I’m always looking to shed a gram or two from my pack without sacrificing too much functionality. One of the categories of gear that I have been focusing on of late are my tarp stakes. For the past year and a half I have attempted to discover what works best by experimenting with four different types of stakes in a wide variety of ground conditions. The stakes I’ve used are Durapegs (6”), Tite-Lite Titanium Stakes (6.5”), Easton Aluminum Stakes (6.25”), and Big Agnes X-peg Stakes (7”).
Big Agnes X-peg Stakes
The X-pegs measure 7” in length, are made of aluminum, and tip the scale at 11 grams (0.38oz). They came with my old Seedhouse SL1, which was the last tent I bought before moving to tarps. The four-sided design gives them a lot of grip in the earth and the notched top securely grabs cordage or a webbing tie out. It’s a pretty basic design, but effective in many types of earth. I’ve beat on these stakes for some time and haven’t bent or broken one in any use.
Easton Aluminum Stakes
The Easton stakes are 6.25” long, also made of aluminum, and weigh 8 grams (0.28oz). These are popular stakes with lightweight backpackers. They have a nice flat head to hammer on with a rock and a small cordage loop at the top to make pulling them out of the ground very easy.
At first glance, one would expect the Easton stakes to be inferior to the X-pegs. Though both are made of aluminum, the Easton stake is hollow, which makes it lighter but easier to break. The body of the Easton stake is cylindrical and smooth so that it doesn’t grip in the earth as well as the four-sided X-peg. Despite all this, I have yet to break or bend an Easton stake. I have also never had one accidentally pull out.
Tite-Lite Titanium Stakes
The Tite-Lite is a 6.5” titanium stake that weighs only 6 grams (0.2oz). It’s a simple stake in the classic shepherd hook design. Though the weight is great, this is the least functional and my least favorite of the bunch. Because of the small diameter it will go into most any ground, but it will also pull out. I’ve had these stakes come out in the middle of a windstorm, forcing me to get up three or four different times during the night to replant them (the Easton stakes and Durapegs were also in use at the same time and never once came out). They twist in the ground fairly easily, allowing cordage and webbing tie outs to slip off. And in very rocky ground, they will bend.
For me, there’s too much functionality sacrificed for the savings in weight. I no longer use these.
The Durapeg is 6” long, made of ABS plastic, and weighs 14 grams (0.49oz). These are the stakes that Kifaru sells with all their shelters. Similar to the X-peg, they are four-sided and have wide indents on two sides to grip the dirt. There’s a flat top for pounding on and a good hook to hold a tie out. Once you put these things in the ground, they don’t tend to move. Despite the fact that they’re the heaviest of the bunch, they’re also my favorite. They simply have proven themselves to be the most effective stake in the widest array of ground conditions. The wide indentations on either side eat a whole lot of ground, making them better in snow and sand than the X-pegs (though they certainly aren’t the best option for a dedicated snow stake).
I have had a Durapeg bend in very rocky ground but, unlike with the Tite-Lite, the bend in the Durapeg was not enough to affect the functionality. Still, the bent Durapeg has been removed from my rotation. I have yet to have any of these break, but I’m afraid that the bend will be enough to snap the Durapeg if I tried to pound that particular stake into really hard ground again.
The top of the Durapeg does get chewed up a bit after being beat on with a few rocks. So far this hasn’t proved to weaken or in any other way damage the stake overall. I’ve also had some pitting occur on the flat head of the Easton stake due to being driven in with rocks.
My Kifaru Paratarp has 12 different tie out points. Using all of these allows one to get a real tight pitch, but I find is almost always unnecessary. When I’m pitching the tarp in an elevated manner by tying it out to trees, the most that I’ll need are 4 stakes – one for each corner. When pitched in the normal manner with trekking poles, I find that 7 stakes are all that are needed for a good pitch. An eighth stake placed in the webbing tie out between the front and middle tie out on whichever side I’m sleeping on will widen out the shelter a bit and give me more head space. I carry 8 stakes. Currently those 8 stakes consist of 6 Durapegs and 2 Eastons. Also in the bag are 4 Nite-Ize Figure 9s which help me to pitch the tarp from trees or toss up a clothesline or a place to hang a water bladder. The bag itself a lightweight silnylon thingy that came as the stake bag with the Big Agnes Seedhouse SL1.
The whole package – bag, stakes, and Figure 9s – weighs 122g or 4.3oz. With this (and a couple hanks of paracord) I find that I can throw up a secure and comfortable shelter in just about any condition. Occasionally I’ll switch out a couple of the Durapegs for a couple X-pegs, but currently I prefer the greater holding power of the former.
I do still have two of the lightweight Tite-Lite stakes that I carry with my Ti-Tri. These serve to elevate the pot in wood-burning mode. If I want to I can use these when pitching the tarp to bring up the total number of stakes to 10, but I rarely do.
If anybody has a favorite stake different from the ones discussed here – and it weighs 14g or less – let me know about it! I’m always looking to improve the package.