How to Pitch a Tent

by Contributor
Putting up a tent is easier with two people rather than just one.

Putting up a tent is easier with two people rather than just one.

Erecting a tent isn't too difficult when the instructions are clear, the sun is shining and the weather is cooperating. But often setting up a tent occurs in less-than-favorable conditions. Learning how to put up your tent before you ever go camping will ensure a more successful camping trip, especially if you've chosen a safe spot.

Practice Before Camping

  1. Practice at home in your back yard or even in your living room. Becoming fully familiar with the tent pitching steps will make erecting it at your campsite much easier. Even if you can't drive the stakes into the carpeting, at least you'll get a feel for how the rods pop together, which eyelets the stakes go into and how the rain-fly fits over the top.

  2. Follow the steps in the instructions precisely, laying out the tent flat, discovering where the opening is, identifying the correct rods and how to connect them properly, then installing them in the correct order. Skipping steps can cause accidental damage to your tent and make it more difficult to erect.

  3. Practice taking down the tent, retracting the rods properly and folding the tent as compactly as possible. Pack the tent, rods and stakes, along with the instructions, back in the tent bag to bring with you camping.

Setting Up At the Campsite

  1. Time your first trip with the tent to pitch it in daylight so that you can choose an appropriate campsite and see clearly what you are doing. Select a site that is not in an indentation or valley. If it rains, you don't want all of the water collecting under your tent. Sweep or clear the tent site of rocks, branches and general detritus as best you can. Remember, whatever is on the ground is what you'll be sleeping on. Look overhead for pine trees that may be dripping sap or dropping pine cones. Neither is good for your tent or your sleeping. If there is a tilt to the site, consider where you want your head and position the tent accordingly.

  2. Place a ground cloth or tarp on the ground where the tent will go. Once the tent is pitched, tuck the ground cloth under the tent edges. If it rains, the water will slide off the tent and onto the ground, not onto your ground cloth. If it collects on your ground cloth, then it'll run under your tent and the bottom of your tent will get soaked.

  3. Pitch the tent as you practiced at home. For some tents, it's easier to stake down the corners first before installing the rods to pop it up. With other tents, it's simpler to install the rods and pop up the tent before staking down the corners. The second method makes it easier to reposition the tent, if necessary.

  4. Stake down the tent once it's in the correct position. Adjust the stakes so that they are positioned as far out as you can safely pull the tent. A taut tent means you have more room inside. Use the mallet or back side of a hatchet to pound down the stakes securely. Install the rain-fly, making it as taut as possible as well.

Items you will need

  • Tent
  • Stakes
  • Ground cloth or tarp
  • Mallet or hatchet
  • Hand-held whisk broom (optional)
  • Rake (optional)


  • Consider bringing a small rake to clear the site of detritus before you pitch your tent.
  • A small whisk broom is handy for sweeping debris that collects inside your tent.
  • If you don't have access to a mallet or hatchet to pound in your stakes, a rock found at your site can also be used.
  • Consider replacing the aluminum stakes that come with your tent with lightweight but sturdy titanium ones.


  • If you see bear or other large animal droppings in the area, reconsider your campsite location.

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