op Snow Stake||
|MSR Blizzard Tent Stake||
|REI Co-op Aluminum Hook Tent Stake||
|Best Ultralight Tent Stake: MSR Carbon-Core Tent Stake||
|0.2 oz||6″||Carbon Fiber, Aluminum|
|MSR Groundhog Mini||
|Vargo Titanium Tent Stake||
We put 10 of the best tent stakes on the market through months of experiments and real-world use.
At the end of our tests, our top pick was the MSR Groundhog. It’s strong, durable, lightweight, and the best option if you want one stake that can do it all.
The burly Coleman 10-in Steel Tent Stake was our top pick for car camping. You wouldn’t want to carry a set of these very far, but they were simply unmatched in their ability to keep a tent in place.
Read on for our full reviews and for tips on how to figure out what type of tent stake is right for you.
Top Pick: MSR Groundhog
The MSR Groundhog is a staple for most backpackers, and for good reason. Through all of our tests, it stood out as the most versatile of all the stakes we tested.
At 0.46 oz each, the Groundhog is plenty light for backpacking, but also strong enough for just about anything you can throw at it.
In our holding strength test, it held well over 50 lbs of force. The only stakes stronger than the Groundhog were also twice the weight (or more!).
These are durable enough to be driven into harder ground with a rock, hammer, or camping hatchet if need be. Despite months of hard use, we’ve only ever had one minor bend in one Groundhog.
Some reviewers have said that the Groundhogs tend to bend or break at the narrow neck. We’ve put the Groundhogs through a lot of use and never had an issue with this, though.
As for price, they aren’t cheap. But they won’t break the bank, either.
We think they are a solid investment, especially for backpackers who need a balance between weight and strength, or for anyone who wants one set of stakes that they can use just about anywhere.
Best for Car Camping: Coleman 10-in Steel Tent Stake
Talk about bomber! For car camping, you couldn’t ask for a stronger stake than the Coleman 10-in Steel Tent Stake.
Plus, it’s also one of the cheapest tent stakes we tested.
The Coleman held an average of just under 90 lbs in our tests, making it by far the strongest stake we tested.
In fact, during our strength test, we actually had to stop and go find some 110 lb paracord because our 3mm cordage kept breaking before this stake failed.
In our durability test, we genuinely tried to bend or break the Coleman Tent Stake, but could barely even scratch it.
You could wail on this beast all day with a rock or a hammer and it would barely feel it.
One negative is that the plastic top seems fairly weak compared to the rest of the stake. We never had issues with it breaking, but we did have it slide out of place and down the stake a couple of times
Multiple other reviewers mentioned that the plastic top broke, and we could see how a misplaced blow from a hammer could easily do just that.
Of course, no one would ever call these lightweight — if you need a set of 8, you’re looking at well over a pound!
As long as you only have to carry them 20 feet from the car to the tent, though, the Coleman 10-in Steel Tent Stake is awesome, and a great addition to anyone’s camping gear stash.
Best Snow Tent Stake: REI Co-op Snow Stake
All three of the “extreme” stakes we tested (the REI Co-op Snow Stake, the MSR Blizzard and the MSR ToughStake) were in the same ballpark when it came to strength.
So our top choice here came down to minor details:
The REI Snow Stake is the lightest and cheapest option and outperformed the MSR Blizzard just barely when buried as a “deadman” anchor.
We generally bring a few of these for key stake-out points, and have weathered some pretty epic blizzards with four REI Snow Stakes and four MSR Groundhogs.
We were curious if this could double as a regular stake in a pinch, so we tested it in the ground.
While it held very well in both hard ground and soft soil, it was very difficult to press into the ground, and bent much quicker than a regular stake would.
We don’t recommend it for regular camping. But for camping on snow, the REI Co-op Snow Stake is affordable and reliable, and is our stake of choice.
Best Ultralight Tent Stake: MSR Carbon-Core Tent Stake
The MSR Carbon-Core Tent Stake is not only the lightest stake we tested — it’s crazy light. A set of these feels like next to nothing in your hand.
Despite that, they were durable and much stronger than we expected for the weight.
We expected them to bend or break easily, but they showed hardly any signs of wear throughout our field testing and durability testing.
Of course, you pay for it — these are expensive tent stakes.
We aren’t big fans of the shape of the top. It was too easy for the cordage to slip off, and there is nothing there to really catch the tent lines.
We had to re-do our holding strength tests multiple times because the cordage kept slipping off before the stake actually came out of the ground.
As long as you take extra care to make sure that the angle of pull is perpendicular to the stake and not upwards at all, they’ll work. But we found it a little bit annoying how difficult it was to get the cordage to stay on them.
If you want the lightest tent stakes out there, and don’t mind paying a premium, these are pretty sweet. Apart from being slightly annoyed at the cordage slipping over the top of the stake if we weren’t careful, we loved them.
Reviews of the 6 Other Tent Stakes We Tested
The REI Co-op Steel Stake is the cheapest stake we tested.
If you are looking for an inexpensive, strong, and durable set of stakes, we think this is a great option.
Just don’t plan on bringing them backpacking — each stake is a solid 2.7 ounces.
The REI Steel Stake took second place in our strength test, holding an average of 74 lbs at a 45-degree angle.
Out of all the stakes we tested, it immediately felt the toughest with its simple, solid, and heavy steel construction. Our durability test confirmed our initial impression: this stake is basically indestructible.
What we didn’t like was that it was difficult to get this stake in and out of the ground. The blunt tip didn’t drive very well through the soil and almost always required a couple of good hits from a hammer.
The top of the stake, while it held onto tent lines with no problem, offered virtually no grip to pull the stake out.
Despite those minor annoyances, as far as car camping tent stakes go, these are a close second to the Coleman 10-in Steel Stake. They’re a great choice for anyone who wants a set of cheap but incredibly strong car camping stakes.
The MSR Blizzard Tent Stake makes for a super solid snow anchor, holding an average of 65 lbs of force when buried as a deadman anchor.
The main reason this didn’t win our “Best Snow Tent Stake” award is that, at less than half the cost, the REI Snow Stake outperformed this one just slightly when buried as a deadman, though the difference between the two was minimal.
At 1.12 oz, the MSR Blizzard Tent Stake is also slightly heavier than the REI Snow Stake, which weighs just an ounce.
We tried using this as a regular stake and found that, like the REI Snow Stake, it bent very easily. These definitely aren’t meant for anything other than snow (and loose sand) camping.
On the whole, this is a great snow stake that we would trust 100% through the harshest of winter conditions. We just don’t think it’s worth the premium price when compared to the REI Snow Stake.
The MSR ToughStake is a unique design, which we were excited to try out.
It’s a steep investment, though. The ToughStake was the most expensive option we tested.
In snow, it didn’t outperform the REI or MSR Snow Stakes as significantly as we expected. It held a max of 78 lbs when buried at a 45-degree angle, to the REI Snow Stake’s 69 lbs.
That’s impressive, to be sure, but for its price and weight, we expected the ToughStake to leave the other two snow stakes completely in the dust.
We’re not sure if the slight difference in holding power in snow is enough for us to justify the weight and high cost.
We suspect that you could make up that gap fairly easily by just burying the MSR or REI stakes a little bit deeper, or piling more snow on top of them.
(In fact, an MSR Groundhog buried about 4 feet deep outperformed any of the snow stakes. It took a couple of tries to get it positioned right and we had to bury it about twice as deep, but we found that how well you bury a snow stake affects the holding power about as much or more than the actual stake itself.)
We tested the small version, and MSR also sells a larger medium version. At 5.5 ounces each, these are pretty hefty to bring backpacking.
Still, they get good reviews, and might be worth considering if you’re expecting a full-on blizzard. We suspect that with the extra surface area, they’d hold incredibly well once you got them buried and set in the snow.
While we didn’t have a chance to test the MSR ToughStake in deep sand, other reviews rate it highly for that purpose. We’d definitely consider a set of these for a windy day at the beach.
Overall, this was a fantastic stake in snow — just not great enough that we’d buy and carry a full set of them when there are cheaper and lighter snow stakes that work nearly as well.
The REI Co-op Aluminum Hook Tent Stake did much better than we expected.
We have at least a dozen cheaper aluminum hook stakes that have been mangled and destroyed over the years, so we were pleasantly surprised that this stake held its own.
It’s the cheapest stake in our test that we’d consider bringing backpacking, weighing only 0.5 oz per stake.
It held a respectable 45 lbs in our holding strength test, putting it around the middle of the pack.
While we did manage to bend this stake slightly in our durability test, it held up better than expected. We didn’t have any issues with it during our field testing, despite driving it into some rocky soil.
If you’re looking for a cheap set of reasonably lightweight backpacking tent stakes, you could do a lot worse than the REI Co-op Aluminum Hook Tent Stake.
We liked the idea of the Groundhog Mini more than we liked the stake itself.
Initially, it seemed awesome. After all, we love the full size Groundhog, so a stake that’s smaller and lighter and still has most of the Groundhog’s holding power seemed perfect.
In practice, though, we found just the opposite.
While it is significantly smaller, the Mini is only .11 oz lighter than the full-sized Groundhog. That translates to a weight savings of 0.66 oz for a set of 6.
In our holding strength test, the Mini held barely half of the force that the full-sized Groundhog held, and was one of the weakest stakes we tested.
It’s not bad, by any means. We just don’t see much benefit of going with this one over the full-length Groundhog.
We’re all about shaving weight from our packs, but when it comes to gear as crucial as tent stakes, we’ll sacrifice less than an ounce for significantly stronger gear.
We loved the light weight and slim profile of the Vargo Titanium Tent Stake.
Unfortunately, it was the least durable and weakest stake in our tests, holding only 27 lbs at its best.
One of the Vargos bent significantly in the first few days of our field testing, and another bent pretty early on in the durability tests.
Although some reviewers have said they were able to simply bend the stakes back, those of us without superhuman strength had trouble with this and were stuck with crooked stakes.
The Vargo Titanium Tent Stake’s narrow, needle-like diameter did make it easier than some of the thicker stakes to drive into hard-packed ground. If you often camp in very hard soil, this stake may be worth considering.
We were also very, very glad for the fluorescent orange coating on the head of the stake. The coating chipped very easily, but there were multiple times when these tiny stakes would have completely disappeared on us if it weren’t for that coating.
The Vargo Titanium Tent Stake was easy to use, tiny, and extremely light, and it served us well on fair-weather camping trips. It just doesn’t have enough holding power for us to rely on it in anything worse than a light breeze.
Here are the best tent stakes:
- MSR Groundhog
- Coleman 10-in Steel Tent Stake
- REI Co-op Steel Stake
- REI Co-op Snow Stake
- MSR Blizzard Tent Stake
- MSR ToughStake
- REI Co-op Aluminum Hook Tent Stake
- MSR Carbon-Core Tent Stake
- MSR Groundhog Mini
- Vargo Titanium Tent Stake
How to Choose the Best Tent Stakes for Your Needs
There is no one-size-fits-all tent stake. What’s perfect for the car camper on soft, grassy campsites is going to be useless for the backpacker who frequently sets up camp in rocky or snowy locations.
Below, we break down the different types of tent stakes, the different properties to look for, and how to figure out what’s best for you.
Types of Tent Stakes
Shepherd’s Hook: The Shepherd’s Hook is the classic tent stake. Depending on the diameter and construction, these can be quite strong.
Y-Stakes: Shaped like a “Y,” these stakes pack a lot of surface area into a fairly light weight, giving them excellent ability to grip the soil.
J-Stakes (aka V-Stakes): A lot of tents come with aluminum J-Stakes (also sometimes called V-Stakes). These are lightweight, and have a lot of the same advantages of Y-stakes, although we’ve found them to be slightly weaker.
Nail Pegs: Essentially, these are shaped like large nails that you drive into the ground. They usually have some sort of pull cord or plastic top to help you get them out of the ground.
Snow/Sand Stakes: These stakes have a much higher surface area and often have multiple holes that are meant to fill up with sand and snow and help anchor the stake down. They are specifically designed to hold in loose sand/snow conditions when most other stakes won’t, but aren’t very useful in any other condition.
Other: From spirals to screws to fabric designed to be buried under the snow, there are dozens of other varieties of tent stakes. Most are extremely specialized, though, and not too common.
Aluminum is the most common material for tent stakes, especially in the backpacking world. It’s light, relatively inexpensive, and, while it does have a tendency to bend, it’s plenty strong enough when used correctly.
Steel is the material of choice for most car camping tent stakes. Steel stakes are definitely not light, but they are some of the strongest stakes out there.
Titanium and Carbon Fiber are relatively new on the market for tent stakes. While extremely light and strong, tent stakes made with these materials are also extremely expensive.
For backpackers, weight is crucial. However, having the lightest tent stakes on the trail doesn’t do you any good if they don’t actually hold your tent down, or if they turn themselves into a pretzel as soon as they touch a pebble in the soil.
Even for a full set, ultralight tent stakes will probably only save you around an ounce or less.
Our two cents: when it comes to tent stakes, campers and most backpackers shouldn’t sacrifice too much performance for the minimal weight savings.
How much force a tent stake can hold, and how durable it is, is probably the most important consideration, especially if you often camp in less than ideal conditions.
To give you some idea of how strong your stakes need to be, we did some calculations.
We used a wind load calculator to determine that 40 mph winds would put somewhere from 30 to 45 lbs of pressure on a tent stake (depending on how big your tent is, how many stakes the load is distributed among, the elevation, and a number of other factors). 60mph gusts would range from 50 to nearly 100 lbs.
We’re not engineers, so these are loose estimates. But make sure whatever stakes you bring are more than strong enough to withstand any conditions you may encounter. Consult our test results below for an idea of each stake’s holding strength.
How We Tested
Holding Strength Tests in Ground & Snow
We wanted to know how many pounds of force each stake could hold, so we used a pull scale to measure the force at which each stake popped out of soft, grassy ground.
We were also curious if putting stakes into the ground at a 45-degree angle really is stronger, so we tested each stake at 45 degrees and at 90 degrees.
For the snow stakes, we tied cordage through the holes of the stakes and buried them at least 2 feet deep in moderately dense snow, in a typical stake configuration (buried at about a 45 degree angle toward the direction of pull) and as a deadman (buried horizontally).
- The MSR ToughStake is not intended to be buried as a deadman anchor, so we did not test it in this way
- For each test, we took the average of three measurements. We attempted to keep the direction of pull at around 45 degrees from the ground, to simulate the direction of pull from a tent rainfly or guyline.
We wanted to know how easily each stake bent, so we found a spot next to a large rock and pressed the stakes in diagonally toward the rock.
Once the stake hit the rock, we continued pressing on them with the toe of our boots for around 30 seconds each. After that, we gave each one a solid 10 taps on the top with a rock.
- We did not perform this test on the MSR Blizzard and REI Snow Stakes. They bent when we pressed them into the soft, slightly rocky ground where we did our strength tests.
- We also did not perform these tests on the MSR ToughStake, since it is not intended to be pressed into the ground at all
We replaced our usual tent stakes with these for nearly four months. From camping on snow in the Tetons to camping in sandy Southern Utah, to camping in rocky Redwood forests along the California Coast, we tested these stakes in a variety of conditions.