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 for rain.
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.
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 useful
Unpacking the tent
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! No one 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 groundsheets.
How you arrange the materials now depends upon what type of tent you have, see below.
Choosing a site
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 section.
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 last spike.
- 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 tent!)
- 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.
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 poles carefully.
- 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..they should be at 'half height'...you don't 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 the tent. 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 peg through.
- 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 its own.
- 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 down.
- 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.
- 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.
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 listed here.
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.
The campsite will need to be chosen carefully in advance. See the campsite section.