A tent is an essential piece of camping equipment, so knowing how to pitch your tent is vital.
If you want your first camping trip to get off to a good start you’ll need to know what you’re doing to put your tent together, or to use the technical term, pitch your tent. (Incidentally the technical term for taking your tent down is to ‘strike’ your tent; please don’t actually hit it though) . These instructions are for a standard dome style tent, they may vary a bit if you have a quick pitch or frame tent. So let’s get started on how to pitch your tent:
1. Make sure that you have everything
This first step should be performed before you leave home every time you go camping. Make sure that all the poles, pegs, guy ropes, tent and fly sheet are packed in your tent bag and that everything makes its way into your vehicle before you set out on your journey to the campsite. This is a good time to read any instructions that come with your tent to double check that you have everything and familiarise yourself with your specific model’s assembly instructions. Also use this opportunity to check that all the components of your tent are in good condition; you don’t want to arrive at camp to find that your poles are split, there’s a part that the manufacturer missed putting in your tent bag, the guy ropes are frayed or that a mouse has found its way to your tent fabric!
2. Examine your pitch
When you get to your allotted pitch at the campsite, check out the condition of the whole of the pitch. Is the ground flat or are there any dips or hollows – don’t pitch your tent in an obvious dip as you may find that water collects there if it rains and you’ll find your tent in the middle of a puddle! Avoid any lumpy or rocky areas as these will be uncomfortable to sleep on and also avoid pitching your tent on an ant nest or similar – it will just be unpleasant. The other thing to be aware of is overhanging trees or branches; make sure that these are not low enough to touch or rub against your tent as this will cause damage when the wind blows.
3. Spread out your ground sheet
Your tent has a built in ground sheet, why do you need another one? Placing an additional ground sheet underneath your tent will protect the floor of your tent from sharp thorns or stones and keep your tent’s waterproof floor intact. It will also keep the bottom of your tent cleaner and give you a cleaner area to work as you pitch your tent.
4. Unfold your inner tent
Unfold your inner tent ensuring that the floor is spread out on the ground and that you keep the top fabric as clean and dry as possible. Use this opportunity to orientate your tent so that the main door isn’t in the prevailing wind direction (check which direction the wind is generally blowing in when you arrive, but also bear in mind that areas with a strongly prevalent wind direction will have trees and shrubs that have grown to lean away from the wind – look around you)
5. Unfold your poles
Working from the centre of your poles, unfold the sections and insert them into the ferrule on the next pole. Working from the centre puts less strain on the elastic shock cord running through the pole. Whatever you do, and whatever you have seen other people do, resist the urge to shake your poles together – the shock of the poles snapping into place can cause breakage or splitting even with aluminium tent poles!
6. Get your tent poles in the right place
Now you need to insert your poles into your inner tent. Be aware of any differing lengths of pole and where they need to go (there may be a colour coding system). If your tent has sleeves that the poles run through, push the poles through the sleeves don’t pull as the pole sections will come apart and may damage the sleeve. Also make sure all the poles are in their sleeves before pushing the ends of the poles into their places at the corner of the tent – you won’t get your second pole through the sleeve if the first one is already bent into place. If your tent inner attaches to the poles via a hook system, place the poles across the spread out tent and insert the pole ends into their places at the corners of the tent to form the frame then hook the inner into place WORKING FROM THE TOP DOWN otherwise you won’t be able to reach the top hooks!
7. Square up your tent
Now the poles are in place and you have the basic structure built, make sure that the tent is sitting squarely and is properly stretched out. Peg out your tent at the corners, working from one corner to the diagonally opposite corner to make sure it stays square.
8. Flysheet time
If your tent has a flysheet (most do) pull this over the top of the constructed inner tent, making sure that it’s the right way around for any doors and windows. Attach the fly sheet to the tent structure as directed by your own tent’s instructions (methods vary from design to design), there may be clips, Velcro tabs, loops to hook into place or any combination of these.
9. More pegs
Peg out any other peg points on your inner tent and/or flysheet to make sure that your tent is spread out fully and secured to the ground. Try to hammer in your tent pegs as far as you can to reduce trip hazards, especially around doors.
10. Guy ropes
Don’t forget to peg out your guy ropes, they will stabilise your tent in the wind and on some tents may be necessary to tension the flysheet properly to ensure your tent stays waterproof in the rain. The guy ropes should run in a straight line out from the point they are attached to the tent and should form a 45 degree angle with the ground for maximum stability.
There you go – you now know how to pitch your tent. Your tent is now ready for you to add your sleeping equipment or any other camp furniture that you have chosen.
One final tip – practice putting your tent up and packing it away before you go camping with it for the first time. Not only will this give you the opportunity to check that everything you need is there, it will give you a chance to practice in a relaxed and familiar environment without any pressures of time, weather or onlookers to stress you.