Whether you’re a seasoned camper or a first timer. you are far more likely to enjoy your camping holiday (and stay warm and dry) if your tent is pitched safely and securely.
When you buy a new tent, we would always recommend that you do a ‘test run’ in the safety and privacy of your garden, before you take it away on holiday and pitch in front of a (more experienced) audience. This will also allow you to check that everything is included and as it should be, and give you the chance to make any adjustments or dash to the camping store before your holiday.
The chances are your new tent is a dome tent or tunnel tent, using either fibre glass or stainless steel poles, or is an inflatable tent with air beams instead of poles. Most tents follow a similar principle, but it’s worth doing your homework in advance. Ask the retailer for advice on pitching your particular tent, or watch an instruction video online to see how it’s done.
Before you pitch
When you arrive at your campsite, take a few minute to choose your pitch. A flat pitch will be more comfortable to stay on (if you’re on a slight slope, make sure that your door is downhill to prevent rain coming in, and either sleep across the slope or put your pillow on higher ground than your feet!). Slightly soft ground makes for easier pitching (but avoid waterlogged ground) and consider overhead hazards, traffic noise such as nearby roads, railway lines etc.
Decide what amenities you want to be close to (play park, toilets…) and consider things like wind direction and shelter from surrounding hedges. Trees can provide lovely shade on hot sunny days but can also drip rainwater or sap noisily on your tent, will attract birds and have uncomfortably bumpy roots underfoot. Check out the views, choose your neighbours and how much privacy you want. Think about the size of your tent, where you want to park your car and where you could safely sit and cook outdoors (never cook in your tent).
- Pitching a tent is normally a two person job, so recruit a willing volunteer.
- Before you unpack your tent, check the grass for leftover tent pegs or sharp stones or twigs that could cause damage to your tent footprint or groundsheet.
- Try to leave a reasonable distance around your tent to allow for guy lines, and create a little privacy between neighbours.
- Peg out the four corners of your footprint or groundsheet and the four corners of your tent base. To make sure it’s square, peg one corner first, then pull tight to the opposite corner, before pegging corners three and four. Pegs should be inserted at a 45 degree angel into the ground, pointing inwards towards the tent. Use a mallet or rock to drive in the tent pegs (if you tread on them you’re likely to bend the peg or hurt your foot) and insert them all the way into the ground to avoid being tripped over or trodden on.
- If your tent has poles, take care when inserting the poles of your tent. If they snag or get stuck, gently reverse the pole before sliding it back in again to prevent fabric tearing. It is easier to push your poles through rather than pull, to prevent the poles becoming disconnected or damaged.
- Raise the tent as per your tent instructions and secure the poles into either a metal eyelet or securing pin at the foot of the tent. If the tent fabric is too stretched or too loose, check your poles to make sure they are assembled correctly.
- If your tent is inflatable, there may be one single inflation point and valve, or it could have a separate air tube for each beam of the tent. Follow your manufacturer guides for the best way to inflate your tent.
- Ensure all doors and windows are zipped shut before settling the final position of your tent.
- Peg out all the remaining pegs to secure your tent. The tent fabric should be taut but not stretched.
- Attach the guy lines supplied, pegging them a reasonable distance from your tent with the adjustable slide about a third of the way along the guy rope. Be careful not to pull your guy lines out too far as they are more likely to be tripped over int he dark, although many guy lines are now fluorescent colours or you could mark with reflective tape. Guylines should be pegged in line with the seams of your tent and adjusted as required throughout your stay.
- If your tent has separate inner tent ‘rooms’, you can connect these now along with any additional groundsheets or tent pegs. Many tents allow for these rooms to remain attached when you pack the tent away, so it could be that you don’t need to remove these at the end of your first stay.
Read our tips on how to properly store and take care of your tent here: 'How to take care of your tent'.