Stakes Review

Posted by Jerry Goller to backpackinglight@yahoogroups.com

I think there are three attributes required in a tent stake; light weight, resistance to bending, and holding power. I tested the mini stakes for all three of these. I also compared them to some other popular styles of stakes. The attached image titled "Stakes" shows the test stakes I used. From left to right they are:

I did not include any wire stakes because I don't care for them and don't own any. I refer to some of the stakes as generic because they have no logo or name on them and I don't know who the manufacturer is.

Weight

All of the generic stakes are 6 7/8" long. The "V" and three blade stakes are identical, except for the number of blades, and have a blade depth of 5/16. The generic four blade stake is a mini and has a blade depth of 5/32.

The Mini Stakes tied with the MSR Needles for the lightest stakes I tested. They both weigh 10 grams but the Minis include a cord loop, which the Needles do not have.

The mid-weight stakes included the generic "V" and four blade stakes, both at 12 grams, and the generic 3 blade at 13 grams.

The two heavy weights were the 8" Easton at 15 grams and the MSR Groundhog at 17 grams.

Holding Power

I tested pull out on the stakes using a jig that aligned the stakes at 45% for insertion and used two spring fish scales, one with a max capability of 50 pounds and the other with a max capability of 100 pounds. Both scales have a sliding stop that rides on the weight indicator but stays at the highest weight recorded until it is moved back to ride on the weight indicator. The scales were reset after each test.

The most important time for a stake to hold is when the ground is wet, as it is during storms which are sometimes accompanied by high winds. Therefore, I tested the stakes in two different ground situations. The first was a typical meadow. The ground was soft and densely covered with grass. It had rained two days before this test. The second was packed earth (packed by human traffic) with no grass cover. It had also rained two days before the test.

The test was performed by driving the stake, correctly oriented, using the jig to insure all stakes were at the same angle. All stakes were driven to their maximum practical depth. Using the spring scales I pulled in the direction and angle a tent guy out line would pull from and pulled until the stake came completely out of the ground. I then recorded the weight indicated on the scales. This is the approximate force required to pull the stake out of the ground. I also make a block 5.5" high and used this to set the height of the spring scale for each pull out. This allowed for a reasonably uniform pull angle. I performed the pull out test three times for each stake and averaged the scores. Any grossly out of norm reading was cast out, the stake moved, and the test redone.

I also came up with a hold to weight ration (called "ratio") for each stake. I'm not sure what value of that is but my mind tends to work that way. It is how many pounds per gram pull out the stake registered.

Grassy meadow: MSR Needle: 40 pounds pull out, 4 pounds per gram. Easton Mini: 35 pounds pull out, 3.5 pounds per gram Generic "V": 42 pounds pull out, 3.5 pounds per gram Generic mini 4 blade: 48 pounds pull out, 4 pounds per gram Generic 3 blade: 57 pounds pull out, 4.4 pounds per gram. MSR Groundhog: 60 pounds pull out, 3.5 pounds per gram Easton 8" 61 pounds pull out, 4 pounds per gram.

Packed earth: MSR Needle: 29 pounds pull out, 2.9 pounds per gram Easton Mini: 28 pounds pull out, 2.8 pounds per gram Generic "V": 21 pounds pull out, 1.75 pounds per gram Generic mini 4 blade: 48 pounds pull out, 4 pounds per gram Generic 3 blade: 48 pounds pull out, 3.7 pounds per gram MSR Groundhog: 61 pounds pull out, 3.6 pounds per gram Easton 8": 63 pounds pull out, 4.2 pounds per gram

I have used the Easton Minis with a Gossamer Gear Classic Squall for the last few months. I've spent approximately 10 nights in the tent in various terrain situations, from the rocky, sandy soil of southern Utah to the rocky soil of the Uintas. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, I never had the tent with me in rain or high wind conditions. But the stakes performed very well and I had no holding problems at all.

Resistance to Bending

I didn't need to test the Minis against the other stakes. On one trip in the Uintas I accidentally drove a Mini all the way into a 4" tree root just under the surface of the soil. It drove in very easily with a rock and didn't deform at all, much less bend. Unfortunately, it is still up there. I couldn't pull or dig the stake out of the root. Enough said on bending. As a side issue, I've used MSR Needles for some time now. The Mini is comparable in both weight and holding power. But it is vastly superior in bend/break resistance. I've snapped off quite a few Needles by accidentally tripping over them.

Conclusions

I like the Minis a lot. They've performed well for me. Although they don't hold as well as their longer 8" brother, I doubt most people actually drive the 8" stakes completely into the ground anyway. They do, however hold about as well as other stakes of similar weight. Stakes in the weight class of the Mini obviously don't have the holding power of heavier stakes such at the Groundhog or Easton 8". But, for most summer applications, I think the weight/holding power trade off is a good one.