Unless you intend to build a natural shelter or are sleeping 'indoors', you
will probably find it a good idea to take some tentage to camp. What tentage you
have (or need) will vary according to your needs. It may also be a good idea to
know how to erect your tents and how to handle them with care. As for fire
lighting there is simply no substitute for experience.
You must practice the information on these pages for yourself. You will soon
know if you have learnt anything when you first have to put up a tent in
complete darkness, in high winds, whilst the rain is coming down hard with just
a little help from others (believe me, it will happen sooner or later!).
These pages hope to introduce some basic ideas on pitching and striking
tents, care and maintenance and a little information on the different types of
Pitching a tent is the process of erecting and
constructing the tent.
For pictures of the different types of tents see 'Types'
For actually deciding where to place your tentage in camp I will refer you to
the campsite section. Once you have decided where to place your tent you will
need to clear the area. Remove any obstructions at all, all stones and twigs.
Hopefully you have chosen a flat site, with no roots or boles to sleep on that
will stay relatively dry. Remember you will need a large area than just the
canvas will take up in order to place your guylines. I know it sounds silly but
check things like which way round have you put your tent, where is the door
going to be, are you going to stormlash the tent. Remember to check overhead as
well. You do not want any fallen branches crashing into your tent, or any
lightning strikes hitting the tent!
It will be useful to lay a ground sheet out to put the tent on if the ground
is wet. Try not to let the tent get wet at all. If the weather is particularly
bad you can erect a temporary shelter to pitch the tent under.
The campsite will need to be chosen carefully in advance. See the campsite
Ideally all the required equipment should be stored within the tent 'bag'
itself. You should always keep a full tent stored as one piece of equipment
wherever possible (sometimes the poles will have to be stored separate). You
will need to check the following;
- Tent (!) of the required type. Its condition will have been check before
you came to camp for holes, leaks, wear and tear. Most tents have attached
guylines and brailing 'loops'. Ensure there is still a full set of these and
that they are not frayed. Make sure the runners are still on the guylines
and move with ease.
- Fly Sheet. Not all tents have these but most ridge and hike tents do.
Ideally they should still be packed together with the tent so you will not
forget them, but with some larger 'patrol' tents they are usually separate
(due to the weight). Again silly things like do they fit with the tent you
are taking, their condition, holes/frayed areas, guylines etc.
- Full set of poles. Ideally this should be
lashed or 'banded' as one item. In an ideal world they will also be colour
coded for ease of use (especially with some of the more complex 'frame'
tents). Ensure they are in good condition and fit together snugly before you
go to camp. Any uprights poles should be checked to see if their 'spikes'
are still there and firmly set into the pole. Check other things like are
the two uprights the same height? Does your ridge pole actually fit into the
tent you are going to use?
- Guylines. Some tents have attached guylines, but most ridge tents have
separate main guylines. Make sure you have the correct number (normally a
set of two). Are they of a sensible length? Are they frayed or worn?.
- Dolly's. If your tent requires dollys make sure you have them! Do they fit
onto the upright firmly? Never take a new tent straight into camp, you will
sometimes have a job of getting the dollys to fit onto the upright!
- Pegs. Pegs. Pegs! Make sure you have the correct number and spares too.
Don't forget you will probably need different numbers of varying sizes.
Large main guyline, medium guylines and smaller brailing pegs. Count them,
and then count them again, and then add a couple more for good measure.
These should be stored within a strong bag, packed with the tent.
- Misc. Items. This probably applies more to the hike and frame tents. Items
like plastic spacers, plastic cups that the upright poles fit into. Plastic
hats on which the fly sheet rest. Tie backs for when you roll up the
doors/side walls. Spare guylines/runners.
- Tools. You will probably need a mallet or two. Type will depend upon the
tent you have. Smaller wooden mallets are probably the best, not because
they do the job easily, but because they are less likely to damage or break
the pegs. For plastic pegs (rare but some 'family' frame tents have them)
you will need a rubber headed mallet unless you want plastic flying through
the air. For the hike tents that have the small thin metal pegs, make sure
the mallet is not going to bend them easily. For most tents 'normal' metal
hammers are simply not required and will damage the equipment, although if
your tent is more of a 'marquee', or has large metal spikes, a four pound or
sledge hammer might be advisable! Few other tools are normally needed.
Perhaps a 'peg remover' (a curved piece of metal with a handle) might be
Having chosen your site, lay all your equipment out neatly near the chosen
area. Take care in unpacking your equipment. Remove the fastenings on your
tentbag and poles. One person can be arranging the poles into the correct order,
and begin to piece them together (for most tents like ridge/frame tents). Take
care in removing the equipment from the bag, this is where all the silly items
first get lost. Remove the tent and fly sheet and lay on flat, dry ground. Place
the peg bag and other small equipment on top of the tent bag. All this sundry
equipment should remain on the bag until in use. Always replace it back there
while working rather than just leaving it where you where. Lift (try not to
drag) the tent to the site and unfold carefully. Do not rush this, do not pull
on the tent as you open it. If a guyline gets tangled and you tug the tent you
could rip the tent and then you will be spending the night under the stars!
Noone should be walking over the tent at all. If you need to reach 'across' the
tent then go on your hands and knees. Again this is where the tent picks up
dirt, scrapes, tears and stains. Do the same for the fly sheet and any
How you arrange the materials now depends upon what type of tent you have, see
Pitching a tent is the process of putting the tent up correctly.
When you actually reach the point of erecting the tent itself bear in mind a
couple of points.
The first rule in pitching a tent is to always face the tent
door down hill. This is a must to keep water from entering the tent through the
door. This rule should be followed even if the weather forecast does not call
It may be an idea to look out for the prevalent wind direction
as well. Make sure the wind will not be blowing into the tent all the time
(except perhaps in hot weather where this can help cool you down!).
If the weather is particularly bad or if you just want to
protect the tent erect a simple shelter over the tent. Placing a simple shelter
(e.g. a tarpaulin or sheet of plastic) over the site can help keep the tent dry
in the most severe of weathers and can be useful in bad weather allowing you to
pitch the tent in the dry.
Techniques do differ, and to be honest there are several different 'types' of
ridge tent. However the basic principles are very commonly used.
- Groundsheet. Personally with our patrol tents we do not peg down the
groundsheet so we leave this until last. We simply drag the groundsheet in
after the tent is up, working under the uprights, and then lay out. Be
careful to ensure that it lays up against the sod cloth so that no water can
get in (so it looks like an upturned box lid within the tent). However, if
you want to peg out your groundsheet (flat?) you will probably want to make
this your first step. Peg out a corner (small-medium pegs driven straight
down) and pull the other corners tight, pegging as you go. Take care in
placing it, this is where you tent is going to stay now!
- Some people now like to place pegs ready for the corner/main guylines to
fit onto. Especially if you are erecting the tent with just a few people (or
on your own) this could be very useful. Personally though I normally have
enough people to help, so we hold the tent in position after the steps below
and peg it out from there. Obviously if you are going to place pegs now you
will need to be sure they are in the correct position and that the guylines
will reach comfortably. I would suggest that just the pegs for the main
guylines would be sufficient for now.
- Place the poles together. Make up the ridge pole and the uprights
(normally either two or three uprights depending upon the size of the tent).
- Lay your tent out flat (I would recommend not laying across the
groundsheet in case the tent catches on the pegs in the ground, another
reason why I don't peg the groundsheet in first) upside down, so that the
inside of the tent is now uppermost.
- Lay your ridge pole across the middle of the tent (you may need to slide
it through some canvas loops). Remember not to walk on the tent or drag the
poles across the tent.
- Pick one side of the tent and place the uprights in position at right
angles to the ridge pole. Insert the spikes through the holes in the ridge
pole and through the holes in the ridge of the tent. Be careful not to rip
the tent. You may find the fit across the length of the tent is tight. I
suggest you place the upright spikes through, working from one end to the
other. You may need to 'pull' the end of the canvas a bit to reach over the
- Fold the tent over across the top of the side with the upright poles on.
- Place the main guylines on the end of the uprights (using dollys if you
have them. Note some tents have the main guylines already attached). If you
had placed pegs earlier then attach the guylines and corner guys to them now
while the tent is on the ground.
- Lift the tent upright carefully. If you have enough people, make sure
someone is on each end upright, and some pushing the ridge pole up and some
pulling on the main guy. For a few people (or by yourself!) hold the main
guylines, place your foot on the base of the upright and pull carefully.
- If the tent is not in the correct position, lift by the poles and slowly
walk it into position. (Note: You must NOT do
this if you had already attached the guylines to pegs, you will rip the
- Tighten the main guys (you may need to peg these out if you have not done
so already) so that the tent will stand unaided. Ensure that the uprights
are vertical, and that the ridge of the tent is straight.
- Tie the doors up now. If you peg the tent out with the doors untied you
may find yourself unable to close them later!
- Untie all the guylines if you have not done so already. Peg out the corner
guys first. They should normally come out at an angle of 45 degrees to the
tent (or 'horizontal' and 'vertical' if your tent has two guylines to each
corner). This will help give the shape of the tent.
- Pegs should be driven in at an angle of 45 degrees to the ground, facing
away from the tent. You then slacken the guyline by pushing the runner away
from the tent, place the guyline over the peg, and tighten by pushing the
runner back up towards the tent.
- Now peg out the sides, ensuring that the side walls is lifted. The tent
should stand straight with no creases. On most ridge tents this means that
the slope will be even throughout, with the 'bottom' of the tent vertical.
Do not pull on the tent so much that the sod cloth comes off the ground.
There should not be a gap between the ground and tent walls.
- Ideally all the pegs should be 'in-line' with each other as you look down
the sides of the tent.
- Now place all the brailing pegs into the loops round the bottom of the
tent, driving the pegs straight down into the ground. Take care not to rip
the tent, do not 'pull' too much on the canvas. Work your way round the tent
so that there are no 'gaps'.
- Check your groundsheet is snug inside, and that no water will come in.
Check that all pegs/guylines are secure. Collect all the tools and spare
pegs etc. and place them back in the bag. All unused equipment and bags go
back into the main tent bag and are then placed inside the tent.
As above but with the following alterations
4. There are different ways or erecting a tent with a flysheet. For the
larger, more awkward tents I prefer to try to erect them at the same time.
This means laying out the flysheet, and then laying the tent across the top.
Make sure you have the 'doors' in the correct place, and indeed, the flysheet
the correct way up ('inside up'). Trying to place a flysheet over a tent that
is already upright can be a nightmare. There is a strong chance of ripping the
flysheet as you try to drag it over the top of the tent.
5. Please note that tents differ here. Commonly, with a flysheet 'patrol'
tent, you will need to place the ridge pole on the outside
of the main tent, so that when it is upstanding, the main tent is hanging
underneath the ridgepole, while the fly sheet rests across the top of the
ridge pole. This will mean placing upright spikes through the main tent first,
then the ridge pole, then the flysheet. Other tents (and other people) simply
rest both the flysheet and tent across the top of the ridge pole. So that here
the ridge pole is placed as before inside the main tent, which is resting on
top of the flysheet.
6. Place the uprights through both the tent first and then the flysheet.
7. Fold first the tent, and then the flysheet over.
Now proceed to peg out as before. Ensure that the flysheet and tent are
pegged out without creases. It is vital that the two pieces of canvas (tent +
flysheet) do not touch one another otherwise
water will seep through and the flysheet will not be doing its job.
Again the term hike tent can refer to a very wide range of tents. Here are
just a few pointers in how you might treat them differently to the other tents
Be careful with hike tents. Generally they consist of lightweight, thin
material and may be more susceptible to damage and wear. Never leave any hard
items within the tent when packing or storing the tent. Don't drag the tent
across the floor or unduly strain the canvas.
Many hike tents come with a sewn-in groundsheet. This will mean that before
you erect the tent proper you should place the tent and peg out the groundsheet
first. Ensure that the groundsheet is flat and taut. Then you place the poles
within the tent.
If you have a ridge type tent you may need to crawl inside the tent to place
the upright through the eyelet at the back of the tent. Take off your shoes and
crawl in on your hands and knees slowly. Place the sundry items in your pocket
(e.g. spacer and cup). Take the pole into the tent placing your hand over the
spike so you don't split the tent. Only join the pieces of the pole together
once the spike is through the eyelet. If you have a 'cup' for the pole then
place it under the bottom of the pole now. The easiest way to proceed is to have
a friend place the ridge pole over the upright now so that holding the ridge
pole will keep the upright still. Crawl back out the tent and place the front
upright in place. Once the poles are connected they only need to be held by one
person while the other pegs out a temporary guyline to hold the poles in place.
If you have a fly then often you will have a plastic spacer (looks like a
plastic hollow cylinder). This is normally placed over the upright spike and
then the ridge pole goes on top of this. You may have an additional rubber hat
to place on top over which the fly sheet goes. Ensure that the fly is not
touching the main tent at all.
The main ideas of pitching a patrol tent apply to most hike tents. Have a
read through the pointers discussed in the other tent types.
'A' Frame Tent
There are many types of frame tent although the general ideas
here apply to most.
- Unpack all the items (except the canvas if it is wet out) and look at the
- Unfold all the poles and connect them together. Most frame tents have
sprung loaded poles or a simple colour coded/number coded scheme to show you
what poles fit together. Other clues to look for are the angle of the poles,
size, do they have small holes for popping another pole in?
- Lay the poles out on the ground in the pattern that they fit together. Lay
the legs of the tent next to where they will go. If the legs come in more
than one piece don't worry about putting them together yet.
- Starting from the centre of the tent (or the ridge of the tent) start
placing the poles together.
- Once you have the basic frame of the 'roof' completed go and get some
help. Have everybody stand on one side of the frame, one per leg.
- Have everyone lift the frame together being careful not to strain the
poles. Insert a leg into the joint (remember the legs are not fully put
together...you done want one side of the tent 6 foot in the air and the
other side on the ground!).
- Lower the tent so that it rests on the legs. Repeat for the other side of
- Now the tent should be standing low down on the floor on its own. Now take
the canvas from the bag and place it, still folded, on the frame.
- Carefully unfold the canvas on the frame. If it has been folded correctly
this should be easy to do and should result in the canvas being unfolded
into the correct position first time. If you have not folded the canvas in
this way or if you are unfamiliar with the tent you may have to swing the
canvas around or up the other way. Ensure that the upper part of the canvas
is facing up and that the doors and windows are in the correct place.
- Unfold the canvas to the corners of the frame. Starting at one end gently
pull the canvas over the corners of the frame so that it takes shape. Leave
the sides of the tent draped on top of the frame for the time being. If you
have ties at the corners make sure the tent is tied down now. Some tents
just require you to pull the canvas over the corner pole.
- Now with the canvas sitting on top is your last chance to place the tent
exactly where you want it. Most frame tents are sturdy enough to pick up by
each leg (you will need some help) and move around.
- If your tent has an overhang or porch type construct near the roof of the
tent complete it now while you can still reach it with ease. Make sure
nothing is left on the roof and that the canvas is tightly stretched.
- Once placed, lift one side of the tent up to the full height and make sure
the legs are now fully extended. Take care to all lift at the same time and
make sure none of the poles get bent.
- Pull the side of the tent down and repeat for the other side.
- Now go inside and make sure all the poles are securely held together and
tie the canvas to the frame. Some older frame tents have spacer poles to
place between each leg, do that now.
- Go outside the tent and zip up all the doors and windows. Starting at the
corners peg the canvas down. Most frame tents have a loop that you place the
- Take care when pegging the doors down. Make sure that those doors you will
be using can be opened with ease and just peg the edges of the door down so
that you can zip them up of a nighttime.
- A few frame tents have small guylines although most are large enough to
stay put without these. All that remains is to open the doors and windows
and start filling up the inside of the tent.
- Make sure you pack all the items back into your tent bags and place
everything in the tent bag. Put it inside the frame tent itself or in your
store tent before you lose it or get it wet.
- Lay out the groundsheets if you intend to use one (some dome hike tents
come complete with sewn-in groundsheets).
- Stake out the groundsheet with tent pegs
- Unfold tent and lay out on top of the groundsheet. Make sure all the doors
are zipped up.
- Unfold the tent poles and carefully push it through the tent towards
another person on the opposite side. Take your time. This is when the tent
is most likely to rip. Push gently and remove any obstacles as you go. You
will probably have more than one pole. Make sure that the pole is going
straight across the tent and is fed into the correct hole.
- Now take the uppermost pole and place one end into the hole on the tent.
Gently force the other end of the pole into a curved shape in order to get
it into the hole. Repeat for the other poles. The tent should now stand on
- Once the tent is up, tie or fasten the poles to the tent at the top and
attach any clips you may have to the poles.
- Lift and place the tent exactly where you want it now. Peg the corners
- Take the flysheet and throw if over the tent. Make sure the doors are
aligned correctly. Some dome hike tents have a pole that ensures the front
is kept in shape. Proceed as you did for the main poles.
- Peg the fly and tent down and use any guy lines you may have. Some hike
tents have a 'porch' which uses a few poles to hold a flap over the door. If
the weather is reasonable this will be useful.
Note: There are many types of dome tents.
Some have to have the outer fly put up first and then the inner tent hangs from
this by clips. For these proceed as above for the fly. Once it is up and pegged
out move into the tent with the inner tent (which you have kept dry in the bag)
and hang the centre clip up. Now turn the tent so that the door matches the door
in the fly sheet. Starting at the back of the tent peg each row of clips from
top to bottom taking care to make sure the groundsheet clip is attached to the
peg/fly. Work this way for each set towards the front.
Tents and their related equipment will possibly be the most expensive
items in your store. However, properly looked after they can last many
years and be well worth the initial outlay.
Before you actual store the tent away ensure that everything has been
- Wet or damp canvas/ropes
- Dirty canvas/ropes
- Dirty Pegs
- Loose items (e.g. pegs)
- Items within the tent
- Rusty metal pegs (clean all metal pegs with an oiled cloth)
- Damaged or frayed ropes (replace or whip/splice)
- Uncoiled ropes (coil and tie them)
- Damaged poles (look for splinters and breaks)
- Loose seams
Any damage should be marked down and attached to the tent. Ensure that
damage is repaired or replaced as soon as possible.
Ensure that the tent is stored in a dry but well ventilate area. Make
sure the tent is stored somewhere where it is easy to get to else the tent
will be pulled and shoved creating unnecessary damage.
A shelf at waist or shoulder height is ideal. Large and heavy canvas
tents should be stored next to equipment such as a wheelbarrow. Never drag
a tent across the floor.
Poles should be stored together and in a set. Use large rubber bands to
hold poles together in a set. Ensure that the poles are colour or number
coded so it is easy to place them back in a set should they be separated.
Spare pegs and other sundry items should be accounted for. If you have
something left over it may well mean that a tent has an item missing.
Check this now else you will go to your next camp with only half a tent.
Any genuinely spare items should be stored safely. Have a box labelled
for each type.
Mallets should be check for damage, ensure that they are still safe to
use. As with an axe do not repair broken shafts, replace them.