Using Stakes and Snow Anchors

Using Stakes and Snow Anchors

I’m often out working with the Boy Scouts teaching the finer points of bushcraft. One skill that seems so simple, and yet fundamental to shelter building, is how to stake out and set guy lines and anchors. Natural anchors like shrubs or trees make it easy to set secure guy lines. But when natural anchors aren’t available, using stakes is often a preferred method; yet what seems simple is often done wrong or at least not very effectively. I often see folks put little or not thought into sticking a peg into the ground, often vertically, sometimes not even very far into the soil (or snow, or sand), only to have the stake pull out moments later.

When the soil works in your favor, set stakes deep into the ground at an angle away from the shelter. The guy line and anchor should form a near 90-degree angle. I would say leaning the stake to any angle from 45 to 60 degrees on the ground is ideal.

Moving from Virginia to Arizona posed additional challenges: uncooperative soil (rocky, sandy, or loose/loamy). Finding rocks has been easy in northern Arizona, and in these areas, I’ve found that simply wrapping the guyline around a big rock, or using multiple smaller rocks around the line is very effective. I’ve also used a stake as a sort of “Dead-man” anchor between rocks, somewhat like a toggle.

In the winter, creating authentic “Dead-man” anchors can be done by tying the guyline to the middle of the stake and then burying it on its side deep in the snow (or sand). Also, tying off to the bottom of a stake and driving the stake normally can also be effective. Parachute-style anchors can also be effective when used in sand and snow.

When stakes have been in the ground for some time, especially if the ground is cold or frosted, I’ve found that a simple twist (a multi-tool is often helpful here) is enough to loosen the stake before pulling it out.

I hope this helps! Enjoy!

setting-stakes-and-guy-points

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8 Responses

  1. Patricia Neville (grannypat) says:

    Thanks for this. I really appreciate the simple designs and instructions.

  2. Slbear says:

    My favorite snow staking method is to carry some plastic lids from cans (for those who still buy coffee in cans these are free). punch a whole to two in the lid and tie your cord to it (or optionally put your deadman stake on the otherside).

    Coffee can lids were a good size, but nowadays, maybe use orphaned tupperware lids (you probably have a few), or any plastic disk. They are light and cheap, and If it’s frozen solid and you can’t dig it out, you can usually pull the cord lose, although I would not condone leaving behind the lid unless there’s no other choice. If you do use the dead-man stake behind it, you will find it very tough to pull it out without digging out the lid first.

  3. Shawn Ellard says:

    A technical note/request:

    While I can zoom in on pictures I can’t do the same on your drawings (where I’d really like to see the smaller accompanying text to better understand the topic). Any chance you can fix this? I don’t always have time to check out the site at work on the computer.

    If it helps I’m viewing the site with Chrome 38.0.2125.125 on an Android 4.2 phone. Derek, you can email me if you need/want more details.

    I really enjoy your site, a great resource for a noob like me!

  1. September 17, 2014

    […] From The Ultimate Hang […]

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    […] locking mechanism, I like that the stake head is at an angle. This helps orient the stakes so you drive them in at an angle away from the tent. The head also is flattened, making a nice strike surface. The head cinch tube makes a sort of […]

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