We tested and researched over 20 tent stakes and found the MSR Groundhog to be the best tent stake for Camping, Bushcraft, and Survival.
The Y-beam design of the MSR Groundhog tent stake makes it the best tent stake for camping, bushcraft, and survival in most soil types. It is made from a durable and lightweight aluminum alloy and provides plenty of holding power for tents, rainflies, and tarp shelters.
I have over 35 years of experience camping and living outdoors. I have made my own tent stakes and purchased various others along the way. My engineering degree also gives me a better understanding of materials and the strength of certain designs.
To build this list, I took my past experience and reviewed many different tent stakes with our team. I also discussed with others in the outdoor community what they use and prefer. This includes campers, bushcrafters, as well as other survivalists.
While performing a bunch of “scientific” tests pulling on a tent stake is nice, I feel that following advice from someone who has real-world experience is the best. Instead of just testing tent stakes, we have actually used them.
With so many choices out there, the best tent stake for your needs can be very hard to determine. In this guide, I break down all the different considerations of camping, bushcraft, and survival to help you decide what is the best tent stake for you.
Also keep reading for a great tool that can really save you some aggravation.
Quick Comparison of our Favorite Tent Stakes
Best Tent Stakes
MSR Groundhog Tent Stake – Best Overall
- Material: Aluminum Alloy
- Length: 7.5”
- Shape: Y-beam
- Weight: 0.46 oz
- Best For: All-around general use
The MSR Groundhog Tent Stake is our top pick for the best overall tent stake.
I have been using this tent stake for a while, and it has continued to do well in most conditions. It is lightweight, durable, holds well, and is easy to remove once I strike camp.
I like the length of this stake. At 7.5 inches, it is a good compromise between the standard 6-inch and 9-inch stakes that I typically find.
I usually camp anywhere from soft, moist soil to rocky ground in the mountains. The “Y” shape of this stake is wide enough to hold well in soft soil yet narrow enough to penetrate rocky soil.
The notch at the top of the stake is wide enough to hold my guy lines at a fairly steep angle. But it is not too wide that it makes the head area weak.
I also like that these stakes come with a pull loop already attached. I can usually pull them right out of the ground. In hard ground, I have used the hook on my Swiss Army knife or the Gerber Stake Out multitool to pull the loop if I have trouble. This allows me to pull with both arms.
Overall, the design of this tent stake is a good all-around compromise for most conditions and uses. The price is a little higher than other knockoffs, but these are superior and will last a long time.
The MSR Groundhog Tent Stake is the best overall tent stake for camping and bushcraft. I recommend it to everyone that is looking for a good all-purpose tent stake.
Guy Line Notch
Coghlan’s 9” ABS Tent Stake – Best Survival Tent Stake
- Material: ABS Plastic
- Length: 9”
- Shape: T-beam
- Weight: 1.0 oz
- Best For: Survival Kits
The Coghlan’s ABS Tent Stake is the best tent stake for your survival kit, bug-out bag, or any other wilderness survival pack.
Why is this the best survival tent stake?
Why would you want a plastic tent stake?
This tent stake is made from an ABS plastic polymer. Not only is ABS super durable, but it is also flammable.
You can light one of these tent stakes with a lighter or match, and it will burn very hot – even if it is wet. This makes it ideal for survival since you can use them to start a fire if no suitable tinder is available.
These tent stakes can also withstand a beating without breaking.
They are wide and work great in softer soil. If the soil is very rocky, they can be hard to drive into the ground. They are bulkier than aluminum tent stakes simply because it takes more material to make them rigid.
I like that they have a flat, wide head. This makes it easier to drive them into the ground. The head also has a nice hook for guy lines.
For general use, they are not my top choice, but for a survival kit, they are the best.
The Coghlan’s ABS Tent Stake is for anyone looking for a tent stake for their survival kit. They have multiple uses from staking a tarp to starting a fire.
Good Fire Starter
Best for Softer Soil
Wocholl 12” Anchoring Spikes – Best Permanent Shelter Tent Stake
- Material: Steel
- Length: 12”
- Shape: Spike
- Weight: 6 oz
- Best For: Permanent Bushcraft Shelters
The Wocholl 12” Anchoring Spike is a heavy-duty nail-type steel spike that is great for hard rocky soil.
The spikes are 3/8” in diameter and are the strongest stake on our list. But they are also the heaviest.
If you are building a permanent bushcraft shelter or have a large tarp or tent on hard ground, these are great. You can pound these with a sledgehammer without bending them.
These are nail shaped and do not have a notch for guy lines. This can easily be solved by picking up some fender washers at your local hardware store. Simply put the washer on the stake before you drive it and loop your guy line under it.
If you drive these very deep, they are almost impossible to pull back out without a crowbar, so keep this in mind.
If you have far to hike to camp these are heavy (and you need a crowbar). So, they are not the best for anyone that has far to travel.
The Wocholl 12” Anchoring Spike is for someone that needs a more permanent tent stake or has a very large tarp or tent on hard, rocky soil. These are super heavy-duty tent stakes.
Works in Hard, Rocky Soil
MSR Carbon Core 6” Tent Stake – Best Lightweight Tent Stake
- Material: Aluminum and Carbon Fiber
- Length: 6”
- Shape: Round Spike
- Weight: 0.2 oz
- Best For: Lightweight Backpacking
The MSR Carbon Core 6” Tent Stake is a super lightweight tent stake that is half the weight of our top pick (and the MSR groundhogs are less than ½ an ounce each)!
These tent stakes have a carbon fiber cylindrical core wrapped in a thin layer of aluminum. The carbon fiber’s shape makes them structurally strong, and the aluminum coating protects the carbon fiber from damage. This is a very unique and intelligent design.
The head of the stake has a plastic mushroom-shaped cap. This makes them easy to pull out of the ground and provides a landing for a guy line to hook on.
These stakes are 6 inches long – the minimum length I would consider. They do not hold as well as the groundhogs and are not as good in rocky terrain. They are larger in diameter than spikes, though, and hold well in soft ground.
If you try to drive these into rocky or hard ground, you must not hit them too hard. If you meet resistance, stop.
They can not handle a high side load, and stepping on them with your boot off-center could bend them.
Since these have a unique design, they are the most expensive stakes on our list. If weight is your primary concern, these are the lightest, just be aware of their limitations.
The MSR Carbon Core 6” Tent Stake is for someone looking for a very lightweight tent stake for a long backpacking trip. They are short and best for softer soil.
Coleman 10” Steel Nail Tent Pegs – Best for Hard Ground
- Material: Steel
- Length: 10”
- Shape: Round Spike
- Weight: 3.1 oz
- Best For: Rocky Ground
The Coleman 10” Steel Nail Tent Pegs are heavy-duty tent stakes for hard, rocky ground.
These tent stakes are basically a large steel nail with a plastic hook that slips over the spike and is held on by the head. They are very heavy-duty, and bending them is very hard.
These must be driven into the ground with a hammer or the poll of an axe. Depending on the ground and what you drive them into, they can also be tough to get out. I like to attach a loop of paracord to them so I can pull them out with my multitool.
If you are camping in a campground with gravel, these are a must-have, as they can penetrate through the gravel into firm ground.
They are a little heavy, so keep this in mind if you are hiking very far to camp.
I like the design of the head on these stakes. They have a hook on one side for holding guy lines and a rounded, smooth surface. I find adjusting guy lines after pitching my tarp is easy with these. There are no surfaces to catch my line like some other stakes.
For the price, these are a great affordable option just to keep with your bushcraft or camping gear in case you need them.
The Coleman 10” Steel Nail Tent Pegs are for someone looking for a heavy-duty tent stake for hard rocky ground or gravel.
MSR Mini Groundhog Tent Stake
- Material: Aluminum Alloy
- Length: 6”
- Shape: Y-beam
- Weight: 0.35 oz
- Best For: Lightweight general use
The MSR Mini Groundhog Tent Stake is a shorter, lightweight version of our top pick, the MSR Groundhog.
This tent stake has the same shape and design as our top pick and is just 1.5 inches shorter.
While this stake is not as light at the MSR Carbon Core, it is only .15 ounces heavier and the same length. If you carry 4 stakes, that is only 0.6 ounces difference. Unless you are an ultralight backpacker, you won’t notice the difference in carrying these.
These have a Y beam design, so they hold better than a spike shape in softer ground. They also are less likely to bend under side loads.
The 6” length is the shortest that I would consider for a tent stake. In very rocky ground or very soft ground, I have found that they are not quite long enough to hold as well as a longer stake.
These are very affordable, so if you are looking for a lightweight tent stake on a budget, these are a great option.
The MSR Mini Groundhog Tent Stake is great for anyone looking for a low-cost, durable, lightweight tent stake. For most, our top pick is the best choice due to the longer length, but these are very similar in design.
Big Agnes Dirt Dagger UL Tent Stakes
- Material: Aluminum Alloy
- Length: 10” (others also available)
- Shape: I-beam
- Weight: 1.65 oz
- Best For: When Holding Power is Needed in Soft Ground
The Big Agnes Dirt Dagger UL Tent stake has a unique I-beam design that makes it strong and lightweight at the same time.
I-beams have been used in construction for hundreds of years since they can span long distances and are not as heavy as a solid beam. This is the same principle at work with these stakes.
These stakes are much lighter than any of the other 10” stakes on our list – yet very strong and durable.
I find that the head is not the best for guy lines. It has a small notch on each side to hold your paracord in place, but you have to ensure the stake is aligned when you place it in the ground. If it is off slightly, it reduces the amount of “bite” the notch has.
These stakes have a loop of paracord attached to help pull them out of the ground. Since these are longer and if you drive them into hard ground, they can be difficult to remove. You must have a multitool with a hook to pull them out if you drive them very deep.
In softer ground, these hold great – better than any other stake on our list. They are also easy to remove when you strike camp. If you camp on soft, wet ground, these are an excellent choice.
The Big Agnes Dirt Dagger UL Tent stake is for someone looking for the most holding power in softer ground. These are a great lightweight option for long 10” stakes but also come in other lengths.
MSR Core Tent Stake
- Material: Aluminum Alloy
- Length: 9”
- Shape: Spike
- Weight: 0.5 oz
- Best For: Hard Ground and Lightweight
The MSR Core Tent stake is designed to be a lightweight stake for hard ground.
This tent stake is similar to other spike stakes on our list. It is made from a 7075 Aluminum alloy, providing strength and making them much lighter than steel stakes.
It has an aluminum mushroom head with a paracord loop to help pull them out of the ground. I found that the head held a guy line nicely while providing a smooth surface for the line to ride on as I adjusted it.
With a length of 9 inches, it is long enough to penetrate through rocks or gravel.
These stakes are not as durable as the steel spikes on our list. They will bend if you do not drive them straight or put a side load on them with your foot. Durability is the trade-off here to save weight.
If you need a longer stake for hard ground and weight is a concern, these are for you. If you carry six stakes, these can save you nearly one pound in your pack over the Coleman steel stakes. That is a considerable saving for long hikes.
The MSR Core Tent stake is for someone looking for a long, lightweight, spike-type tent stake for hard ground.
Long Length – Holds Well
Not as Durable as Steel
MSR Blizzard Stake
- Material: Aluminum Alloy
- Length: 9.5”
- Shape: V-Shaped
- Weight: 1.12 oz
- Best For: Sand or Snow
The MSR Blizzard stake is a wide V-shaped stake that works best in very soft soil like sand or snow.
While I have not personally used these, many have found them to work well on the beach or in snow as a dead man’s anchor.
To use them, you first dig a shallow hole. Then, you drive the stake, attach the guy line, and then fill the hole with snow or sand. The wide design of the stake helps it hold securely, and the sand or snow on top of it prevents it from pulling out.
I like that these have multiple holes so you could attach multiple guys lines to a single stake if needed.
While at the beach, I have seen many of those pop-up canopies people use for shade blow over. These tent stakes are great for keeping one of those grounded. If you are one of those people, buy these, so you don’t have to chase it down the beach while it takes out small children. (Anyway, I digress, but I have seen this happen.)
The MSR Blizzard stake is for anyone who plans to camp in the snow or in deep sand. Installed correctly, they hold well in the wind – as well as keep small children at the beach safe.
Great in Snow or Sand
Multiple Holes for Lines
Wide V Design
Not Good in Soil
Best Tent Stake Buying Guide
No matter the task, if you don’t select the right tool for the job, you will likely not have a good experience. Tent stakes are probably one of the most overlooked piece of gear for camping, bushcraft, and survival.
There is no “one stake fits all” solution depending on the situation. While some stakes do well in most conditions, some are much better than others.
In this guide, we will review which tent stakes are the best for camping, bushcraft, and survival.
Tent Stake Material
The material that the tent stake material is made of influences the strength, weight, as well as price. It is one of the major factors to consider when selecting tent stakes.
Steel is the strongest tent stake material as well as the heaviest. Select steel when you are going to be camping in a rocky area, and weight is not a concern. A steel tent stake will withstand heavy blows as you drive it into the hard, rocky ground.
Aluminum tent stakes are not as strong as steel but are lighter in weight. Pound for pound, aluminum has a higher strength-to-weight ratio than steel. This makes it a great material for tent stakes when weight is a concern. For most people and scenarios, it is one of the best tent stake materials for general use.
Titanium is used mainly in lightweight applications. It is heavier than aluminum, but because it has a higher strength, much less of it needs to be used to create a similar tent stake. It is also more expensive than aluminum. I have not found much use for titanium tent stakes since the weight difference is very small and the price of the titanium is so much higher.
Carbon Fiber is a very light material with good strength depending on how it is configured. Typically, it is very strong in one direction but not in the opposite (sheer vs. compression). These tent stakes can be very expensive and are not for most people. The only reason to consider carbon fiber is if weight is a top concern and price is not.
Traditionally bushcrafters will make their own tent stakes out of wood if they need them for a tarp shelter. They are not as strong as the other materials but can be driven into the ground and left since they are a natural material.
These can be made before your camping trip, but if you have time, they can be made at camp. In this case, the weight savings is a bonus since there will be nothing to carry in your pack. These can also be made for a survival shelter in an emergency if you do not have any stakes.
Use a green hard wood to make your wood stakes, such as Oak or Maple. Saplings that are about 1 inch in diameter are a great choice since they are easy to cut down and are usually straight. No matter if you have a camp axe, folding saw, or just a bushcraft belt knife, you can make your own from a small sapling.
Plastic is usually not a material that is thought of to be the best for tent stakes. To get a stake that is strong enough, it must be fairly thick. The cost of plastic is low, so if you are on a budget, they are worth considering.
ABS polymer is the best plastic material to consider for a tent stake. ABS is impact resistant and works well in cold weather. It is a durable material and can be driven into the ground with the poll of your camp axe or hatchet.
ABS tent stakes also have one unique advantage over all other materials. When exposed to a flame from a lighter, ABS material will melt and burst into a hot intense flame even if it is wet. This is a huge advantage in a survival situation, especially in wet conditions.
Since both shelter and warmth are primary priorities to maintain your body heat based on the survival rule of 3, I recommend keeping ABS plastic tent stakes for a survival kit for this very reason.
Tent Stake Length
In general, longer stakes offer more holding power. However, they are harder to drive into the ground and hard to remove once you are done camping. In my experience, a length of around 6 to 9 inches works best for most scenarios.
Tent stakes that are longer than 9 inches are best for permanent shelters or larger tarp shelters that require a lot of holding power. Very rocky terrain or gravel campsites may also require longer tent stakes.
If you make your own tent stakes out of wood, you could consider making them longer if the ground is not too rocky. Around 12 inches is a good length, or just measure from your palm to your elbow.
Tent Stakes that are shorter than 9 inches are best for smaller tents that simply need to be held down when they are not occupied. They can be used directly through the grommets of a tent or tarp when no guy lines are needed.
If you plan to use guy lines to fly a tarp, I recommend at least a 7.5-inch tent stake. Longer ones are ok, too, since you don’t have to drive them as deep, but they are heavier to carry.
Tent Stake Shape
There are a few different shapes of tent stakes available. Each has its pros and cons.
A “Y,” “I,” or “T” shaped stake offers the best holding power in softer soil. They also are structurally the strongest and are more difficult to bend. They offer the best strength and holding power at the lowest weight. Overall, this shape is usually the best choice.
A more specialized stake is better if you are camping in very rocky terrain or very soft soil like sand.
Round or Spikes
Round Tent Stakes or spikes are best for very rocky terrain. They can be driven past rocks and will penetrate deeper than other shapes. In the same soil as a Y-shaped stake, they will not have the same holding power and move more as tension is applied from guy lines.
A “V” shaped stake is often a wide stake that is designed specifically for sand or snow. These have the best holding power in softer terrains. For normal soil, they are harder to drive and bend easily. If you camp in very soft terrain and have issues with Y-shaped tent stakes holding well, try a wider V-shaped tent stake.
Shepherd’s hook tent stakes are the basic tent stake spikes with a hook at one end. They are typically the tent stakes that come with a tent. They are only useful for pushing through the grommets on a tent just to keep it from sliding around when it is not occupied. If you have a tarp or a rainfly that needs a guy line, these will not work well.
Screw-type tent stakes are specialized for use in loose sand. If you plan to camp on a beach, then consider this shape. They have a T handle at the top to make them easier to twist into the sand. These are heavier and bulkier than other stakes and have a specific purpose. “V” shaped stakes are usually better.
Here is a quick reference guide of the shapes and materials that are most common.
|Y, T, I Beam / Aluminum||All Types||Light||Good|
|Y, T, I Beam / Plastic||Not Rocky||Light||Good|
|Spike / Steel||Hard, Rocky||Heavy||Best|
|Spike / Aluminum||Hard, Rocky||Light||Good|
|Spike / Carbon Fiber||Not Rocky||Very Light||Not Good|
|V / Aluminum||Sand/Snow||Light||Not Good|
Tent Stake Weight
Weight may be important if you are backpacking or hiking a long way to camp. Aluminum tent stakes are usually the best choice for most people. In extreme weight-saving cases, carbon fiber is a good option.
As an alternative when trying to save weight, take extra utility lines and tie your tarp or tent to trees, rocks, or deadfall. For more traditional bushcraft, you can also just make your own stakes from green wood.
Buying a good tent stake like our top pick is usually the best way to be prepared. If the weather turns on you and you need to make camp quickly, you do not want to have to take the time to make your own tent stakes. Even worse, if you are injured, you may not be able to make your own.
How to Properly Use a Tent Stake
I have read somewhat of a debate on how to properly use tent stakes. Some say to place them straight, some at a 45-degree angle, others at something in between. The correct answer is, like most things, “It depends.”
There are a few factors that determine the proper angle of a tent stake.
- Is the Tent Stake holding a guy line or a tarp or tent directly to the ground?
- If using a guy line, what is the angle of the line?
- What is the soil type, soft or hard?
- What is the shape of the tent stake?
- How long is the tent stake?
- Does the Stake have a prominent guy line notch?
In general, the angle between the guy line and the tent stake should be less than 135 degrees. For stakes that do not have a prominent notch for a line, the angle between should be less.
When Should a Tent Stake be Straight?
There are a few cases when a tent stake should be straight in the ground.
- When using a tent stake through a tent or tarp grommet/loop to secure it directly to the ground.
- When using a long spike-type stake in hard, rocky ground. This allows the greatest penetration and is easier to drive into the ground.
- When using a tent stake shorter than 6 inches for a guy line. The head of the tent stake must have a hook for the line in this case.
When Should a Tent Stake Be at a Small Angle?
Installing a tent stake at about a 10-degree angle is the most common for me. Here are the typical cases.
- When using a tent stake for a guy line that is less than a few feet off the ground.
- When using a long tent stake to secure a flying tarp and wind is a concern. A shallow angle will allow some movement in the ground and still provide maximum holding power and the deepest penetration.
When Should a Tent Stake Be at a Large Angle?
Installing a tent stake at an angle of more than 10 degrees is sometimes needed depending on the configuration.
- Tent stakes or spikes that are round in shape and used in soft ground will move more than stakes that are “Y” shaped. They should be placed at a fairly steep angle for guy lines since they will move toward the tent or tarp once the line is tensioned. This is most common for wood tent stakes. To keep a wood tent stake from moving, a second can be installed at a 90-degree angle over the first.
- Guy lines that have short lines or are coming from a high angle require a stake that is at a steeper angle so they can capture the guy line. Again, no more than 135 degrees.
- Tent stakes that do not have much of a notch to capture a line require more angle than those that do.
- Soft ground will require more of a tent stake angle (or a longer stake) than harder ground.
What is a Good Camping Tent Stake?
A good camping tent stake is largely a function of the type of soil you will be camping on.
Our top pick, the MSR Groundhog, is the best all around tent stake for most people.
If you are planning to use a tarp on very rocky soil, then the Coleman 10” Steel Nail Tent Pegs will likely be better for you.
Camping at the beach? Then the MSR Blizzard Tent Stake is the best choice.
What is a Good Bushcraft Tent Stake?
A good bushcraft tent stake also depends on the type of soil you will be camping on, but also on the type of shelter you plan to use.
For permanent bushcraft shelters, a spike like the Wocholl 12” Anchoring Spike is the best. They are made to be driven into the ground and left for long periods of time.
If you have time, making your own wood stakes once at camp is rewarding. I like to make my own, but I still keep a few in my bushcraft pack, just in case. I recommend you do the same.
What is a Good Survival Tent Stake?
A good survival tent stake should be lightweight, durable, and made from ABS polymer. As I mentioned above, ABS tent stakes make excellent fire starters, even in wet weather.
I recommend that you keep six of Coghlan’s ABS Tent Stakes in your survival fire starting kit, bug-out bag, and get-home bag. One can be used to start a fire, four can be used for your tarp shelter, and one can be used in a utility function as a toggle or for a second fire.
What Can Tent Stakes Be Used for?
Beyond the obvious uses for a tent stake (staking out a tent or tarp), tent stakes have other uses as well.
Around camp, I often use cordage for things from hanging my pack to the ridgeline for my tarp shelter. This usually requires tying the paracord to a tree. With a tent stake, you do not have to tie a cord around a tree. You can simply tie a bowline knot on one end of the line and create a marlinspike hitch as shown below.
A tent stake can also be used as a toggle to capture two loops together. Good examples are connecting two tarps together or connecting a tarp loop to a ridgeline.
What is the Best Way to Remove Tent Stakes from the Ground?
The best tool I have found to pull tent stakes out of the ground is the Gerber Gear Stake Out Multitool. It is really handy and I have not found anything else quite like it.
This camping and survival multitool has a sturdy hook that unfolds and allows you to pull the tent stake with both hands. This keeps you from having to wrestle it out of the ground with a stick or some other improvised tool.
It also has a 2.2″ knife, wood saw, scissors, awl, a ferro rod striker, and tweezers. For short camping trips it is really all you need. For longer trips this makes a great backup to your primary belt knife.
I really like that it weighs only 3.3 ounces and has a built in carabiner. I can clip this on my pack and get to it quickly. It is a great value and has saved some aggravation when it is time to strike camp.
How to Make Your Own Tent Stakes Video
Here is a great video on how to make your own stakes in the woods if you don’t already have any. It also covers how to properly use tent stakes for flying a bushcraft and survival tarp.
What is the Best Tent Stake for You?
In my experience, the MSR Groundhog tent stake is the best all-around tent stake for most people for Camping and Bushcraft. If you are putting together a survival kit such as a bug-out bag or get-home bag, the Coghlan’s ABS Tent Stake is the best since it can also be used as a fire starter.
If you are going to be camping in an area with hard ground or in a campground with gravel tent sites, also get some of the Coleman 10” Steel Nail Tent Pegs if you are parking nearby or the MSR Core Tent stakes if you have a distance to hike.
Now that you have your tent stakes, check out our Bushcraft Guides and Gear Reviews for some other ideas on camping and bushcraft. Check out our Emergency Preparedness Guides for more info on preparing for emergencies.