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Anchoring in wet soil

On the Job | June 1, 2009 | By:

Q: What should I consider when anchoring in wet soil?

A: Therein lies the problem: the ground on which the tent sets. Anchoring is accomplished by fastening guys (ropes, webs or cables) to the top of the side pole or bracket and attaching the other end to an anchoring device, such as a stake. The correct size of the guy and anchoring device (breaking strength, stretch characteristics of the rope or web, stake break-out force) is of utmost importance to the safe and proper function of any tent.

You must always stake to the design of your tent. Regardless of the tent style (pole, frame or tension), the anchoring power will be similar if such factors as leg height, overall height and basic slope of the roof are within present-day patterns.

There can be a wide range of holding power for stakes depending on soil conditions. By testing a typical 1-inch-by-36-inch stake, driven most of the way into the ground (average lawn), we know that it has a holding power of about 1,000 pounds. The same stake in an aged parking lot will hold more. However, should the ground become saturated, a loss of soil strength and pullout capacity will occur. This loss in soil strength is difficult to predict with confidence without an extensive soil testing or stake pullout testing program. Results from the IFAI tent staking study indicate that the pullout capacity of stakes driven in saturated soil are about one half the capacity of the stakes driven in the same ground under dry conditions.

So what does all this mean?

GET GOOD AT DRIVING STAKES! Increasing the holding power of anchors is an important aspect of your tenting practices. You must first become proficient at driving and pulling tent stakes. If you look at your past experience, the only safe method is to add more stakes into the ground, plus adding additional devices for your tent installations, including larger stakes, stake plates, stake bars and gang staking.

Reference the IFAI Procedural Handbook for the Safe Installation and Maintenance of Tenting and the Pocket Guide for “Pullout Capacity of Tent Stakes” for further details. All are available for purchase through IFAI at the IFAI bookstore.

Michael Tharpe is the sales manager for TopTec Products LLC and a member of the TRD Safety Committee. For more information, visit

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