Anchoring tents in sand and snow

Nick

Spiral out.
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The discussion in the Micro TR thread got me thinking that we need a dedicated thread to the art of anchoring tents in challenging conditions like sand, snow and solid rock.

Yep, but they still leave a whole lot to be desired in really cold, loose snow. You need an avalanche shovel to bury them deep enough so they don't pull out.
http://www.rei.com/product/725165/rei-snow-and-sand-tent-anchors

I think a free standing tent is much better in snow, especially if some of that happens to be on top of the tent. But it makes it more interesting to get up in the morning. Even with a freestanding, you still need the guys so the problem doesn't go away.

I've been struggling this past year to really get my tent down solid in Glen Canyon where it's either powder sand or solid rock and the winds can get crazy. I bought a set of those REI anchors like you linked to, John. I also bought a bunch of the REI Snow Stakes and a couple sets of medium Tough Stakes.

Out of all of those, the Tough Stakes have worked the best by far, then the REI Snow Stakes. I didn't care for the REI snow and sand anchors that much.

I think I'm going to order a 4-pack of the small Tough Stakes to try this year. I think I have my tent pretty well anchored down now (famous last words?), but I'd like to have extras on hand because most people that come with me to Lake Powell aren't prepared for the kind of anchoring needed to keep a tent down out there. We had a friend's loaded Big Agnes Copper Spur go flying in a storm last May.

Anyone else know of any good products or techniques to keep things together in challenging staking/anchoring conditions?
 

John Goering

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We had a friend's loaded Big Agnes Copper Spur go flying in a storm last May.

I had the "pleasure" of watching my 3/4 season SD tent (also loaded) do that in the Beartooths 20 something years back-the very first time I used it. It made a real mess of it. A quick way to end a trip and it added probably close to another quarter pound to my pack with the extra guys and stakes that have resided there ever since.
 

Parma

@parma26
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Feb 12, 2014
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I've always used the technique of taking plastic bags, like you find at walmart/grocery stores, and you fill them with sand/snow, dig a hole a couple feet deep, tie the bag to the tent stake loops, bury the bag of sand/snow in the hole, and cover/tamp it down.
 

fiber

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May 18, 2013
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I would generally recommend against using a tent when you are planning on camping in Snow (mountains) or Sand (desert). Most three season tents will have trouble standing up to +50 mph winds (been there/done that). Generally, when I am in the desert I use a Gor-tex bivy sack. Normally it only rains for a few hours at a time in the desert, not enough time for a large amount of condensation to form in the bivy. Unlike a tent, there is no need for stacks and you can completely close the bivy in a sand storm. The last time I used a tent in the desert was in the San Rafael Swell and the wind kept going under the tent fly and blowing sand into the main tent body.

When snow camping, to conserve heat, normally you dig a snow cave. The bivy prevents water from getting on your sleeping bag when your in the cave.
 

Nick

Spiral out.
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Dang it! I've been doing it all wrong. Time to go tell my wife we won't be using a tent anymore! ;)

But seriously... It is true, 3 season tents aren't intended to hold up to 50+ mph winds. But I'm sure there are some good measures to be taken aside from just ditching the tent altogether, and that is what this thread is intended to discuss. I've been camping in and out of tents in the desert for many years and while there are certainly pros and cons to different styles in different terrain, I don't find them to be outright a bad idea at all.
 

gnwatts

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I would generally recommend against using a tent when you are planning on camping in Snow (mountains) or Sand (desert). Most three season tents will have trouble standing up to +50 mph winds (been there/done that). Generally, when I am in the desert I use a Gor-tex bivy sack. Normally it only rains for a few hours at a time in the desert, not enough time for a large amount of condensation to form in the bivy. Unlike a tent, there is no need for stacks and you can completely close the bivy in a sand storm. The last time I used a tent in the desert was in the San Rafael Swell and the wind kept going under the tent fly and blowing sand into the main tent body.

When snow camping, to conserve heat, normally you dig a snow cave. The bivy prevents water from getting on your sleeping bag when your in the cave.

Fiber:
Other than your comments regarding snow (I don't have a lot of experience in snow), I could not disagree more with your post. I have had both of my tents, both over 20 years old (single person Garuda, Bibler I-tent), in 50mph+ winds, many times, in the San Rafael Swell. Never had a problem. Rain, sleet. snow, blowing sand. Sure some sand would get in, but nothing to complain about.

Bivy sacks drive me literally insane. But that's just me.

To Nicks question, in the sand, I have longer alluminum stakes, and I dig a hole 6-8" deep at the tent corners and bury the stake, horizontally, attached to the loop of the tent. Re-pack the hole (sometimes I mix a little water in) and then I place a big rock or rocks on top. It makes kind of like a "dead man" in structural terms.
Solid rock I still do the dead man thing but I pile horizontal slabs at the corners. I usually can avoid putting a tent on rock though.
 

ramble0n

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Mar 28, 2014
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I have a buddy who has a pretty good system for Lake Powell. He looks for a nice flat rock and sets his tent up. Then using a small Honda generator and drill, will drill holes where he wants his stakes to go. He then just drops the stakes in. We do use those 9" nails from Home Depot rather than the usual tent stakes. I have personally done this with my Base Camp 6 and have had no problems at all with the big winds that come up pretty much every afternoon in August at Lake Powell. Across the bay though, I have watched others tents go flying while ours are all are secure. We come in on a boat and sleep on cots under the stars and use the tents just to stow our gear.
 

slc_dan

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I have a buddy who has a pretty good system for Lake Powell. He looks for a nice flat rock and sets his tent up. Then using a small Honda generator and drill, will drill holes where he wants his stakes to go. He then just drops the stakes in. We do use those 9" nails from Home Depot rather than the usual tent stakes. I have personally done this with my Base Camp 6 and have had no problems at all with the big winds that come up pretty much every afternoon in August at Lake Powell. Across the bay though, I have watched others tents go flying while ours are all are secure. We come in on a boat and sleep on cots under the stars and use the tents just to stow our gear.

Woah, I hope you are kidding? Driving Nails into the sandstone?
 

andyjaggy

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Dec 2, 2013
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Yikes, I think you will find most people on here will be very opposed to permanently drilling holes in sandstone just so you can sleep good for one night.
 

Nick

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Sorry, I was on my phone earlier so I couldn't fully elaborate. I hate to pile on more, but as someone who frequents Glen Canyon by boat, but is very much against the existence of the dam and is pro-conservation, I have been getting really frustrated by all the drill holes popping up out there. I've read a few things online where people were debating whether it's legal or not, but ultimately the GCNRA rangers don't give a damn, so everyone just does it. Like this recent article said quite well, it's like anything goes out there. They could make a killing just lightly enforcing the obvious rules.

The campsite I just stayed at near Cookie Jar Butte had at least a half dozen drill holes where houseboats come along with power drills and then pound rebar or an anchor stake into the hole. And to make it even worse, they don't seem to like to use the existing holes, so in that case, all half dozen or so I saw were all within 10 or 15 feet of each other and more further up the slope. A couple had old, dead sticks sticking out of them just so you couldn't ignore it. Really frustrating.

And then there's the Cathedral in the Desert. When I went back to it in August, the water level was right at the top of the waterfall, so we were able to hop out and hike up canyon a bit. When I got back to hop on the boat, I noticed a drill hole and scrapes right at the top of the waterfall where a houseboat likely anchored (we saw one doing it there in May). No one would do that with a regular boat.

Sharing this probably doesn't accomplish much, but I think people should see it.

IMG_0979.jpg


Better reference of the above damage.
cathedral-drill-holes.jpg


:facepalm:
 

DrNed

The mountains are calling and I must go
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Once at Powell, while camped on rock and heavy winds, I collected rocks
and lined the inside of my tent with them. It was kinda red-neck, but it worked well
and I didn't damage the rock.
 

Nick

Spiral out.
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Joined
Aug 9, 2007
Messages
12,886
I've done that too, Ned. Can't say the same for the tent after that though.
 
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