A tent is an important backpacking essential when it comes to camping in the Himalayas. In this article, we have put together a detailed step by step guide on how to pitch a tent. It also contains handy tips on how to choose campsites and how to maintain your tent.
If you have never used a tent before, we highly recommend familiarising yourself with the different parts of a tent and the purposes each part serves before proceeding with this article.
Read: Know Your Tent
A step-by-step guide on pitching a tent
Step 1- Choose a good spot for your tent.
The ground where you are pitching your tent should be levelled. Remove any sticks or stones lying around. If there is snow, use a shovel to remove that as well. Don’t forget to look up. Avoid spaces with low hanging or loose branches from trees.
Step 2- Unroll the tent and spread the body of the tent on the ground.
Ensure that the doors of the tent are not in line with the direction of the wind. Keep the rainfly aside for the moment.
Step 3- Anchor the body of the tent to the ground.
Run a metal peg through the fabric loop present in one corner of the tent body and drive the metal peg into the ground. Ensure the metal peg is dug in at a 45 degree angle and not vertically because strong winds can uproot it. If the ground is hard, you can use a camping mallet to drive in the pegs. Move to the (diagonal) opposite side and fix the next metal peg. Repeat this step until each corner is secured.
Step 4- Take out all the poles and assemble them.
While assembling the poles, ensure they are properly sealed with the previous piece before moving onto the next.
Note: You will find two sets of poles. One set of poles are longer and run diagonally across the tent body. These are called main poles and are used to erect the tent.
The other set of poles are shorter and run horizontally across the tent body once the tent is erected. These are called brow poles and are used to increase the space inside the tent.
Step 5- Attach the assembled main poles to the body of the tent.
Right next to the fabric loop (that was used earlier to anchor the tent body to the ground), you will find a tiny provision to fix the main poles to the tent body. Attach one pole diagonally from one corner to the other across the body of the tent and lay it flat on the ground. Do the same with the next pole across the remaining two corners. You will notice that the poles criss-cross at the centre.
Step 6- Erect the tent using the poles.
Erect the attached poles and hold them in position above the tent. The poles will form two semi circles criss-crossing each other at the centre and running across the tent body. Grab the hooks at the centre of the tent body and clip one to each pole at the point where they criss-cross. Now clip the remaining hooks running along the tent body to the poles.
Step 7- Use the brow poles to increase the space inside the tent
You will find two sets of fabric loops on opposite sides of the tent body. Run the brow pole through the first set of loops in such a way that it runs horizontally across the body of the tent. Repeat the same step with the other brow pole through the next set of loops. When done right, the brow poles will stay taut and parallel to each other.
Step 8- The only thing left now is the Rainfly. Spread the Rainfly over the erected tent body.
Make sure the doors on the inside and outside are aligned. Clip the buckles of the rainfly with the inner tent.
Step 9- Once the rainfly is attached with the inner tent, use additional pegs to stake the doors of the rainfly.
Next, tie the guylines to the fabric loops provided on the rainfly and stake them in the ground as far from the tent as possible.
Now that the tent is ready, collect the tent cover and the additional pegs and store them safely inside the tent.
The steps we have outlined above are for a dome tent. But, no matter what type of backpacking tent you use, the order of set up is broadly the same with a few minor changes here and there.
We have also made a video outlining the same steps. Check it out to get a better hang of the process.
• Stakeout diagonally opposite corners first: This will secure your tent in windy conditions and reduce the possibility of creases in the floor, thus also maximising space.
• If you’re camping in snow: Carry pegs/stakes specifically meant for snow.
• Look inside the rainfly: You will find velcro straps on the underside of the rainfly that you can secure to the tent poles. This will strengthen, stabilise and help align the inner body and the rainfly.
• Use guy lines: The outside of the rainfly has multiple attachment points at the corners. Use guy lines (easily available at outdoor stores like Decathlon), to stretch out your rainfly and make it taut. This will make sure you sleep through the wettest, windiest nights in the Himalayas.
• First Use: If you’re using a tent for the first time, practice pitching it at home, so you don’t run into trouble on the trail.
• Second Use: If you’ve used the tent on a previous trip, make sure it’s dry and clean. Make an inventory of all the components and check them so you don’t end up with missing pegs or broken poles when you need to pitch your tent under a rainy sky.
• Footprint: Although some tents have bathtub style floors with a heavy, waterproof fabric at the bottom, that area is also the most prone to abrasion and abuse. If your tent didn’t come with a separate footprint, invest in a good tarp that you can use to create a protective layer between your tent and the ground.
• Repair Kit: Invest in a good repair kit that can help you make small repairs on the fly. It’s amazing how much rain can seep through even a tiny tear in the fabric and ruin a good night’s sleep. Don’t forget to pack your repair kit in the tent sack.
When you reach your chosen campsite, take some time to select the right spot to pitch your tent. Consider the following things while choosing your spot -
• Follow LEAVE NO TRACE Principles:
i. Camp at least 200 ft away from water sources to avoid contamination and allow access routes to water for wildlife.
ii. In established and well-trodden campsites, choose spots that have already been used for camping to keep the impacted area limited.
iii. In pristine and less travelled areas, disperse use and distribute your tents in a way that it does not create new campsites. Anyone who comes after you should not be able to see that area has been used for camping.
• Protect yourself from the wind and rain:
i. Identify the direction of the prevailing wind at night. When temperatures drop at night, air moves down the slope of a mountain. Try to find a natural wind block from this breeze - like a group of trees or a small hill.
ii. Seek elevated spots, and avoid depressions or potential drainage channels. When it rains, water will collect at local depressions, while elevated areas will remain dry.
iii. Dig a trench. If you’re setting up your tent on a slope, dig a long, deep ditch around the tent so any rainwater flows around it and away from your camp.
iv. Orient doors away from and perpendicular to the wind. This will prevent rain and wind from blowing into your tent.
For more details on how to choose a campsite, read: How to choose a campsite?
Clean out and dry your tent once you’re back from your trip. Check all the components and prepare an inventory of them. Make any repairs that may be required. Apart from ensuring your tent is ready for its next adventure, this will also increase the longevity of your tent.