When camping, the first order of business is setting up your tent and making sure it is safe and secure. This sets the tone for your trip and ensures you don’t have to worry about it for the remainder of your time outdoors.
The following tips will guide you in keeping your tent safe and secure:
- Set up the tent at home first to make sure no poles are missing or broken and that the tent does not have any holes in it. This is a good time to make sure all the zippers work as well.
- When you get to your site, start by laying a tarp on the ground where you plan to put your tent to prevent any moisture from gathering in the tent.
- Set up the tent and secure it with stakes at all four corners (or more depending on the shape of your tent).
- Prepare for bad weather; attach the rainfly and possibly a tarp overhead.
- Keep all food outside of your tent and in a locked cooler, the car, or a sack tied to a tree to avoid animals getting into it.
- Secure your valuables.
Securing your tent is an essential part of a successful camping trip. To learn more about implementing each of these tips, read on.
The Trial Run
Make sure you take the time to set up your tent at home before you go on your trip, especially if you’ve never set one up before. This will help you with time and accuracy, which will be a valuable skill if it happens to be raining when you are trying to set up your tent for real.
You should also make sure you read the instruction manual first; I can not stress this enough. It can be very confusing to know which poles go where.
See if they are labeled at all both on the poles themselves and in the manual. Some tents even have color-coordinated corners to match up with the poles. If you are having trouble check out this comprehensive video I found on Youtube from REI.
Once the tent is set up completely, make sure to check it for any holes, cracks, or tears. It is important to order patches if there are. Check to see that the poles aren’t split, and the rope inside the poles isn’t fraying at all. And lastly, make sure all the zippers work- they are absolutely crucial in keeping all the bugs out.
This is also a great time to figure out whether you are overpacking at all. Take some time to put all your gear inside your tent to see if it fits with enough space left over for you to comfortably be in there. On the other hand, this also helps you to make sure you aren’t under packing or forgetting anything.
Take another couple minutes to make sure you know how to tie the proper knots to secure your tent, rain flap, and tarp. This is another thing you do not want to be trying to figure out at the time of set up, and it can be very dangerous if you tie the knots wrong. It’s especially dangerous if you’re in an area where you don’t have wifi or service to consult a video if you forget how to do it.
If you need a visual guide, consult this video from YouTube that teaches you what knots to use to safely secure your tent to surrounding trees.
Protecting Your Bottom
Protecting the bottom of your tent is probably one of the most important things to do to ensure safety and comfort. Even though the bottoms of tents are waterproof, it is still highly recommended that you use a tarp to create an extra barrier between you and the ground.
Without a tarp underneath your tent, it is very easy for moisture to seep in. Even if it doesn’t rain, there’s always the possibility of morning dew. You will want to make sure you clear the area of all debris, especially sticks and stones with sharp edges, before you put the tarp down. For this reason, it’s a good idea to bring a rake with you.
There are many additional safety benefits to bringing a tarp (or multiple tarps) with you on your camping trip that I will discuss later in this article.
Staking Down Your Tent
Stakes are a vital tool when setting up a tent. They hold down the corners and keep your tent from blowing away in the wind.
Stakes need a bit of force to be properly placed in the ground. It’s worth your time to invest in a rubber mallet to help you with this as they are quite inexpensive.
However, if you don’t have a mallet or forgot to bring it, you can always use a heavy rock to hammer them in. It is suggested to keep those heavy rocks over the tops of the stakes to add reassurance that your stakes will stay firmly in place.
Be sure to consult your tents manual if you are having any trouble with how to attach the tent to your stakes. There shouldn’t be any spare stakes left over, so if there are, you’ve missed something and should retrace your steps to figure out which part of the tent is missing its respective stake.
You might find yourself in a situation where you’ve left your tent stakes at home, or the stakes you have don’t seem to be enough to keep the tent in place. Fortunately, there are some alternative methods you can use to ensure that your tent stays on the campsite.
Make use of rocks and logs lying around by using them to weigh down the tent. Place them on the corners like you would the stakes.
When using rocks, you want to avoid any with sharp edges and points. This could potentially rip your tent. It is always better to use one heavy rock rather than several lighter rocks since the wind could partially pick up the tent and cause lighter rocks to move.
If you’re using logs, similar rules apply—the larger and heavier the logs, the better. Firewood is also an acceptable substitute if there are no other logs around.
Tying the corners of your tent to trees can also work if it isn’t too windy, although this isn’t the best way to secure your tent either, for several reasons:
- The rope may not be able to get close enough to the ground.
- High winds can cause the tent to rip.
- If there are fewer than four trees, it won’t be possible to hold the tent down.
- The ropes, no matter how low to the ground, can be a tripping hazard.
Keep in mind that all of these alternatives are only recommended as last resorts. They are much less safe than using stakes and can likely cause injury, especially when someone goes out of the tent at night as it is very easy to trip over rocks, logs, and strings.
Also, make sure people around you are aware of all potential tripping hazards. It is suggested that you get a couple of solar-powered lights and place them in dangerous areas to lessen the chance of people getting hurt. These can be purchased from Walmart for a dollar apiece!
Preparing for Rain and High Winds
Always be prepared for rain and wind. You will need to consider this upon setting up to ensure the most safety. Trying to prepare for these circumstances as they are happening is always a mess and puts you in danger.
Make sure you are setting up in the most sheltered area possible. Look for tall, sturdy trees that cover overhead, and if possible, try to place your tent next to an RV. This will help shelter you from both rain and wind much better than if you were to set up in an open area.
Be sure the surrounding shelter is sturdy. If you have to second guess whether the trees overhead are strong enough, do not chance it. Find somewhere else where you are confident the trees are strong and sturdy.
When the wind does hit, it is actually beneficial to allow it to blow through your tent. If it isn’t raining and your tent is designed for it, remove or unzip the walls.
This will allow the air to go through the tent instead of pushing into the tent and putting it at risk to become detached from the stakes. It’s also a great way to keep your tent in place while unattended if you have to leave while it’s windy, as long as the forecast does not call for rain.
A large tarp is also essential to keep the rain out of your tent and protect you against the wind. Tarps, like the rubber mallets and patches mentioned before, are also relatively inexpensive and can be purchased at your local Walmart, online at Amazon, or at any sporting goods store (I always recommend Cabela’s or REI).
In order to get the most coverage, you are going to want the tarp to be either in a V shape or slightly tilted towards the front or back of your tent. This allows the rain to roll off and not form a huge puddle in the middle, which could cause the tarp to come undone from the trees and pour water all over your tent.
You also want to make sure that the tarp is bigger than your tent. If the tarp only covers from edge to edge of your tent, the rain is going to drip off the edges on the tarp and directly onto the back, sides, and/or door of your tent.
It is essential that you tie all edges of the tarp to trees. Make sure you have plenty of extra cords to ensure you can do this. You never know how far apart the trees are going to be until you get there, and if you leave any side of the tarp loose, it won’t provide proper coverage and will whip around in the wind.
Make sure you tie your tarp up high enough so that you can safely have a fire underneath it. If it is windy and raining, this will be the only safe place to have a fire, sit outside your tent, or use anything electronic.
Secure Your Tent From Animal Theft
Securing a tent in place is important, but so is securing it from animal theft.
You may not think about your items being stolen while you’re camping, especially at a campsite that doesn’t have a lot of people occupying it, but animals grow accustomed to people over time, and the smell of food far outweighs the risk of people in their minds. This should be something you prepare for in advance so you can prevent your food from being stolen or damaged.
It is best to bring as much packaged food as possible. The packaging masks the scent of the food and is much safer than bringing fresh food. If you do decide to bring fresh, unpackaged food because let’s face it, we all want some fruit and lunch meat sometimes. If you do bring this, make sure you put it all inside ziplock bags to help mask the smell.
The ultimate way to keep everything safe is to keep it in your car or a locked cooler. If you aren’t able to do this, It is also recommended that you hang your food from trees in a stuff sack.
Stuff sacks are designed to mask the smell of food. They are great for small portions of food but are not designed for things that need to be kept chilled or frozen, such as meats and milk.
To get the sack up into the tree, use the following step-by-step guide:
- Put a rock inside the stuff sack and tie it to one of your ropes.
- Find a tree nearby that has a big enough branch to hold about 25-30 pounds.
- Tie the other end of the rope to a log or rock heavy enough to weigh the rope down so that only the side with the stuff sack on it goes over the tree branch.
- Once the stuff sack is up and over, lower it down, place your food in it, tie it shut, and raise back up above you. You want to make sure it is about 12 feet above the ground and about 5 feet away from the tree.
The following video shows you exactly how to do this:
Secure Your Tent From Theft by Humans
Unfortunately, animals are not the only ones you need to worry about breaking into your tent. The reality is that you always run the risk of people coming in and stealing valuables as well. Because there are no locks, tents are a much easier target than RVs.
Choose A Safe Location
Do some research online to find a reputable campsite. Try to find a large site that many people visit and set up your tent in a highly-populated area of the campground. Stay away from the edges and areas where it is hard to be seen by other people. It’s much harder for people to steal in a densely populated area.
Once you’re situated, take some time to get to know your neighbors; be friendly. Chatting with them will allow you to get an idea of their schedule and whether or not you can trust them. If they are on the campsite while you’re going hiking, you can ask them to keep an eye on your stuff, and you can return the favor for them.
Bring a Small Safe
Bring a small safe with you and keep it in your car. Hiding it as best as you can will ensure that your items are extra secure. If the safe requires a key, make sure you put it on your key ring and keep it with you at all times.
Note that hiding the safe effectively is almost as important as buying one that’s difficult to penetrate. Because the safe will be portable, it will be relatively easy for someone to pick it up and take it with them. Even if they have trouble opening it down the road, you’ll still be out of luck, as they’ll have your stuff.
Keeping your tent safe and secure takes a lot of foresight. Camping can be dangerous if you are not prepared correctly. Therefore it is best to do some research before you go on your first. Remember to:
- Read the instruction manual that comes with your tent
- Pitch your tent at home for practice
- Make sure your stakes are firmly in place, or your alternative tie-downs are heavy enough.
- Choose a densely sheltered area
- Use a tarp both above and below your tent
- Keep food and personal belongings outside of your tent and locked away
- And lastly, have fun and (safely) enjoy being out in nature!