Pitching a Tent
Setting a tent up correctly can be the difference between staying dry and spending the weekend soaked and miserable. So here are a few tips on how to set up a tent correctly.
The tent I am using is the Kelty Gunnison 4.1. It's a 3 season, 4 man tent. This is great for my family and me--we have a large golden retriever, a 2 year old son and a baby on the way. It's light enough to break up between two or three hikers--my wife carries the tent stakes and guylines, the golden carries the rainfly and I carry the rest--and it's great for car camping. It has 2 doors for easy access and 2 vestibules for backpacks, hiking boots and whatever else you want to keep out of the tent.
If the ground is wet, you will want to use a tent footprint or a tarp.
Your tent will usually include the following: tent poles, stakes (enough to stake out the base and guylines, tent and rainfly.
Included with the Kelty Gunnison 4.1 tent is 10 tent stakes, 2 tent poles, 4 long guylines, 2 short guylines, the tent and rainfly.
There are various types of tents, each require a unique method of setting up. This is a free-standing, 2 wall tent. If it were a spring-bar or single wall tent, the method of pitching would be a little different. For the sake of time, I'll demonstrate how-to set up a free-standing tent with double walls.
Since it's a free-standing tent, the first step is to build the tent poles. They're generally broken down into small segments that require you to put the small end of one segment into the wider end of another. The tent poles are held together with a dynamic cord so putting them together is a snap.
This is what a tent pole looks like when you insert the smaller piece into the wide end. The pole should be seamless and no cord should be showing.
Once the tent poles are assembled to their full length, you will insert the end of each pole into a clip or grommet. In the case of the Kelty Gunnison 4.1, the end of the tent pole has a ball that fits in a socket much like a joint. It clips in with some resistance.
If the corner piece of the tent had a grommet, it pole would have a taped end with a notch that fits right in grommet. Each corner of a tent has a place to put the tent pole.
Since the Kelty Gunnison 4.1 uses clips and not sleeves, once you put the tent poles in, the poles arch.
Go around the tent and clip the body of the tent to the tent poles. If this tent had sleeves for the poles to slide into, the tent would arch with the poles. Clipping the tent to the poles will arch the body of the tent and give structural integrity to the tent.
And voila, you have a tent. If it's a hot summer night, you may want to just keep it like this--knowing there's zero chance of rain. You'll spend the night stargazing while a cool breeze keeps the temperature in the tent just right.
For a free-standing tent, this step is optional. I say optional because the Kelty Gunnison 4.1 is a free-standing tent so it stands without staking it down. However, if there's any chance of winds, it's wise the stake out your tent.
Because of the soft grassy area, the stakes go into the ground fairly easily. You may use a mallet to tap the stakes in but be careful--to save weight, most stakes are aluminum so they may bend fairly easily.
If there's a chance of rain, of if added warmth is needed, you will want to use the rainfly. The first step is to drape the fly over the tent. Line the vestibule(s) over the door(s). Each corner of the tent should have some sort of clip that attaches the rainfly to the tent. The clips are usually at the base of the tent where the tent stakes out and where the tent poles clip to the base of the tent. The rainfly generally clips to the base of each pole so that's a good indicator of where to look to clip your rainfly.
Right next to a stake, where one of the tent poles is attached to the body of the tent is where I found the place to clip the rainfly. You'll notice where the fly clips in--it's generally a tension clip or a side-release buckle.
Since I'm putting my rainfly on because I may be expecting inclement weather, guying out your tent is key to staying dry and adds strength to your tent. The first place to start is with the corners of the tent and the vestibule. Staking these out will help offer stability.
So my tent is staked down and the rainfly is on but there are areas where the rainfly is touching the tent. This is not good for two reasons, water condensation and insulation. If the rainfly is touching the tent, water will start to condense and your rainfly loses it's effectiveness and the humidity from respiration will condensation in the tent.
The space between the rainfly and your tent will help insulate from the elements. That's why it's important to keep that space by guying out your rainfly.
Most tents will have exterior loops where the guylines attach. Some tents have colored areas to alert where they're attached. And, most tents include the same number of guylines as loops on your tent. If your tent doesn't have them, you can buy them separately.
If you tent has guylines but they're not reflective, it may be a wise small purchase so you don't trip over them at night when your headlamp is on.
There are a lot of ways to attach your guyline to the rainfly of your tent. You can do an overhand knot, a square knot but I like to do a bowline and run the other end of the guyline through the loop. It's the easiest knot to untie... for me anyway.
Once you have the guyline attached to your tent's rainfly, stake out the line and use the line tightener to keep the line tight.
And there you have it... The tent is up, the rainfly is on and the guylines are all stable. Although the Kelty Gunnison 4.1 is a fairly big family/backpacking tent, with the tent staked out and the guylines properly attached, this baby... I mean tent ain't going anywhere.