Teepee Tent Setup Secrets

Hard-won tips for pitching tepee tents on any terrain

The best thing about tepee tents is their simplicity. With a bit of practice, you'll be able to set up one in the same amount of time it takes your friend to pull his tent out of its stuff sack. But there are a few tricks to the trade, one of which is having the right equipment: strong stakes (preferably heavy-duty plastic, T-shaped stakes) and 50 feet of parachute cord. Using a flat campsite with excellent drainage also helps; if you pitch a floorless tepee at the bottom of a slope, runoff will plague you. A few more setup tips:

  • First, spread out the tepee and stake out the corners. Then, unzip the door enough to slide the center pole into position. If you erect the pole first, you'll have a tough time getting the tensioning right, especially in windy conditions.
  • To save weight, leave the center pole at home and use a pair of avalanche-probe hiking poles (which connect to become one long pole). Try this at home first to be sure that your poles are the right length.
  • Another alternative to the center pole: Using the loop at the tepee's apex (which all of these models have), tie the tent to a branch or line strung between trees.
  • Place a flat rock or piece of wood under the center pole to prevent it from sinking into the ground and gradually slackening the tent walls.
  • When stakes won't hold (in loose sand or snow), make "deadmen." Fill stuff sacks with sand, rocks, or snow, tie them to the stake-out loops, and bury them. (See Know-How, February 2001.)